Charlotte's web

Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl may be on the verge of getting a taste of his own medicine. His 16th-ranked Vols could be the team gasping for breath near the end of tonight's game with Charlotte.

The Big Orange typically uses superior depth and upbeat tempo to wear down opponents. With four of his 10 scholarship players suspended, however, Pearl finds himself in the unaccustomed position of having less depth than the opposing coach. Bobby Lutz has a very long bench.

Noting that the 49ers played 13 players five or more minutes in last Saturday's game at Georgia Tech, Pearl added: "They've got a very deep roster. They're big, they're athletic, they're well coached and they come in with a three-game winning streak against the Vols. They've had success against Tennessee."

The Vol coach is correct. Charlotte (then known as North Carolina-Charlotte) beat the Vols 79-76 in 1995 at Knoxville, prevailed 72-51 in 1996 at Charlotte and ended Jerry Green's coaching career with a 70-63 first-round NCAA Tournament victory in 2001 at Dayton, Ohio.

Tennessee (10-2) will start 6-9 Wayne Chism (10.9 points per game, 5.8 rebounds), 6-8 Renaldo Woolridge (3.5 points), 6-8 J.P. Prince (6.0 points), 6-7 Scotty Hopson (13.3 points) and 6-3 Bobby Maze (7.5 points).

It will be interesting to see how the Vols compensate for the absence of star forward Tyler Smith. He leads the team in minutes (26.8 per game) and assists (44), ranks second in scoring (11.7 points per game), steals (17) and field-goal percentage (57.3) and ranks third in rebounds (4.7 per game).

Charlotte (10-3) is expected to start 6-8, 235-pound Chris Braswell (8.8 points per game, 9.0 rebounds), 6-6, 245-pound Shamari Spears (17.0 points, 4.8 rebounds), 6-6, 220-pound An'Juan Wilderness (6.0 points, 4.7 rebounds), 6-2, 160-pound Derrio Green (11.4 points) and 5-9, 170-pound DiJuan Harris (9.5 points, 5.1 assists).

Green is coming off a career-best 31-point outing in the 49ers' game at Georgia Tech.

Road games have been a feast-or-famine proposition for Charlotte. The 49ers drilled 18th-ranked Louisville 87-65 and gave Georgia Tech fits before bowing 76-67 in Atlanta last Saturday. Conversely, Charlotte was hammered 101-59 at Duke and 81-48 at Old Dominion.

Moreover, Pearl is 34-2 in non-conference home games.

Tonight's tipoff is set for 7 o'clock with television coverage provided by CSS.

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