Stallings looking for better play from frontcourt

KNOXVILLE-- When Vanderbilt and Tennessee clash on the basketball court, the atmosphere is always emotionally charged. But when the No. 23 Commodores (12-1, 1-1 SEC) take on the Vols (9-2, 1-1) Wednesday in Knoxville, the winner stays in the thick of the SEC East race, while the loser faces a two-game losing streak and perhaps a crisis of confidence. Kevin Stallings said Monday he is hoping for improved play from his frontcourt.

KNOXVILLE-- When Vanderbilt and Tennessee clash on the basketball court, the atmosphere is always emotionally charged. But when the No. 23 Commodores (12-1, 1-1 SEC) take on the Vols (9-2, 1-1) Wednesday in Knoxville, the winner stays in the thick of the SEC East race, while the loser faces a two-game losing streak and perhaps a crisis of confidence.

Both teams will be looking to atone for discouraging losses from the previous Saturday. Kevin Stalling's Vanderbilt team received its first loss of the season Saturday at the hands of No. 7 Kentucky, 75-63; while Tennessee was annihilated at Florida's O'Connell Center Saturday, 95-57.

For both teams, Wednesday's game is one that could either put the season back on track, or send the season spiraling in a downward direction.

"It's always an exciting game for both universities," Tennessee head coach Buzz Peterson (right) said Monday. "I remember working at Vanderbilt [from 1993-96]-- you always heard so much about Tennessee, and it's a game you always wanted to win.

"We have a lot of respect for what Kevin Stallings has done for his ball club. I know our fans are excited about this game. They're disappointed about the last game, but that was just one game."

Meanwhile Stallings said Monday he was pleased with the effort Saturday vs. Kentucky, but not necessarily the execution. The Commodores slipped from No. 20 to No. 23 in the AP poll after the loss to the Wildcats.

"We certainly played hard at Kentucky, but I didn't think we played especially well. We have to get a few things rectified.

"We've got a few key guys that are going to have to play a little better, if we are going to going to win road games in this league, than they did when we were in Lexington," Stallings said.

Pressed on that point, Stallings named off Matt Freije, Julian Terrell and Corey Smith as players with whose play he was dissatisfied.

"That's our starting frontcourt," he said. "I don't think any of those guys played anywhere near the way they're capable of playing [at Kentucky]. Now, we did have a couple of guys come off the bench and do a nice job for us, but...

"Matt Freije got one more defensive rebound in that game than I got... and he played for 30 minutes! And Matt knows it... he knows he's got to play big in big games for us to have a chance.

"You don't go to Lexington and win by having your better players not play well. You don't win on the road anywhere in this league without your mainline guys going and getting after somebody."

Stallings was quick to add that the Commodores' subpar performance in Lexington had a lot to do with Kentucky.

"It had a lot to do with how good they are, and how they play-- how tough they are, and how good they are defensively. But if you're going to achieve goals, if you're going to go to a place like that and win, you have to overcome the obstacles. We just weren't up to that task Saturday night."

Tipoff is set for 7:30 ET, 6:30 CT at Thompson-Boling Arena. Tennessee swept both games from Vanderbilt last season.

******

Photos by Brent Wiseman for VandyMania, except photo of Buzz Peterson, courtesy University of Tennessee.


Commodores Daily Top Stories