Run + gun = fun

Wyoming and Tennessee got together 13 months ago for arguably the dullest football game in Volunteer history. The same two schools get together Tuesday night for what could be one of the most entertaining basketball games in Vol history.

On the heels of Phillip Fulmer's announced resignation as head coach, the Football Vols went through the motions in a 13-7 loss to the Cowboys on Nov. 8, 2008. Tennessee managed just 219 yards of total offense that afternoon and gave the game away with two costly interceptions. If it wasn't the most boring game ever played at Neyland Stadium, it was certainly on the short list for that distinction.

Conversely, Tuesday's basketball game at Thompson-Boling Arena should be a high-scoring fireworks display. Like the eighth-ranked Vols (7-1), the Cowboys love to race up and down the floor, force a lot of turnovers and score a lot of points. After a steady diet of slow-paced opponents in Games 1 through 8, Tennessee's players relish the opportunity to play an uptempo foe.

"We're very excited," senior point guard Bobby Maze said. "We're willing to take on the challenge. This team likes to run, and our best basketball is when teams want to run with us. I think this will be an exciting game. It will be a chance for some guys to put some numbers up on the board."

Maze sees the same level of excitement in his teammates as they prepare to face a Cowboy team that averages almost as many points per game (80.3) as the Vols (85.0).

"When Coach showed clips of this team and we saw how they like to get up and down, I looked at guys and everybody was smiling," Maze said. "A couple of games previous we had to play teams that like to run the shot clock down all the way to eight seconds, then try to score. This team likes to score early, which means we can get a lot of transition baskets."

Sophomore wing Cameron Tatum, who excels in transition, is understandably eager to face a team willing to run and gun.

"We definitely enjoy it," Tatum said. "We want to get up and down, make that fast pace. That's what we all came here for - to get up and down and play that fast-paced basketball. When a team is matching that intensity, it's a good challenge for us.... I think it's going to be an exciting game."

Based on historical precedent, it projects to be. Texas elected to run with the Vols in 2006, with the result being a thrilling 111-105 Vol win in overtime. Long Beach State tried to run with UT in the 2007 NCAA Tournament but sustained a 121-86 blowout. Florida ran with the Vols at Knoxville in 2008 but wound up on the short end of a 104-82 score.

"That's when you really get to see what these players can do - games when we run up and down - because there's more possessions," Maze said. "The last game we played I think we only had maybe 50 shot attempts (54 vs. Middle Tennessee). In an up-and-down game you might get 80 to 90 shots. When a team slows it down, it's hard to really see the ability of the guys we have on our team."

Relatively few teams have tried to run with Tennessee since Bruce Pearl became head coach, and that's understandable. Doing so plays to the Vols' strength.

"If you're not a running team, I don't think you should start off trying to run against us," Maze noted. "I don't think that would be a good idea."

Obviously not. But if you're a team like Wyoming that loves to run, you might as well pit your strength against Tennessee's strength and see what happens.

"If you haven't got tickets to this game yet, you need to get tickets to this game," Pearl said. "This is going to be as entertaining and exciting a game as we'll have in this building this year.

"Wyoming turns people over 21 times a game. They run and they press. They're big and athletic and fast, and they've got a deep bench. They absolutely will not mind running with us."

Unless Pearl misses his guess, the scoreboard operator will have a busy night, whereas the shot-clock operator will not.

"It's going to be an entertaining game," he said. "There won't be very many shot-clock violations."


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