Green recorded 15 points and 6 assists when the teams met Jan. 21 meeting at Knoxville. He eventually fouled out Watson, who sank just 1 of 8 field-goal tries en route to a 6-point, 6-assist outing. In Watson’s defense, the Vol senior committed just one turnover to Green’s six that afternoon.
UT head coach Bruce Pearl has been raving about Green’s skills as a playmaker ever since, and with good reason. Green has been just as valuable to the Gators as Watson has been to the Vols.
“Green might be the most improved player in our league,” Pearl said. “He’s their leading scorer. He leads them in minutes, leads them in assists. He’s shooting the ball from 3 extremely well. Everything runs through him, just like it ran through Steele.”
Steele, of course, is Alabama point guard Ronald Steele, who burned the Vols for 22 points and nine assists in a 92-79 Tide victory last Saturday.
“We did not do a good job defending Steele, and that was a real key in our loss to Alabama,” Pearl said. “We’ll have to do a better job of defending Green if we hope to be competitive.”
Defending Taurean Green won’t be an easy task for Watson. Consider:
Watson ranks seventh among SEC players in scoring (15.2 points per game), while Green is ninth (14.2). Green leads the SEC in assists (5.15 per game) while Watson ranks sixth (4.26). Watson (87.8 percent) and Green (87.6) rank 2-3 among SEC players in foul shooting. Watson hits 40.7 percent from 3-point range, Green 40.0.
The greatest disparity between the two point guards is in steals. Watson has 51, Green 36. Watson also has an edge in assist/turnover ratio, checking in second among SEC players at 2.39 to 1, whereas Green is eighth at 1.60 to 1.
Regardless, Green should give Watson quite a battle tonight. But Pearl says that’s nothing new.
“You have to be impressed with the quality of the point guard play in this league,” the Vol coach said. “Who doesn’t have a very good one?
“One of the things that makes C.J. so good is having played in this league for four years, and having played against all of these great players. He’s got no choice but to be pretty good. Otherwise, we’d get really exposed.”