As the Vols prepare for their home finale Wednesday night vs. Arkansas, we look back at the careers of Tennessee's seniors:
After the Vols' 31-5 season in 2008, Tennessee faced major issues at point guard: Ramar Smith was dismissed from the team, and Jordan Howell had graduated. With no returning PG experience on the roster, the Vols turned to a transfer player from Oklahoma...and Bobby Maze immediately became option number one at the position.
The various options Tennessee has played at the point since C.J. Watson's graduation in 2006 have taken flack for not being C.J. Watson. But Bobby Maze has become the most consistent of those options in his two seasons, even if he's still a shooting guard playing slightly out of position. And if that's true, then the fact that he's third in the SEC in assist/turnover ratio at 2.3/1 is even more impressive (fun fact: Tyler Smith led the conference in this category at 2.8/1 before his dismissal).
Maze, who averages 9.4 points and 3.2 assists per game this year, has improved in a number of statistical categories from 2009 to 2010:
- PPG: 8.2 to 9.4
- A/T: 2.02/1 to 2.32/1
- FT%: 69.4% to 80.6%
And while Maze has never been asked to be the alpha dog on this team, he's been instrumental in several big victories in his two short seasons.
Career Highlights - 2008-09
- In his first career game at Tennessee, Maze set the tone with 12 points and 11 assists against UT-Chattanooga
- Against #16 Georgetown in the November 2008 Old Spice Classic, Maze went 4-4 (2-2 from three) and had 14 points, 9 assists (0 turnovers), and 3 steals in a 90-78 Tennessee win.
- After the Vols were shredded by Dionte Christmas and Temple, Maze responded the very next game with 10 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds in an 80-68 win over #23 Marquette in Nashville.
- Had 16 points and 6 rebounds as the Vols won the SEC season opener at Georgia
- At Arkansas, Maze hit a game winning jumper with 5.4 seconds left to give the Vols a 74-72 win. He had 13 points on the night.
- With the Vols having lost consecutive road games at Ole Miss and Kentucky by a combined 35 points, and squarely on the bubble at 16-10, Maze turned in a huge performance in a must-win game over Mississippi State with 14 points and 4 rebounds in an 81-76 win.
- Had 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists (1 turnover) in an SEC Tournament Semifinal win over Auburn, which sent the Vols to their first SEC Tournament Championship Game since 1991.
- Had 13 points and 5 rebounds in the Vols' one point loss to #6 Purdue, and worked to hold Chris Kramer and Keaton Grant to 2 of 7 shooting.
- With increased playing time in the immediate aftermath of the January 1 arrests, Maze had 13 points and 5 rebounds in the Vols' 88-71 win over Charlotte.
- Maze was at his best when Tennessee needed it the most: against #1 Kansas, Maze had 16 points, 8 assists (2 turnovers), and 7 rebounds as the depleted Vols upset the nation's best team 76-68. What's more, he was the best point guard on the floor: Maze frustrated Sherron Collins into 4 turnovers and just 7 of 20 shooting.
- Led the Vols in scoring with 15 points at Rupp Arena in a 73-62 hard fought loss to Kentucky.
Maze is battle tested against the nation's best, and will be an integral part of Tennessee's success in March as the Vols' number one option at point guard. Maze has also seen minutes at shooting guard over the last two weeks, averaging 30.25 minutes in the last four games. Having stood toe-to-toe against guys like Sherron Collins, Maze can be relied on to help the Vols at the position in the tournament, and give Tennessee's offense a needed lift in getting to the hole.
In only two years, Maze has become a very reliable player at the point, and he will be missed. His role in not only keeping the Vols together without the arrested players (including Melvin Goins), but helping them excel, cannot be overlooked. The Vols do not beat Kansas (among others) without him. And with him, Tennessee has a chance to get even more quality play in the tournament.