Vols look to beat the odds

One team is experienced; one team isn't. One team is rested; one team isn't. One team is on a roll; one team isn't. It seems all of the keys in today's Vanderbilt-Tennessee game favor the Commodores.

Well, almost all of them. One team is at home; one team isn't. That factor, at least, favors the Vols. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena with TV coverage provided by Lincoln Financial Sports.

Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl is hoping the homecourt advantage proves significant today because it's just about the only edge the Vols have. Vanderbilt shoots better from the field, the 3-point arc and the free throw line. It also defends better from the field and the 3-point arc. The Commodores average more assists and fewer turnovers per game, as well.

In addition, Vandy is a far more seasoned team – starting two seniors and three juniors. Tennessee starts one senior, two juniors and two freshmen.

And don't discount the fact the Commodores are better rested than the Vols. Tennessee played Tuesday night; Vandy hasn't played since beating Georgia 66-61 one week ago.

"This has been a good week," Commoodore coach Kevin Stallings noted. "We had an opportunity to get some guys some rest and get healthier."

Oh, yeah. Vanderbilt has won five of its last six games. Tennessee has lost six of its last nine.

Yet another factor working against the Vols: Chris Lofton, who scored 29 points in the Jan. 10 meeting at Nashville, remains slowed by a sore ankle. He played just 21 minutes Tuesday against LSU, scoring 8 points.

Other than the home floor, Tennessee's only edge today might be incentive. The Vols are eager to avenge that gut-wrenching 82-81 loss they suffered in Nashville on Jan. 10.

"We're expecting a great game with Tennessee," Stallings said. "It'll be a hard-fought contest, and they're coming off of a good win over LSU. Lofton is back and probably getting closer to 100 percent. We'll have our hands full but we're excited about it."

Vandy is expected to go with a starting lineup of 6-7 Derrick Byars, 6-6 Shan Foster, 6-9 Ross Neltner, 6-5 Dan Cage and 5-11 Alex Gordon.

Byars is averaging 16.2 points per game this season and burned the Vols for 25 points in the earlier meeting. Foster chips in 14.7 points per game, Cage 11.8, Neltner 10.1 and Gordon 7.8.


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