'Senior Night' could backfire

Slow starts have been a recurring theme during the Vol basketball team's four-game losing streak. Most recently, Tennessee fell behind 10-0 against visiting LSU en route to a 39-18 deficit that evolved into an 88-67 loss last Saturday.

Given UT's recent difficulty rallying from poor beginnings, you'd figure head coach Buzz Peterson would take steps to try and ensure a quick start in Wednesday night's home finale against Mississippi State.

Instead, Peterson is commemorating "Senior Night" by starting all five seniors. That's a heart-warming gesture, of course, but two of the seniors -- walk-ons Zach Turner and Drew Clemmons -- have scarcely left the bench during their careers.

Obviously, the head man will immediately pull Turner and Clemmons if they turn the ball over or give up easy baskets in the game's opening minutes. But former Vol coach Ray Mears always preached that the first five minutes of each half are crucial. And, given UT's fragile psyche', you have to wonder: If the Vols incur another early deficit, will they be able to recover?

And here's a sobering thought: If you're Mississippi State, wouldn't you open with a fullcourt press to put Turner and Clemmons on the hot spot right away?

If the Vols start well and win, everything will be peachy. If they start poorly and lose, Buzz may be open to some second-guessing.

The other seniors due to open Wednesday night's game are clearcut first-teamers -- 6-8 Ron Slay, 6-3 Jon Higgins and 5-10 Thaydeus Holden.

Slay needs three points to become the 14th player in Vol history to score 1,500. He could get them on his first made basket, although he went just 1 of 7 from 3-point range vs. LSU. In addition, Slay committed more turnovers (8) last Saturday than the entire Tiger team (6). He must play better if the Vols are to beat Mississippi State.


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