Driving toward March

Driving toward March

Trailing Georgia 25-17 with five minutes left in the half Wednesday night, a tentative Tennessee team appeared headed for a third consecutive loss.

One Vol took the ball and headed for the basket at this point, however, igniting a rally that would turn the game Tennessee's way.

Senior guard Bobby Maze drove into the lane and scored on an eight-foot floater that narrowed the gap to 25-19 with 4:37 left to the break. Moments later he barreled into the lane again and hit a four-footer that trimmed the deficit to 25-21 with 3:29 to go in the half. Those two buckets got UT back in the game at a time when Georgia appeared to be pulling away.

"I was just attacking in transition," Maze recalled. "I want to put the defense at duress and get to the free-throw line, so anytime I see a driving opportunity or a lane on the fast break I'm going to take it to the rack."

Maze's ability to "take it to the rack" proved critical as Tennessee came from behind to win 69-60. His coast-to-coast drive gave Tennessee its first lead of the second half at 39-37. Fouled on another drive, he hit two free throws to put the Vols on top 45-43 with 13:15 to play.

When Georgia eased in front 50-49, it was Maze who put the Vols ahead for good by nailing a 3-pointer with 8:17 remaining. That basket opened a 10-0 spurt that proved to be the difference in the game. Maze, who saw action at both the 1 (point) and 2 (shooting guard) on the night, was playing the latter during that crucial span.

"Being at the 2, you can hunt your shot more than looking at penetrating and getting guys another shot," he explained. "Coach has had a lot of confidence in me, allowing me to play my game and allowing me to knock down the shot.

"When they kicked it out to me, I heard Coach saying 'Knock it down.' Anytime you've got your coach believing in you, you believe that it will go in, as well."

Bruce Pearl conceded that Maze's aggressive play on offense was a key to the rally that helped Tennessee move to 19-6 overall and 7-4 in SEC play.

"Bobby did a really good job of attacking the basket, made some really tough 2s," the coach said. "He also had four assists in the second half."

Maze played shooting guard most of his life and has a scorer's mentality. As a result, he's not timid about attacking the rim.

Coach said 'Just take it to the basket,' and we did that," Maze recalled. "One time I drove to the basket and missed it, but Wayne Chism was right there (to follow). Even when we missed guys got the offensive rebounds and we was able to knock down shots. This team is a very dangerous team when guys can make shots."

Conversely, Tennessee is a very poor team when guys don't make shots. The first half against Georgia is a perfect illustration. The Vols shot just 36.7 percent and trailed 29-24. They shot 56.3 percent in the second half, however, and outscored the Dawgs 45-31 over the final 20 minutes.

"The second half we came out with a lot of intensity," Maze said. "I think the difference was understanding that this was a must-win game. We came in at halftime, we was down, but we said, 'We must win this game. We have to get on a winning streak right now, and it starts with Georgia.'"

In fact, it may have started with those two driving baskets Maze made just before halftime.

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