Ultimate trap game

Tennessee is coming off a gut-wrenching loss to an inferior Auburn team. Fans and media are openly questioning the team's heart and hustle. Against this backdrop the Vols tonight host a Georgia team that is 0-8 in SEC play and riding a 10-game losing streak.

Obviously, UT coach Bruce Pearl will be challenged to have the Big Orange excited about playing tonight. Heck, fiery Green Bay Packer legend Vince Lombardi would be challenged to have the Big Orange excited about playing tonight.

Thus, the question arises: Could there be a bigger "trap game" than this?

Probably not. But if the Vols mail it in tonight and find a way to lose at home to the SEC's worst team they can go ahead and start making plans to host a first-round NIT game come March.

Make no mistake: Tennessee CAN lose this game if it plays as poorly on defense and on the backboards as it did at Auburn. The Vols allowed an offensively challenged Tiger squad to shoot a sizzling 53.7 percent from the field on Saturday. They also allowed a Tiger squad whose tallest starters were 6-7 and 6-5 to post a whopping 34-21 rebound margin.

"Most of the time we were between them and the basket when the ball got shot," Pearl said. "When the ball came off (the rim), suddenly they appeared inside of us."

Tennessee also can lose this game if it plays as unintelligently as it did at Auburn. The Vols made an amazing 20 of 26 shots from inside the arc vs. the Tigers, yet jacked up almost as many 3-pointers (23) as non-3-pointers. The fact Tennessee sank just 2 of 11 shots beyond the arc in the second half kept Auburn in the game, despite its utter inability to contain the Vols on the inside.

Pearl hinted this week that his team doesn't always play smart.

"We're coaching hard," he said. "Is this team acquiring that? Some of that relates to basketball IQ ... But that's my job – to coach 'em up and put 'em in position to be successful, offensively and defensively."

Pearl certainly put the Vols in position to be successful offensively at Auburn. Tennessee shot a blistering 59.2 percent from the field. But offense wasn't enough to beat the Tigers on Saturday and it probably won't be enough to beat Georgia's Bulldogs tonight.

"I don't know where we rank offensively nationally but it's up there," Pearl said. "If we have woes, they're not at the offensive end. I'd focus more on where we are defensively."

Tonight's tipoff between the Vols (14-8 overall, 5-3 SEC) and Dawgs (9-14, 0-8) is set for 8 o'clock with TV coverage provided by Raycom Sports.


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