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Are The Vols Back?
Posted: Thursday, February 1st, 2007, 9:13 AM • Permalink
Great win for the Vols last night. Pretty silly execution from Georgia. Aren't they superior inside. Aren't we perimeter oriented? How great of a scouting report was that by Tennessee? A couple of the overplay steals by our big people last night were next level. That steal by the Chyz in the first half when he just flat read a play was awesome scouting and recognition. Really amazing game in many ways. Just one question we can throw around today. Where was the crowd last night?

@ The Market stocking up for the storm of the century?

Home watching Vandy-Florida?

Setting up for the Super Bowl Party @ Church?

Tracking Football Recruiting?

Home watching wrestling videos?

@ Church?


This one didn't need any pre-game hype.

Tennessee Coach Bruce Pearl unabashedly called it a must-win game. Junior guard JaJuan Smith even suggested that the season was on the line.

Some heady stuff, indeed. But the Vols went out and delivered Wednesday night with an 82-71 victory over Georgia to remain unbeaten at home and stay in the chase for an NCAA Tournament berth.

"They came out during warm-ups like we weren't there," freshman point guard Ramar Smith said of the Bulldogs, who entered the game having won five of their last six games.

"That's what really made us mad, and we came out and played hard. They were carrying themselves like they just knew they were going to come in here and win. After seeing that, we really couldn't let it happen then."

A crowd of 17,686 at Thompson-Boling Arena saw the Vols (15-7, 3-4) come out swinging from the outset and never trail in the game. They played like a team thirsting for a win after losing five of their last six entering the contest.

"The kids obviously stepped up," Pearl said. "This was a big one. We needed this one."

Bulldogs go ice cold

The Bulldogs (13-7, 5-3) came into the game as one of the SEC's hottest teams. But their shooting touch matched the frigid weather outside, and they shot just 38.5 percent from the field.

"It's probably the best half-court defensive effort we've had, maybe since I've been here," Pearl said.

Georgia was 6-of-26 from 3-point range and missed 13 straight at one point.

With leading scorer Chris Lofton missing his third straight game with a sprained right ankle, the Vols' tandem of Smith & Smith took matters into their own hands.

Ramar Smith finished with a career-high 21 points and also picked an opportune time to find his touch from 3-point range. He was 3-of-4 from long distance and buried back-to-back 3s with just under nine minutes to play to quell a Georgia rally.

JaJuan Smith continued his recent tear with his fourth straight game of 20 or more points.

He blistered the Bulldogs for 22 and was 5-of-8 from 3-point range.

"We're a real good team right now," JaJuan Smith said. "With Chris, we're a great team. We're just going to pray and do our best to get Chris back."

Junior guard Jordan Howell also got into the act with a career-high 11 points. Freshman center Duke Crews broke out of a slump with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

"We took it as a must-win, and I don't think (Georgia) took it as that," Howell said. "Coach Pearl said before the game, 'I want ya'll to want this game more than Georgia,' and I feel like we did. They're second in the East. We're playing as the underdog. We have to win games to set ourselves up for March."

Lofton dresses for game

Even though Lofton didn't play, there was a little buzz in the arena before the game as he came out dressed for warm-ups and went through the layup line.

Pearl said he would have been available in an emergency situation.

Lofton would like to get back for the Florida game on Saturday in Gainesville, but it might be the LSU game at home next Tuesday before he returns.

"This just drew our team closer together even more, and when Chris gets here, we'll be a totally different team again," JaJuan Smith said. "We got over that hump (Wednesday night)."

Lofton dresses, doesn't play
Tennessee's Chris Lofton missed his third straight game Wednesday with a sprained right ankle.

Lofton, the Southeastern Conference's leading scorer, dressed for the game with Georgia and went through warm-ups. He could have played in an emergency situation, Coach Bruce Pearl said.
However, Pearl said he's still not sure Lofton will be ready for Saturday's game against No. 1-ranked Florida.

"If I had a foul shooter injured, or if I had to take somebody off the bench to shoot a free throw, he could have shot the free throw," Pearl said. "If we were in a situation late in the game and had foul trouble, he was cleared to play in an emergency situation. That does not make him ready for Saturday. He's got to go through a few more paces to be ready to play."

If Lofton can't play against the Gators, it might be Tuesday against LSU at home before he returns.

Pearl said he still wants to see a few things from Lofton physically before he's ready to put his top scorer back out there.

"I was watching him before the game, and he wasn't coming down on his foot (in layup lines)," Pearl said. "I said, 'Chris, land on it. We've got to see.'"

Freshman Josh Tabb made his second straight start in place of Lofton. It was the third straight game in which the Vols had three freshmen in the starting lineup. Ramar Smith and Wayne Chism were the other two.

