Pearl vs. Kennedy today

If you think of Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl as Superman, then Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy must be Kryptonite.

With the possible exception of former Kentucky boss Billy Gillispie, no SEC coach has made Pearl seem as much a mere mortal the past few years as his Rebel counterpart.

The first meeting between the two saw Kennedy's club outrebound Pearl's Vols 40-34 en route to an 83-69 romp at Oxford in 2007. The next confrontation saw the Rebels win the boards 44-39 against an eighth-ranked UT squad on its way to a program-record 31 victories only to lose an 85-83 squeaker at Knoxville in 2008. Last year's showdown saw Ole Miss dominate the backboards 44-30 en route to an 81-65 butt-kicking at Tad Smith Coliseum.

Kennedy, a superior Xs and Os coach, gives a lot of opponents trouble. He seems to save his best efforts for Tennessee, however, and that should have UT fans a little on edge heading into today's 1:30 tipoff at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The 2009-10 Rebels might be Kennedy's best squad to date. They are 13-3 overall, 1-1 in SEC play and ranked No. 21 nationally. They beat Georgia 80-76 in Athens Wednesday night and thumped Indiana 89-71 on a neutral floor earlier this season.

As usual, Ole Miss is one of college basketball's more physically imposing teams. Post DeAundre Cranston is a 6-9, 260-pound brute. Forward Murphy Holloway is a 6-7, 230-pounder. Wings Eneil Polynice (6-5, 222) and Terrico White (6-5, 213) know how to throw their weight around, as well. Point guard Chris Warren (5-10, 165) is the only lightweight in the starting five.

In addition to heft, the Rebels have exceptional scoring balance. Warren averages 16.4 points per game and White 16.2. Polynice and Holloway chip in 10.3 points apiece. Holloway is the top rebounder at 6.7 per game, while Polynice (4.6) and Warren (3.6) are the best assist men.

Ole Miss leads the SEC in scoring (83.4 points per game) and also in assist/turnover ratio at 1.31 to 1.

Tennessee has some points in its favor today, as well. The ninth-ranked Vols, 13-2 overall and 1-0 in league play, have won 21 of their last 24 SEC home games. They have claimed their last nine home games and their last five games, regardless of site.

The Big Orange leads the SEC in assists (16.9 per game) and turnover margin (plus 6.4). UT is second among league teams in field goal defense (38.0), 3-point defense (29.9), steals (9.3 per game) and turnover ratio (1.3 to 1).

NOTES: Memphis native Terrico White burned UT in last year's meeting, scoring 21 points, dishing out 6 assists and grabbing 5 rebounds. Holloway was 8 of 10 from the field, finishing with 18 points and 13 rebounds.... Today's game will be televised by the new SEC Network.... Vol reserves Brian Williams, Melvin Goins and Cameron Tatum - suspended since their Jan. 1 arrest on marijuana and weapons charges - will miss their fourth game in a row.


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