UT learned from UK mistake

When tiny Gardner Webb caught Kentucky Cat-napping on Nov. 7 and bounced the Big Blue 84-68 at Rupp Arena, the news sent shock waves throughout the world of college basketball.

Those shock waves hit hard in Knoxville, which is why the seventh-ranked Tennessee Vols don't dare overlook Prairie View A&M, tonight's foe at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Panthers aren't supposed to give the Big Orange much of a test but, then again, Gardner Webb wasn't supposed to give the Big Blue much of a test, either.

"That Kentucky loss definitely got our attention," senior guard Jordan Howell said. "Any time we play a (low-profile) team, it makes us realize it's possible for us to get beat if we don't bring it and play well."

JaJuan Smith, another senior guard, also finds motivation in Kentucky's misfortune. No one, he insists, will catch the Vols napping this year.

"We're trying to make that our main focus every game," he said. "My job as a leader is to get us pumped up, no matter who we're playing. As long as the team is wearing a different color, we'll be trying to go hard."

Tennessee certainly went hard in the opening minutes of Wednesday night's game with Arkansas-Monticello, racing to a 26-8 lead after just 8½ minutes of action. The Vols appeared to lose interest at this point, however, adding just two points to the margin en route to a 45-25 halftime lead.

"Sometimes it's tough to get going," Howell said. "I think the fans knew it wasn't Temple. We knew it wasn't Temple.

"Then again, you see it all over the country: Teams that aren't supposed to beat bigger-name programs do it. That's why we've got to bring our best game every night, treat it like an opportunity to get better – no matter who the opponent is."

Howell certainly brought his best game Wednesday night, contributing 10 points and 5 assists in 18 quality minutes as the backup point guard.

"I'll definitely take those numbers every night," he said. "In our system, though, some night's it's not going to happen. I might not get a shot next game because of the flow of the game. Still, it feels good to make the open shots and make my free throws, and I look forward to coming out and playing again Friday."

Starting point Ramar Smith looked a little rushed and disjointed in the first half Wednesday night. Howell seemed to provide a calming influence when he entered the lineup.

"That was big," JaJuan Smith said. "Jordan's a senior – been there, done that – and knows what we need from him. He came in and played a big role. He made his shots and he distributed the ball."

Tonight's game, like Wednesday's game with Arkansas-Monticello, is part of the Legends Classic. Win or lose, the Vols will advance to Newark, N.J., for a semifinal game against West Virginia on Nov. 23. In between the two Legends games Tennessee will host Middle Tennessee on Tuesday night.

SCOUTING PRAIRIE VIEW: The Panthers are 1-1 this year, losing 104-48 at Oklahoma State, then beating Schreiner 88-59. Prairie View has 12 new faces – eight of them transfers – after going 8-22 last year.

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