Instead of Jayhawks star Sherron Collins, it was the Vols' Bobby Maze who won the individual battle and helped Tennessee win the war 76-68.
UT coach Bruce Pearl recalled asking his players in the post-game locker room: 'Who was the best point guard on the floor?' They all answered 'Bobby Maze.' Bobby Maze was the best point guard on the floor."
Collins scored more points (22 to 16) but made just 7 of 20 shots, including 2 of 10 from 3-point range. He also had nearly as many turnovers (4) as assists (5). Conversely, Maze hit 5 of 10 floor shots, 6 of 7 free throws and grabbed 7 rebounds. Despite being surrounded by some new faces due to four recent suspensions, he also dished out 8 assists and committed just 2 turnovers in what may have been his best performance as a Vol.
"He was a beast," sophomore teammate Renaldo Woolridge said. "He had seven rebounds, he was taking it to the hoop, hitting his free throws, everything. He was playing all over the place. Collins is a great point guard - a first-rounder - but Bobby went out there and did his thing against him. I'm really proud of him. He stepped up."
Maze's showing on Sunday earned him recognition as SEC Player of the Week and provided a measure of redemption. Collins outplayed him inlast year's 92-85 Kansas win at Lawrence, producing 26 points and 9 assists to Maze's 14 points and 4 assists. Maze says those numbers are skewed, however.
"Last time we played he played 39 minutes and I played 22," the Vol senior said. "It's hard to compare statistics in situations like that."
Even so, Maze was fired up about Sunday's rematch with Collins in Knoxville.
"It motivated me a lot," he said, adding that his performance "let me know I can play with the best in the country."
Maze was especially proud of his defensive work against the Kansas superstar.
"Collins is a terrific basketball player; you never know what he's going to do," Maze said. "He's terrific at getting to the basket, so I just wanted to contest him, try to contain him. You aren't going to shut Sherron Collins down. He's going to get his shots. You just try to contain him and make him take the difficult shot."
Maze, dubbed "The Solution" when he signed with UT out of junior college two years ago, has been wildly inconsistent in his 1 1/2 seasons on The Hill. As a result, he probably has been criticized more than any player on the team.
"Bobby's heard questions about our point-guard play with great consistency the last couple of years," Pearl said. "Bobby Maze may not have been 'The Solution' but he came to our rescue. We don't win the SEC East (last season) without Bobby Maze as our point guard.
"He helped us win a championship, and he's going to be matched up against an NBA point guard several nights.... I'm very appreciative of Bobby."
With backup Melvin Goins suspended, Maze has gotten more playing time the past two games than he did previously. He says the added minutes help him find a rhythm and be more productive. Pearl laughed when told of the comment.
"As long as Bobby will defend and not take possessions off, he can play as long as he can play," the coach said. "Bobby's in control of his minutes."