Mad Bulldogs:
Georgia Coach Dennis Felton wasn't pleased with the Bulldogs having to come in earlier than scheduled Wednesday for their shoot-around.

It was originally scheduled for 11:30 a.m., according to Felton, but he said they received late notice from UT that it would have to be earlier in the morning.

"We found out 20 hours before we were supposed to be here that we could not have our shoot-around at 11:30, which had been planned since Oct. 20," Felton huffed.

Asked if he was given any explanation by UT officials, Felton said, "That's all I'm going to say about it."

Gators next:
The Vols will travel to Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday to take on No. 1-ranked Florida.

Tennessee swept both games from the defending national champion Gators last season. The Vols have won the last two times they've been to the O'Connell Center. They won 76-72 last season and 83-76 in overtime two years ago.

This season, the Gators are 14-0 at home.

RPI news: The Vols continue to sport a strong RPI, which will help them if they can get on a hot streak in February.

Tennessee was 19th in the latest RPI ratings going into Wednesday's game. The only SEC teams higher were Florida at 17th and Kentucky at seventh.

The Vols' strength of schedule rating was fifth nationally.

The Georgia Perspective on What Happened Last Night
Chip Towers AJC
Tennessee cools off Georgia
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Tennessee didn't have its All-America shooter Chris Lofton for Wednesday's game. It didn't matter, because Georgia didn't bring its shooters either.

Apparently, the Bulldogs forgot their thinking caps as well.
Despite facing an undersized and undermanned squad playing only two players over 6 feet 7, the Bulldogs all too often settled for

3-pointers and rarely made them. The Vols happily played the game that was dealt them and never trailed on their way to an 82-71 win in front of 17,686 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

"Certainly, we wanted to pound the ball inside, but we just didn't play well tonight," said Georgia coach Dennis Felton. "We didn't impose our will, and we didn't play hard enough on defense, and that's why we lost."

It was only the second loss in the past seven games for Georgia (13-7, 5-3 SEC), but this was a costly one. It came against a shorthanded team in a down year and before the Dogs face two loftier challenges — at Vanderbilt on Saturday and home against No. 1 Florida next week.

Oddly enough, the Bulldogs attempted more 3-pointers than their hosts, who shoot more than any team in the SEC. The Vols were much better at it. They made 11 of 23. Georgia was 6-for-26. Most of the Bulldogs' attempts came well before they fell behind by as many as 17 points in the second half.

"Our main focus was to get the ball inside, but we were getting a bunch of wide-open [3-point] shots because they were sagging in," said Georgia guard Sundiata Gaines, who led the Bulldogs with 21 points. "We just couldn't make them for some reason."

It was the second win in the past seven games for Tennessee (15-7, 3-4), which has won five in a row over Georgia. The Vols have played the past four without Lofton, the SEC's leading scorer at 21.5 points per game.

"It's been a long time since I felt like we had to have a win, and it's hard to feel that way when it's still January, but that's the way we felt," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "I'm real proud of our basketball team."

Meanwhile, Georgia's leading scorer, 6-foot-8, 250-pound power forward Takais Brown, attempted only eight shots, two in the second half. He finished with 12 points and only four rebounds. The Bulldogs were outrebounded 35-34.

Whatever hopes Georgia had ended in a rain of second-half 3-pointers from the Vols. They made four in a span of less than five minutes from 9:02 to 4:20. The fourth of those came from JaJuan Smith and put Tennessee ahead 72-58.

Smith led the Vols with 22 points, and Ramar Smith had 21.

Georgia, which trailed Kentucky by 17 and LSU by 12 in first halves before rallies for wins, fell behind the Vols by 13 in less than 12 minutes. Georgia came back to trail by four at halftime, only to give up five consecutive points to start the second.

Every time the Bulldogs made a move they would do something to thwart their own cause. They were behind by eight at the

15:22 mark in the second half when Felton was whistled for his first technical foul of the season. The Vols came out of the possession with three extra points and led 49-38 with 15:06 to play.

The Bulldogs got as close as 55-48 on a driving layup from Gaines with 9:16 left only to give up back-to-back 3s from Ramar Smith, the second coming after Georgia's Dave Bliss missed a point-blank shot.

The Vols have led at the half of every SEC game this season, and this one was no different as Georgia fell behind 37-33.

"We started off by giving up two wide-open 3s and that was disappointing because that's what we worked on all week," Gaines said.

Alabama's Saban Addresses Ethnic Slur
As an audiotape spread on the Internet, Alabama coach Nick Saban acknowledged Wednesday using a phrase considered derogatory to Cajuns but said he doesn't condone such language and merely was repeating something a friend told him.

