Buzz impressed with Gators

If the Tennessee Vols lose to Florida Wednesday night in Gainesville, it won't be because UT coach Buzz Peterson underestimated the Gators. The Vol skipper is lavish in his praise of Coach Billy Donovan's crew.

No wonder. Florida is 13-2, the second-best start in school history. Tennessee is 8-3 with a young team that is still largely unproven.

After noting that the Gators are ''high-powered offensively,'' Peterson added that they ''pass the ball extremely well, which is a lost art in our game.''

As if Florida isn't enough of challenge already, playing the game in the cozy (12,000-seat) O'Connell Center makes the task downright daunting. Florida has won 11 of the last 12 meetings with UT on its homefloor and overall has won 12 games in a row at home, dating to last season.

''Playing at O'Connell Center makes it even tougher,'' Peterson conceded.

Still, the Vol coach is encouraged. Tennessee's 66-64 win at Ole Miss last Saturday squared the Vols' SEC record at 1-1 and showed the Big Orange can overcome a hostile crowd to win a tight game.

''Our young men really played with a lot of poise down at Ole Miss to pull that game out,'' Peterson said. ''We've got some confidence coming off that game, and our guys feel like anywhere they go they can pull out a win.''

Matt Walsh, a 6-6 freshman forward, is Florida's leading scorer, averaging 15.3 points per game. Matt Bonner, a 6-10 senior, chips in 14.5 ppg. David Lee, a 6-9 sophomore, adds 10.3 ppg. The guards are Brett Nelson (5.4 ppg) and Justin Hamilton (9.7 ppg).

Ron Slay leads Tennessee, averaging 22 points per game. Brandon Crump chips in 10.8. Guards Jon Higgins and C.J. Watson added 9.9 and 9.8, respectively.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

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