Containing Kelley is key

If you recall the Tennessee football team's 28-24 loss to Vanderbilt in 2005, you're probably a little worried about the Tennessee basketball team's game this afternoon against South Carolina. And you should be.

Just think of Tre Kelley as Jay Cutler in short pants.

Consider:

Cutler quarterbacked the Commodores. Kelley quarterbacks the Gamecocks from his guard position.

Cutler was surrounded by a mediocre supporting cast. Kelley is surrounded by a mediocre supporting cast.

Cutler was the SEC's Most Valuable Player in 2005, even playing for a bad team. Kelley might be the SEC's Most Valuable Player in 2007, even playing for a bad team.

Cutler was a senior facing Tennessee for the final time in 2005. Kelley is a senior facing Tennessee for the final time today.

Cutler (315 passing yards, 3 touchdowns) had the skills to beat the Vols virtually by himself. Kelley has the skills to do the same.

In league play Kelley leads the SEC in scoring (19.8 points per game), free-throw percentage (88.9) and minutes (37.09 per game). He ranks sixth in assists (4.73 per game), eighth in 3-point baskets (2.36 per game), 11th in 3-point percentage (37.1) and 12th in assist/turnover ratio (1.44 to 1).

The 6-foot, 188-pounder proved he can take over a game Feb. 7 at Lexington, scoring 36 points – most by an SEC player this season – in a 95-89 loss to Kentucky. If he goes off like that today, Tennessee could be in big trouble.

What makes Kelley so dangerous is that he's a guy who can beat you with the jump shot or the dribble-drive.

"Tré Kelly," UT coach Bruce Pearl says, "has the ability to score inside and out."

He also has the ability to turn an opponent inside/out. He proved as much last March, riddling the Vols for 25 points and 8 assists as South Carolina ousted Tennessee 79-71 in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. Kelley gave UT fits in the earlier meeting this year, as well, registering 18 points and 7 assists while playing all 40 minutes of a 64-61 loss Jan. 20 in Knoxville.

Today's tipoff is set for 3:30 with television coverage provided by ABC. The Vols carry an 18-8 overall record and a 6-5 SEC record. The Gamecocks bring a 12-12 overall mark, a 2-9 league mark and a guy who could pose all kinds of problems for Tennessee.

Think Jay Cutler in short pants.


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