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Maui Diaries: Day 3 - Winning Momentum

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Nov. 21, 2011

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LAHAINA, Hawaii - There have already been to pre-tournament contests leading up to the 2011 EA SPORTS Maui Invitational, and the Tennessee basketball team has navigated the eight-team field to capture bragging rights in each event.

Tournament title sponsor EA SPORTS hosted the official Players' Party Saturday night on the ocean lawn at the Maui Sheraton. Highlighting the event was the annual video game contest, in which two players from each team pair up and face another school's duo in an EA SPORTS video game. Friday's game was NBA Jam, and the platform was XBOX 360.

After scouting their personnel's strengths and weaknesses, the Tennessee coaching staff selected senior guard Cameron Tatum and freshman guard Josh Richardson to represent the Volunteers.

The first round of the video game contest matched the Maui Invitational bracket, so the Big Orange tandem opened against Duke's Marshall Plumlee and Quinn Cook. Tennessee--which opted to compete as the Oklahoma Thunder's Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook throughout the tournament--defeated the Blue Devils, who played with the throwback Boston Celtics (Larry Bird and Dennis Johnson).

In the semifinals, the Vols had a battle of thumbs with the Memphis Tigers tandem of Tariq Black and Wesley Witherspoon, who chose the Boston Celtics mixed-era combo of Bird and Ray Allen. Amidst the rowdy players and rampant trash talk, Tennessee rallied from an early deficit to emerge victorious and earn a spot in the final.

The actual man behind the classic gaming intro "EA SPORTS... it's in the game," tipped off the championship clash in Michael Buffer fashion, and Tatum and Richardson rushed out to an early lead against a tandem from host school Chaminade. The Silverswords chose to compete as the New York Knicks pairing of Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire.

Chaminade would have needed to channel the skills of former Vols greats Bernard King and Allan Houston to even stand a chance, however, as the Vols used a devastating barrage of 3-pointers by both Westbrook and Durant to post a dominant 27-point victory and claim the 2011 EA SPORTS Maui Invitational Video Game Contest trophy.

The Vols also won the video game contest in their only other Maui Invitational appearance (2004), so Tennessee preserved its perfect record in the event.

Then on Sunday morning, as part of the head coaches press conference, each of the eight coaches were paired with a local child for a charity free-throw contest.

Tennessee's Cuonzo Martin was partnered with Keleah-Aiko Koloi. Each participant shot three free throws. Koloi calmly swished all three of her shots, setting the stage for Martin to make two of his three attempts. Their combined total of five makes proved to be enough, however, as no other coach/child combo made more than four.

Though going a perfect 2-for-2 in pre-tournament contests is nice, the 2-0 Volunteers begin their primary quest on the hardwood of Lahaina Civic Center when they take on sixth-ranked Duke (4-0) Monday at 5:30 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on ESPN2, and a live video stream also is available on ESPN3.com. Live stats are accessible online at maui.statbroadcast.com.

And of course, UTsports.com will continue to provide the latest information on Tennessee's trip to the 2011 EA SPORTS Maui Invitational. <br clear="left"/>

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