The 47-percent solution

The number to watch in tonight's Tennessee-Alabama basketball game is 47.

Tennessee has held 17 opponents below 47 percent field-goal shooting this season. The Vols' record in those games is 17-0.

Tennessee has allowed two opponents to shoot more than 47 percent this season. The Vols' record in those games is 0-2.

Last week was a prime example. Kentucky shot 48.9 percent – including 50 percent in the second half – en route to a 72-66 defeat of Tennessee last Tuesday. The Vols bounced back Saturday night, however, limiting Georgia to 40.9 percent in an 85-69 romp.

"Defensively, I thought we really got after it," head coach Bruce Pearl said of UT's defensive work against the Dawgs. "We created a lot of turnovers (21), created a lot of offense from our defense and continue to defend the 3-point line (4 of 22) very well."

Ramar Smith said Pearl preached the importance of defensive intensity from the time the Vols returned from Lexington until they took the floor against Georgia.

"That's something Coach stressed to us," Smith said. "We only had like 12 turnovers and six deflections (at UK). We've got to work hard to turn teams over and get our fast breaking going, and that's what we did (vs. Georgia)."

Asked what went wrong at Rupp Arena, Smith shrugged and replied: "We really just defended certain plays the wrong way."

No. 7 Tennessee (17-2 overall, 4-1 SEC) will be looking to defend plays the right way tonight at 9, when the Vols face Bama at Coleman Coliseum. Although the Tide is just 12-8 overall and 1-4 in SEC play, it is coming off an impressive 97-77 blowout of Auburn.

In addition, Bama has won 17 of the past 18 meetings with UT in Tuscaloosa, generally dominating the Vols with superior size and athleticism. The Tide is big and athletic again this season.

Junior center Richard Hendrix (6-9, 255) is one of the SEC's premier players, averaging 19.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Pearl calls him "a physically dominating player."

Sophomore forward Demetrius Jemison (6-7, 234) chips in 5.2 points and 5.0 rebounds for the Tide.

Like Tennessee, Bama plays a three-guard lineup. The perimeter trio consists of 6-6 Mykal Riley (13.3 points per game), 6-6 Alonzo Gee (15.9) and 5-11 Brandon Hollinger (6.5). Despite playing in the backcourt, Gee averages a whopping 7.8 rebounds per game. By comparison, UT's leading rebounder, 6-9 Wayne Chism, averages just 6.0 rebounds per game.

Tennessee is expected to start the same five players who opened Saturday's defeat of Georgia – Chism, 6-7 Tyler Smith, 6-2 JaJuan Smith, 6-2 Chris Lofton and 6-2 Ramar Smith.

Television coverage will be provided by ESPN.


The Vols will be visiting Coleman Coliseum just three days after Elizabeth Gottfried, wife of beleaguered Tide coach Mark Gottfried, went off on a media representative at courtside in the same venue.

According to published reports, Mrs. Gottfried confronted Mobile Press-Register columnist and radio talk-show host Paul Finebaum on press row at halftime of Saturday's Bama-Auburn game. The coach's wife reportedly blamed Finebaum for the firing of former Tide football coach Mike Shula and suggested he is currently on a campaign to get her husband fired. Though one-sided, the tirade reportedly lasted 15 to 20 minutes and was quite animated. Mark Gottfried has declined comment on his wife's actions.

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