Slay must stay within offense

If Tennessee is to beat Mississippi State tonight at Thompson-Boling Arena, the Vols will need a big game from Ron Slay ... and a SMART game from Slay.

Slay ranks among the most dominating players in college basketball when he's under control but he can be a detriment to his team when he tries to force the action. A perfect example was last Saturday, when he went 1 of 7 from 3-point range and committed eight turnovers (two more than the entire opposing TEAM) in an 88-67 loss to LSU.

''He's got to cut down on his turnovers,'' Vol head man Buzz Peterson said. ''I don't know if I've ever coached a game where one player has had more turnovers than the opposing team. He needs to really cut down on his turnovers.''

Slay carried Tennessee earlier this season, so opponents have begun double- and even triple-teaming him in recent weeks. The tactic seems to have frustrated the talented senior, who has committed 20 turnovers during UT's four-game losing streak.

''He's going to get doubled,'' Peterson said. ''When you get doubled, you've got to know it's coming and try to find one of your teammates (with a pass). It goes back to keeping things simple. Don't try to make the home run play. Just go back to basic basketball: Make the catch, then look. If the shot's not there, pass the ball and stay with that, instead of trying to create something. Let the point guard or two guard create opportunties for everybody else.

''I think Ron has brought too much on himself. He wants to do it himself. He wants to create opportunities, and that's where a lot of his turnovers have come.''

Despite its losing streak, Tennessee (15-10 overall, 7-7 in SEC play) still has a shot at making the NCAA Tournament field. Some experts figure the Vols are in if they can win two of their next three games (counting the SEC Tournament opener). Peterson reminded Slay this week that there is still plenty to play for.

''Ron and I have talked a lot,'' the coach said. ''He's had too good of a year to let what's happened this last couple of weeks frustrate him and mess up this whole season. He's got to continue to press on, stay positive and encourage his teammates.''

And, perhaps most importantly of all, play under control.

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