Guarding the guards

He's the unquestioned headliner, but Evan Turner isn't the only quality guard Tennessee must contain in tonight's NCAA Midwest Regional semifinals against Ohio State.

In fact, he's just one of four quality guards who'll be STARTING for the Buckeyes when tonight's game tips off at 6:07 Central in St. Louis.

Check it out:

- Turner, a 6-7 junior, is averaging 20 points and 6 assists per game. Some experts believe he's the premier guard in college hoops.

- Jon Diebler, a 6-6 junior, is hitting 42.8 percent from behind the arc this season and is Ohio State's all-time leader in 3-point baskets after just three years in the program.

- William Buford, a 6-5 sophomore, is hitting 38.2 percent (47 of 123) from 3 and averages 3.1 assists per game.

- David Lighty, a 6-5 junior, shoots 38.4 percent (43 of 112) from 3, with 105 assists and more steals (56) than Turner (53).

Although Buford and Lighty are listed as forwards, Ohio State essentially plays four guards and a post (6-8, 260-pound junior Dallas Lauderdale). The Buckeyes aren't the first 2010 Vol opponent to try this strategy, however.

"In some ways I would compare them to Vanderbilt in the sense that Andre Walker, being a power forward, is very guard-like. Jeffery Taylor, being a big 3 man, is very guard-like," UT coach Bruce Pearl said this week. "Defensively, we're going to have to guard four guards and a center."

Apparently, the Vols don't match up well with four-guard lineups since the Commodores whipped the Big Orange twice this season - prevailing 85-76 Jan. 27 in Knoxville and romping 90-71 Feb. 9 in Nashville.

Moreover, Ohio State coach Thad Matta's offensive philosophy is similar to that of Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings - attack the basket, draw fouls and, if the inside shot isn't available, kick the ball outside for the 3-pointer.

"Thad's going to get those guys to put the ball down the floor and get to the rim, and they have the ability to do it," Pearl said. "Lighty can do it, Turner can do it and Buford can do it. That's what they're going to try to do, and we have to stop them without fouling."

Tennessee essentially starts a three-guard lineup featuring 6-3 Bobby Maze at the point with 6-7 Scotty Hopson and 6-8 J.P. Prince at the wings. The other starters are 6-10, 270-pound Brian Williams in the post and 6-9, 245-pound Wayne Chism at power forward. When Williams and Chism are in the game simultaneously, Chism will be entrusted with covering one of the four Buckeye guards.

"They're a tough matchup because Turner, at 6-7, plays the point and Diebler is a 6-6 shooter," Pearl noted. "Lighty and Buford are forwards but they're both athletic.

"Our 4 men (Chism and backup Steven Pearl) have done a pretty good job guarding guards, and they're going to have to do that again."

Facing an Ohio team last Saturday that also relied heavily on scoring from its guards, Pearl gave ace defender Josh Bone 10 minutes of playing time off the bench. Bone played his role so well that he could see substantial action again tonight.

"Against Ohio, I knew we could guard (D.J.) Cooper or (Armon) Bassett but I did not know that we could guard both at the same time because I just did not feel like our 3 men were going to be quick enough," Pearl said. "What we've done all year long is go to the bench, and all year long the bench has responded."

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