Bounce-back time in Tennessee

Tennessee's basketball team, coming off its first loss of the 2008-09 season, looks to bounce back tonight against a team ideally suited for that purpose.

Visiting UNC Asheville is without its best player (7-foot-7 center Kenny George) and coming off a 116-48 annihilation at the hands of the top-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels. Moreover, the Bulldogs average 17.8 turnovers per game, meaning they should be susceptible to full-court pressure, which is the starting point for Tennessee's transition offense.

Tipoff is set for 7 o'clock at Thompson-Boling Arena, with TV coverage provided by SportSouth.

The afore-mentioned George gave Tennessee fits in last year's game. The gigantic post player scored 7 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked 4 shots in just 22 minutes on his 2007 visit to TBA, helping the Bulldogs lose by a quite competitive 86-73 margin. In addition, his intimidating presence under the basket affected Vol post Wayne Chism, who sank just 1 of 6 shots en route to a 3-point, 3-rebound outing.

Alas, George will not be suited up tonight due to a recent foot surgery, so UNC Asheville (3-3) will go with a downsized lineup that features no one taller than 6-6.

Senior forward Reid Augst (6-6, 215) leads the Bulldogs with an 11.5 points-per-game scoring average. Sean Smith (6-6, 200) adds 10.8 points, John Williams (6-4, 215) 10.5 and J.P. Primm (6-1, 195) an even 10.0. Primm is a freshman from Dickson, Tennessee who also averages 5.5 assists per contest. The other Bulldog starter, Jason Ridenhour (6-6, 200), averages 8 points per game.

Tennessee will be looking to get rid of the bad taste in its mouth left by Sunday night's 83-74 loss to No. 9 Gonzaga, a game which saw the Vols trail by 18 points with just over five minutes remaining.

After dispatching Siena and Georgetown in Rounds 1 and 2 of the Old Spice Classic last weekend, the Big Orange simply played a poor game against the Zags, shooting just 35 percent from the field, committing 21 turnovers and getting almost nothing from its full-court press.

In spite of the loss to Gonzaga, the youthful Vols are off to a quick start with a 5-1 record and No. 10 national ranking from the Associated Press. They are outscoring their opponents by 15.5 points per game (87.2 to 71.7) and outrebounding them by 12.3 per game.

Barring a total collapse, Tennessee should accomplish two milestones tonight. First, the Vols will be looking to extend their program-record 34-game home winning streak. Secondly, they will be looking to give head coach Bruce Pearl his 400th career victory.

Pearl (399-109) got his first shot at No. 400 Sunday against Gonzaga, so he's probably getting a little antsy about now.


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