Youth vs. experience

When you're talking about footwear, there's nothing more comfortable than old moccasins. When you're talking about basketball, however, old Moccasins can be a real pain in the ... uh, heel.

That could be the story line tonight at 7 in Thompson-Boling Arena as a bunch of young Vols face a bunch of old Moccasins in Tennessee's regular-season opener vs. UT-Chattanooga.

The visitors are expected to start five seniors – Stephen McDowell, Nicchaeus Doaks, Keron Sheard, Kevin Goffney and Khalil Hartwell.

The Vols, by comparison, won't even have a senior on their roster until Ryan Childress returns from injury. Their projected lineup consists of three juniors (Wayne Chism, Tyler Smith, J.P. Prince), a first-year junior college transfer (Bobby Maze) and a true freshman (Scotty Hopson). Tennessee's top reserves are two sophomores (Brian Williams, Steven Pearl), a redshirt freshman (Cameron Tatum) and three more true freshmen (Renaldo Woolridge, Emmanuel Negedu, Philip Jurick). Prince and Williams have battled injuries in preseason but appear ready to play tonight.

The Moccasins are 1-7 in the series since moving up to Div. 1 but the win came on their last visit to Knoxville. They beat the Big Orange 69-68 in 2004, helping seal the doom of then-UT head coach Buzz Peterson.

Tennessee won 76-70 last year in Chattanooga, despite being outrebounded 46-31.

Other than getting killed on the backboards again, the Vols' biggest concerns tonight will be containing McDowell and Doaks. McDowell averaged 14.3 points per game last season and drained 108 shots from 3-point range. Doaks averaged 14.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game last season.

Tennessee's last outing saw the Vols post an 82-51 exhibition defeat of Div. II Tusculum on Nov. 7. Woolridge led the scoring with 15 points. Chism chipped in 13, Smith 12 and Hopson 11.

Chattanooga's most recent performance was a 99-75 exhibition defeat of Div. II King College on Nov. 6. McDowell nailed 6 of 12 shots from the beyond the arc en route to a 30-point effort. Goffney hit 8 of 9 from the floor and contributed 18 points. Doaks added a double-double (15 points, 13 rebounds).

Whereas Vol coach Bruce Pearl has been emphasizing Chattanooga's advantage in experience, UT-C coach John Shulman has been raving about Tennessee's athleticism.

"They are more talented than they were last year," he said this week, adding that facing the Vols is "a big task."

"Big" might be the operative word. Tennessee's lineup for its opening exhibition game measured 6-10, 6-9, 6-7, 6-7 and 6-2.

The Vols carry a 32-game home winning streak into tonight's game that ranks as the third-longest among NCAA programs.


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