Buzz hopes to avoid Bama replay

It could be deja vu all over again.

The last time Tennessee took the floor in the SEC Basketball Tournament -- last March in Atlanta -- the Vols were facing a team from Alabama that boasted a high-scoring forward (Rod Grizzard). Unfortunately for the Big Orange, Grizzard had a career night, hitting six of 10 shots from 3-point range and totalling 33 points as the Crimson Tide romped 91-72.

When the Vols take the floor tonight at 9:45 EST in this year's SEC Tournament at New Orleans, they again will be facing a team from Alabama (Auburn) that boasts a high-scoring forward (Marquis Daniels). Unless the Big Orange does a better job of containing him this year than it did of containing Grizzard last year, UT's stay in the tourney will be a brief one.

Vol head man Buzz Peterson hasn't forgotten Grizzard's 3-point barrage from a year ago but he insists he isn't having nightmares about it.

''No,'' he said with a laugh. ''Grizzard had a special tournament, and that's what you want your upperclassmen to do. When the conference tournament comes, you want those guys to step it up to another level, and I'm sure our guys will do the same thing. Grizzard's big game just came on a bad day. Those six 3s made it difficult for us.''

Being without the services of senior shooting guard Jon Higgins could make tonight's game difficult for the Vols, as well. Higgins had started 122 games during his career. He'll be replaced in the lineup by freshman Stanley Asumnu, who has started just five games. Asumnu's backups will be Derek Stribling (10 career starts) and John Winchester (1 career start).

''Stanley's been playing about 15 minutes a game,'' Peterson noted. ''John and Stribling have hardly played. John hasn't played at all the last two. He was suspended for the Mississippi State game and didn't play against Vanderbilt. Strib got thrown in briefly against Vanderbilt. But they've been out there before. They know what we need and each one can help us in different situations.''

The loss of Higgins also hurts Tennessee at the point position, since he was the chief backup to starter C.J. Watson. Don't be surprised if Watson gets no rest breaks this weekend.

''If C.J. needs a blow, Winchester can give him a spell for a couple of minutes,'' Peterson said. ''But I've said this all along: C.J. Watson looks like he's got three lungs. He can play 40 minutes. It may be a case where, if we win our first game, second game and get to a third game, he may play 120 minutes.''

The Vol coach is convinced Watson can handle such an iron-man chore.

''When we ran our 12-minute run (in preseason) he was basically lapping everybody, and he was on the same pace at the end as when he started out,'' Peterson said. ''His 12-minute run broke all the records we had. He's a phenomenal athlete.''

Although Tennessee will miss Higgins' outside shooting tonight, Peterson thinks unsung Thaydeus Holden can pick up the slack.

''Looking back at the conference season, Thaydeus Holden hit some big shots for this team,'' the coach said. ''He was the guy who was knocking shots down. The Vanderbilt game (in Knoxville), he hit five 3s and that was the difference in the ballgame. He's a guy who has really hit some shots for us in crucial situations.''


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