Big guards are big worry

It's no secret that the Tennessee Vols have struggled mightily with opponents who feature a big, physical, offense-minded guard. Ole Miss, tonight's opponent in Oxford, features two.

In case you've forgotten how big guards have fared against UT previously, here's a review:

Kentucky's Jodie Meeks (6-4, 208 pounds) scored 54 points

Temple's Dionte Christmas (6-5, 205) put up 35

LSU's Marcus Thornton (6-4, 205) hung 29 on the Vols

Auburn's Rasheem Barrett (6-5 220) posted 27

Gonzaga's Matt Bouldin (6-5, 222) scored 26

It's worth noting that each of those guys led his team to victory against Tennessee. So, the fact the Rebels have two big, high-scoring guards makes them doubly dangerous tonight.

David Huertas, a transfer from Florida, is a 6-5 200-pounder who is averaging 19.1 points per game and shooting 36.9 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. He's also Ole Miss' second-leading rebounder at 4.7 per game.

Terrico White is a 6-5 211-pound freshman from Memphis who is averaging 16.1 points per game in SEC play, 11.3 per game overall. He's hitting 37.0 percent of his 3-balls in league action, 35.5 percent for the season.

In addition to his scoring prowess, White has exhibited great versatility. He's filled the first-team point guard role ever since Chris Warren suffered a season-ending injury in Game 11.

"He's a great shooter," UT coach Bruce Pearl said of White. "In high school he could shoot but he was inconsistent. He's become a great shooter. He's got great size and he's worked on his quickness. He's gotten a lot better in a year's time. He's not a natural point, and yet he's moved over there and looks really comfortable."

He's looked comfortable enough to post 50 assists and just 38 turnovers, in fact.

In addition to Huertas and White, Ole Miss' starting lineup consists of 6-9, 251-pound post DeAundre Cranston (2.8 points, 4.3 rebounds per game), 6-9, 217-pound Malcolm White (6.7 points, 5.1 rebounds) and 6-6, 225-pound Zach Graham (7.6 points, 3.3 rebounds).

At 7-3 in league play, Tennessee is tied with Kentucky and South Carolina for the SEC East lead. Even with tough road tests at Ole Miss and at UK this week, Pearl is happy with his team's positioning.

"Would you take being in a three-way tie for first place with six games left – regardless of who you play or where you have to play? I think the answer is yeah, let's go play six games and see where we fall," he said. "My guess is there will be a great sense of urgency on behalf of our team."

Still, the Vols' last road game was perhaps their worst outing of the season. They seemed lethargic in a 78-77 upset loss at Auburn on Feb. 7. Pearl believes UT will be a different team tonight.

"Maybe the difference would be that we're not any more prepared for it," he said, "but that the situation would dictate a greater sense of urgency."

Tennessee brings a 16-8 overall record and a 7-3 SEC mark into tonight's game. Ole Miss is 13-11 and 4-6. Tipoff is set for 7 o'clock Central Time, with Raycom providing TV coverage.

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