'Caught up in the hype'

Published: Thursday, January 16, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 16, 2003 at 12:06 a.m.

Ron Slay may be trying too hard, putting too much of a burden upon himself to lead the Tennessee Volunteers.

At least that was Vols coach Buzz Peterson's assessment.

And Slay agreed.

"Yeah, a little bit," Slay said Wednesday night after his Vols were handed a thorough 77-64 defeat at Florida. "I got a lot of open looks, I just didn't knock them down. The open shots were there. They just rimmed in and out."

Against Florida, Slay found the rim plenty of times, but he got the ball to the bottom of the net less frequently. Slay finished 7-of-24 shooting, including 1-of-8 from behind the three-point line to finish with 17 points - five below his SEC-leading season average. Slay came into the game a 49.6-percent field goal shooter but was pestered by a smart and sound Gators defense.

Peterson was disheartened afterward that his team launched nearly half of its first-half field goal attempts from three-point territory. And Slay was part of the problem.

"I guess we got caught up in the hype and shot some threes," Peterson said. "Ron got caught up in that. They collapsed on him and then he came outside."

Slay suffered through a horrendous first half in which he was 3-of-13 shooting and he missed all four of his three-point attempts. He opened the game with a baseline dunk, then gave a soft wave to the O'Connell Center crowd. But the remainder of his half was a disaster. So much so, Slay came out in the second half with a different set of sweatbands.

"Ron's such a competitor and really wants to win," Peterson said. "I think sometimes he really puts too much pressure on himself to carry this team. I think he did that tonight."

Wednesday, Slay was shut down by Florida's David Lee, who blocked a pair of his field goal attempts midway through the second half. The first of which Lee pinned against the backboard, bringing a huge roar from the crowd which taunted the 6-foot-8 senior throughout the game.

In addition to Lee's stellar post defense, Florida often double-teamed Slay when he got the ball inside, something that's become commonplace this season.

In his 39 minutes, Slay also added five rebounds and three assists, but only attempted two free throws. He said his team simply missed too many open shots Wednesday.

"Those open looks were the same ones we get in practice where we knock them down," Slay said. "We didn't come in and do anything different."

You can reach Brandon Zimmerman by calling 374-5051 or by e-mail at zimmerb@gvillesun.com

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