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Saturday, February 13, 2010
Vols' tough task gets even tougher

By Eamonn Brennan

Bernard King or no, Tennessee's trip to Kentucky was always going to be an uphill battle.

After all, even if the Volunteers were at full strength -- heck, even if they still had long-since-dismissed forward Tyler Smith in their ranks -- Kentucky would be the better team, playing at home, with a crowd so crazy they showed up 22,000-strong for an early morning college basketball preview show. Not a game. We're not talking about a game. We talking about GameDay, man. GameDay. GameDay. Not practice. Not a game. GameDay.

Sorry. Allen Iverson relapse. It happens. What was I saying? Ah yes: Tennessee was always going to be in trouble in Kentucky. Those chances are even worse -- trending toward "dire" -- if forward Wayne Chism doesn't play, which he might not.
Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl revealed the playing status of senior post Wayne Chism will be a "game-time decision" after Chism sat out Friday night's walkthrough at Rupp Arena with a sprained ankle. "We're just going to have to keep going at them,'' Pearl said. "Kenny Hall is giving away a lot of size, but he'll battle. He'll try to put his body between them and the ball and rebound and use his quickness to beat them to spots.''

That's very noble of the Volunteers, but stopping DeMarcus Cousins is already difficult. Cousins has seven double-doubles in his last seven games. He's one of the best offensive rebounders in the country, and one of the best on the defensive glass. He uses the second-highest percentage of his team's possessions of anyone in the country. As John Wall has gotten most of the national accolades, Cousins has turned into the country's most dominant interior presence, and what's especially scary is that his offensive game is still raw. He has much room to improve.

The Volunteers won't worry about that; they're just tasked with stopping Cousins today. How do they do it? Um, fronting the post? Pushing the pace in the hopes of tiring Cousins out? Chop-blocking the big man in the knees every time he jumps? (That's a joke, by the way. Don't get mad at me.) None of these strategies is likely to work very well, even with Chism in the game. If he doesn't play ... oof. It could get ugly.

(Hat tip: The Dagger)