published Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Cowboy style OK with UT

Pearl and his Volunteers are expecting Wyoming to try to run with them in tonight's game.

KNOXVILLE -- Bobby Maze and his teammates don't normally get so excited during video study.

The Tennessee point guard and the rest of the Volunteers often watch highlights of other teams playing up-tempo, full-court basketball, only to play those teams a few days later and watch them gear it down and deliberately slow the pace.

Opponents don't typically like getting into track meets with the ninth-ranked Volunteers (7-1), and rightfully so. UT is usually at its best in a wide-open style of play where both teams shoot 60 or more times.

Wyoming (5-4) should provide that kind of game tonight, according to Vols coach Bruce Pearl.

Pearl promised his players that the Cowboys, who also score more than 80 points per game, won't change their style to combat the Vols.

"This is what they do," Pearl told them. "This is who they are."

And the Vols love that probability.

"When Coach Pearl showed us clips of this team, and we saw how they like to get up and down, I looked at guys, and everybody was smiling," Maze said. "A couple of games previously, we've played some teams that like to run the shot clock down all the way to eight seconds and then try to score. But this team likes to score early, which means we can get a lot of transition baskets.

"Our best basketball that we play is when teams want to run with us. I think it will be an exciting game, and a chance for a lot of guys to put some numbers up on the board."

But the Cowboys are excited, too.

"I think they feel good about this opportunity," Pearl said. "We did not call Wyoming. Wyoming called us and wanted to come play this game. They've got a good team, and this will be a good opportunity for us.

"They're a team that's going to do things that nobody's done to us this year. Nobody's pressed us. Nobody's been this big."

For all of Pearl's precautionary pregame talk, the Cowboys haven't consistently warranted such praise. They've had big wins, particularly a Dec. 5 victory over Loyola Maramount, which defeated Notre Dame in South Bend, but they've also struggled mightily at times. They've lost to Denver, Monmouth and Hampton, and South Dakota State whipped them by 16 points.

But Wyoming does have intriguing talent, and the Cowboys present all sorts of matchup problems with a speedy point guard, tall wings and a 7-foot-2 center who rotates with two 6-10 forwards in the frontcourt. And Wyoming has enough depth and diversity in its scoring that gassing the Cowboys is a tough task.

"They're a very big team, a lot like us, and they like to get up and down," UT sophomore guard Cameron Tatum said. "They're a very athletic team, and they're going to be a very tough team for us. We've got to come out ... and try to match the intensity that they're going to come in here with."

Maze mentioned only three teams in the past two seasons -- Kansas, Marquette and Ole Miss -- that have tried to beat the Vols at their own game.

"Teams try to do the best thing they can do in order to win," Maze said. "But if you're not a running team, I don't think that you should just start off trying to run against us. I don't think that would be a good idea.

"I'm very excited and willing to take on the challenge. This team likes to run, and our best basketball that we play is when teams want to run with us. I think will be an exciting game, and a chance for a lot of guys to put some numbers up on the board."

Pearl said tonight -- not the Jan. 10 visit from top-ranked Kansas or the Feb. 27 tussle with archrival, third-ranked Kentucky -- could be the most entertaining game this season in Thompson-Boling.

"If you haven't gotten tickets to this game yet, you need to," Pearl said.

Other contacts for Wes Rucker are www.twitter.com/wesrucker and www.facebook.com/tfpvolsbeat.

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