From the gridiron to the court
Tigers and Vols ready for part two in athletic battle
Any time The University of Memphis takes on their in-state rivals from Knoxville in any sport, drama is almost a given.
When the No. 4 Tigers take on the Volunteers of Tennessee tonight at FedExForum at 7, there will be enough story lines to make any fan or sports writer lick their chops.
Take two rivals off to career-best starts, add a few misguided player comments, a rumored recruiting dispute and sprinkle on the fact each teams' fans rarely exchange Christmas cards with each other, and you have a game that is bigger than either team is willing to admit.
"People are walking around here acting like this is a national championship game," said Tigers guard Darius Washington. "This is just a regular game and we haven't changed anything.
"Every team that comes here is going to try and match our intensity."
So far Tennessee has proven that they can match any team's intensity.
With an 11-2 record, which includes a 95-78 win Dec. 17 over Texas, the Volunteers and first-year coach Bruce Pearl have already exceeded expectations.
Tennessee is boasting the nation's fourth-ranked offense with 83.8 points a game.
"They are doing so many things well right now and I expect them to play really well," said John Calipari, U of M coach. "I think everyone is alert and they know what is at stake.
"Each game we play is a challenge in its own right because of our ranking."
The U of M is riding a four-game winning streak with their last victory coming over SMU, 73-53. After losing to No. 1 Duke and No. 5 Texas, many have criticized the Tigers for losing some of their opening season shine.
"A lot of people have high expectations for us," said sophomore guard Andre Allen. "We don't get up in other people's expectations."
Tennessee forward and Memphis native Dane Bradshaw added a little fuel to the fire when he told reporters after Saturday's loss to LSU that he was "more afraid of a gang-banger in Memphis" than an LSU student.
"If coach Cal would have given him a scholarship he would have been here," Allen said. "People have something to say when they don't get a scholarship and they don't get to play for the college they want to play for."
Calipari said that little substance should be given to Bradshaw's statement.
"I don't think that he meant the stuff he said," Calipari said. "The greatest thing is that we have one-fifth (the crime) than they have there. This is a safe place and a safe campus and we are proud."
Despite Bradshaw's comments, Memphis will allow the scoreboard to do the talking, according to Washington.
"When the game gets started and that ball goes up, the talking has to stop," Washington said. "If we win, that is enough talking."
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