Saban, a former LSU and Miami Dolphins coach, used an ethnic slur Jan. 3 while telling Florida reporters in Tuscaloosa an anecdote about an LSU fan's angry reaction to his hiring.

When asked about the LSU fans' reaction, Saban related a phone call from a friend on the LSU board of trustees, whom he did not name. In what seemed to be an attempt at humor, Saban told of the friend's encounter with an LSU fan, who speaks in a Cajun dialect.

"He was walking down the street yesterday before the Sugar Bowl," Saban said on the taped comments. "He calls me. There was a guy working in the ditch, one of those coonass guys that talk funny.

"I can't talk like them, but he can. Most people in Louisiana can."

Continuing to tell the story, Saban then quoted the worker's vulgar comment about Saban going to Alabama.

Saban, in a statement Wednesday, said the word "can be taken as derogatory by some people."

"Those comments need to be placed in the proper context, so as to understand the meaning of what was said," Saban said. "The words were used in paraphrasing a story told to me by a friend. I was simply using the same wording used by the person who told me the story.

"The term in question is not language that I use or condone, and I can understand how some would take offense. However, I think it must be noted that those comments were made 'off the record' and the words merely reflected an anecdote that was told to me using that language."

Warren Perrin, president of the Council for Development of French in Louisiana, said the term is "highly offensive."

"I routinely state that the use of that term is highly offensive to descendants of Acadians, who are commonly referred to as Cajuns," Perrin said.

Alabama spokeswoman Deborah Lane said the university had no comment beyond Saban's statement.

Many Cajuns, including former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, use the word coonass in reference to themselves as a badge of honor. According to the online reference site Wikipedia, working-class Cajuns tend to regard the word as a term of ethnic pride, while middle- and upper-class Cajuns are more likely to regard it as insulting or degrading. Some view it as an ethnic slur, especially when used by non-Cajuns.

Tack Minor’s basketball career at LSU officially ended Wednesday.

The university released a statement during the Tigers’ game against Alabama stating the 5-foot-11 junior “is no longer enrolled at LSU.”

The statement did not provide a reason for Minor’s departure, citing student privacy rights and said there would be no further comment.

Reached by cell phone Wednesday, Minor said “It’s over and done with and I’m moving on.”

Asked if he had been expelled, Minor said “I’ve just got some personal problems I need to take care of.”

The last 10 days provided several indicators that Minor’s future was in limbo. He missed a practice Jan. 22, did not play in LSU’s last home game against Vanderbilt and did not make the trip with the Tigers for a road game at on Sunday.

The final chapter of Minor’s career caps a once-promising and erratic four years in the LSU program for the Houston native.

He arrived in 2003 as a member of a recruiting class ranked as one of the best in the country.

At the end of his sophomore season in 2005, Minor was found guilty of violating the LSU Student Code of Conduct and suspended from the university for the fall 2005 semester.

After sitting out the first semester last season, Minor rejoined the Tigers in December and played in three games but tore the meniscus in his right knee in his third game back. The NCAA granted Minor a medical redshirt, giving him this season and next to complete his eligibility.

Instead, his LSU career came to an abrupt finish Wednesday.

Minor played sparingly this season, averaging 15 minutes per game with two starts. His playing time dwindled after his best game of the season — a seven-point, three-assist performance in the Tigers’ nationally televised 66-49 triumph over Connecticut on Jan. 6. He pumped in a 35-foot 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to give LSU a lead it never relinquished.

Since the start of SEC play, Minor logged only 36 minutes.

As a freshman Minor played a key role as a backup point guard but became also known for his inconsistency.

In 2004-05, Minor started all 30 games, averaging 10.8 points per game and leading the Tigers with 137 assists.

Adam LaRoche:
He also said this about Atlanta fans: “They got spoiled, and they’ve got to know that. Somebody’s got to have told them by now. They were spoiled, and we were spoiled as players.”

“I hope the [Atlanta fans] get fired up [now] the way I heard they were six or seven years ago, or however long it was, where they truly are pulling for the team and it’s not going to be 50-50 [mix] at the park with some fans just coming out be at a ballgame.”

“That’s hard for 14 years when you get in the playoffs and [with the fans] it’s like, ‘Let’s hurry up and get season over, get back in the playoffs.’ Now I think they realize it’s not that easy, like ‘What they did there was pretty incredible and we need to back them more.’”

“They need to get that fire back like I think teams have that don’t win. And it’s weird _ I’m seeing it in Pittsburgh, and they haven’t even been over .500 in how many years? These fans are going crazy, they’re the underdog, and these are their guys. It’s almost like they’re part of it.”


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