Orange Dane-ish

Tennessee's basketball coaches and fans wondered all off-season how the 2007-08 Vols would replace ultra-versatile Dane Bradshaw. They may get their answer this week.

Josh Tabb put together a very Dane-ish stat line in Tuesday's 93-59 defeat of North Carolina A&T – 10 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals and a blocked shot in 25 minutes.

"Points, assists, rebounds ... whatever it takes to help us win, that's what I'm in for," Tabb said. "I like to win, so if it takes me passing, rebounding or scoring, that's what I'm going to do."

The similarities to Bradshaw go well beyond filling a stat line, though. Like Bradshaw, Tabb is a 6-4, 205-pounder known more for his all-around game than his scoring prowess. Like Bradshaw, Tabb signed as a point-guard prospect but proved versatile enough to play other positions. Like Bradshaw, Tabb is a team guy all the way.

"You've got guys who are identity guys," head coach Bruce Pearl said recently. "I like Josh Tabb as a guy you look at and identify with the kind of basketball we want to play. He's a physical defender. He rebounds his position. He's unselfish."

That unselfishness is obvious. Tabb averaged just 15 minutes of playing time through the Vols' first six games but never complained. Realizing Tabb was too valuable to spend nearly two-thirds of each game on the bench, Pearl trimmed his playing rotation from 10 to 8 this week by relegating freshmen Cameron Tatum and Brian Williams to spot duty.

"The difference in the rotation was to try to get Josh Tabb in the game more," Pearl said. "He plays hard. He's physical. We just needed to get him more (minutes)."

Tabb got the news about his beefier role a few hours before Tuesday's tipoff. His reaction was characteristically modest and low-key.

"I was satisfied with the minutes I was getting at the beginning of the season," he said matter of factly. "Now that I'm getting more minutes I feel I need to contribute more to this team."

He certainly contributed plenty Tuesday night. As Pearl noted, "Josh Tabb's line was really terrific."

One thing that didn't show up in the stat line, however, may have been Tabb's greatest contribution to the Vol victory. He limited A&T's Steven Rush – coming off a 40-point effort last Saturday night – to eight points.

"Steven Rush had 40 against DePaul, and he was 4 for 16 (vs. UT), including 0 for 8 from 3," Pearl said. "And every minute Josh Tabb was on the floor he was guarding Rush."

Tabb's defensive brilliance is just another extension of his unselfish, team-oriented approach to the game. He relishes the relatively thankless task of shutting down an opponent's best perimeter player.

"Hopefully, I bring energy to the team when I get in," he said. "Sometimes we don't have a lot of energy out there, so when I get in maybe the defense will pick up a little bit."

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