Backboards key for Hoop Vols

Wednesday night's game at Arkansas isn't the sure-fire win some Vol basketball fans might think. The Razorbacks may have a lackluster 7-12 overall record and a 2-6 SEC mark but their greatest strength is their rebounding, an area in which UT was dominated last time out.

The Vols beat Georgia 78-72 three days ago, despite the fact the Dawgs grabbed more offensive rebounds (19) than Tennessee had defensive rebounds (18). Overall, UGA won the boards by a whopping 38-25 margin.

Statistically speaking, Arkansas is even better on the boards than Georgia. Based on league games only, the Razorbacks lead the SEC with 37.4 rebounds per game and rank third in rebound margin at plus-3.2 per game.

''My concerns? Their offensive rebounding is the best in the league,'' UT head man Buzz Peterson said earlier today. ''We've got to do an excellent job of boxing them out, keeping them off the boards and not giving them second chances.''

The Vols also must play with plenty of composure. Bud Walton Arena is a tough place for a visiting team to win. In fact, Tennessee has never won there, standing 0-4 all-time.

''Arkansas is a team that plays much better at home,'' Peterson said. ''They seem to shoot the ball better, plus their effort and intensity picks up a lot when they're at home. Starting two freshman guards (Eric Ferguson, Jonathon Modica), that happens a lot.''

Except for their failure to keep Georgia off the offensive glass, the Vols played perhaps their finest game of the year on Saturday. They shot a sizzling 56.3 percent from the floor and 47.1 percent from 3-point range, while committing just 10 turnovers. Defensively, UT limited Georgia superstars Jarvis Hayes and Ezra Williams to a combined 11 of 30 from the floor. The same type of effort may be needed Wednesday night.

''We have to play with poise,'' Peterson said. ''Shot selection is very important for us. Defensively, we've got to bring the heat. When you're on the road, you've got to come with the intensity level.''

Much as Peterson did last year, first-year Arkansas coach Stan Heath is struggling to rebuild a program with players recruited by a predecessor.

''I know what Stan is going through,'' Peterson said, ''because I went through a similar situation last year.''


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