On the Links: Vols Pay Visit; Long to ULL; Hogs Fall

Today’s game: Tennessee (8-7, 1-0 SEC) at No. 20 MSU (13-3, 0-1), 8 p.m., ESPN2 (Rece Davis play-by-play, Kara Lawson analyst)

Rodney Hood and MSU hope to take some lessons out of Saturday’s 98-88 loss to Arkansas, and apply them tonight versus Tennessee. Hood, the fantastic freshman from Meridian, has had his SEC initiation.

“The intensity level, everything about it is different,” he said. “It’s better teams, better talent, it’s just raising the level of play. I didn’t know it was going to be this tough. I knew it was going to be tougher, but…”

Hood trailed off there, words perhaps failing him as he tried to fully capture the essence of playing an SEC team. He will see a similar intensity level tonight from Tennessee, which brings a deliberate, physical style of play to the table under first-year coach Cuonzo Martin.

“They’ve got some veterans, some guys that has been around,” MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. “They are going to get after you defensively, they’ll play extremely hard. They’ve got some balance on that team, a lot of different guys can do a lot of different things.”

By the way, Hood has been playing with a wrap on his right (non-shooting) hand the last few games, and he says that has affected him some.

“It’s affected my ball handling, not my shot,” he said. “It’s my off hand, so I’ve just got to keep working on it. I hurt it at the end of the Baylor game, so I’ve just got to keep working on it and keep getting treatment.”

In the two games since hurting it, Hood has scored 33 points with four assists and one turnover. Not bad even with two good hands.

• Remember Shawn Long? The former Bulldog, who left the program following the fall semester, is transferring to UL-Lafayette. The Morgan City, La., native is now closer to home and his family. He recently had a child. Also, he called Starkville “real country.”

• Go figure: Ole Miss beat Arkansas last night in Oxford. As Stansbury might say, it’s tough to win on that road in the SEC.

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