Corralling Collins

After struggling to find one dependable point guard in 2007-08, the Tennessee Vols may have found two in 2008-09.

The duo of Bobby Maze and Josh Tabb will face a stern test Saturday afternoon, however, when the Vols try to contain Kansas point guard Sherron Collins. The 5-11 junior from Chicago leads the Jayhawks in points (16.9 per game), assists (57) and 3-pointers (26).

"Collins is one of the best players in the country," UT coach Bruce Pearl said. "So Bobby has got to pick up his play. We've seen what he's capable of but his play needs to pick up at both ends of the floor."

Maze, a 6-2 junior college transfer, opened the season on fire. He posted a double-double (12 points, 11 assists) in Game 1 vs. Chattanooga, contributed 12 points in Game 3 vs. Middle Tennessee, then registered 14 points, 9 assists and zero turnovers in Game 5 vs. Georgetown.

Since handling the Hoyas, however, Maze has slipped a bit. He averaged 10 points per game over the past six outings but recorded almost as many turnovers (15) as assists (17).

"His play has leveled off some," Pearl said. "He's had some tough matchups. Alex Renfro (Game 10 vs. Belmont) was a tough matchup and Ryan McCoy (Game 11 vs. Louisiana) was pretty decent."

Fortunately for UT, Maze's decrease in effectiveness coincided with improved play by Tabb. The 6-4 junior has hit 12 of 17 shots over the past five games (3 of 6 from 3-point range) with 12 assists and just 5 turnovers.

Tabb's play of late has been so steady that, in addition to being the No. 2 point guard, he has started the past four games at small forward. He and Maze work very well in tandem, providing UT with a pair of excellent ball-handlers and perimeter defenders.

"That helps a lot," Tabb said. "Bobby's a good defender and I'm a good defender. We pressure the guards a lot. And it takes a lot off of me – not having to bring the ball up all the time – so I can get out on the wing and run a little bit."

Tabb is playing so well that Pearl has shelved plans to give 6-7 J.P. Prince some minutes at lead guard.

"We thought about playing J.P. at some point but J.P. feels like he can be more effective full-time at the 3 (small forward)," Pearl said. "That's where he thinks can do more for this team. With Josh and Bobby both playing well at the point, I'm OK with it.

"It'll be just like last year. If our point-guard play doesn't stay good, then I've got the threat of J.P. at the position and I've got plenty of wings. We'll look at that. But right now Josh and Bobby are OK."

He'll find out how "OK" they are Saturday when they try to contain Sherron Collins.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories