Southern Cal will likely force Vols 'to take those three balls'

Bruce Pearl on USC

The key to Tuesday's game between Tennessee and Southern California isn't much of a mystery.

"They're a team that's going to back off us,'' Vols coach Bruce Pearl said Monday, "and force us to take those three balls, which we've struggled with tremendously.''

Trojans coach Kevin O'Neill, who has surely noted UT is 2-of-27 shooting beyond the 3-point line over its past three halves, confirms that's the plan.

"Yeah, we're gonna do that,'' said O'Neill, who typically clogs the lane with a sagging man-to-man defense. "And they'll have to be playing with a huge sense of urgency. They lost two games they probably feel they should have won.''

The 19th-ranked Vols (7-2) tip off against Southern Cal (6-5) at Thompson-Boling Arena (TV: SportSouth and MyVLT, 7 p.m.).

It's a game between two teams seemingly moving in opposite directions.

UT has lost some luster after back-to-back losses to unheralded Oakland (89-82) and Charlotte (49-48) over the past week.

Southern Cal, meanwhile, handled No. 18 Texas 74-56 two weeks ago and nearly knocked off No. 3 Kansas before falling 70-68 on Saturday.

It's also a game Pearl believes has "sizzle'' with the happenings of a year ago, when mercurial football coach Lane Kiffin unexpectedly bolted Knoxville and headed to Southern Cal.

"Obviously, given everything thats happened with (USC), you know the game has an edge with our fans,'' Pearl said. "There are a lot of things about USC that don't sit right with our fans.''

O'Neill said during the summer he was going to bring Kiffin to tonight's game, saying they would need to be outfitted in Kevlar suits. He added Monday he hopes Kiffin makes a surprise entry tonight.

O'Neill is that confident in how his team is playing.

"I told our guys, we're five points away from being 9-2,'' said O'Neill, who coached the Vols from 1994-97. "Until Jio (Fontan) came back, we couldn't compete the way we want to compete.''

Fontan, a 6-foot, 175-pound transfer, made the Atlantic 10's All-Rookie team at Fordham in 2009 and scored 15 points in the near-miss at Kansas.

Maurice Jones is Southern Cal's point guard, and Pearl said it will be a challenge for UT point guards Melvin Goins and Trae Golden to stay in front of the 5-7 freshman.

But the ultimate test for the Vols will come in the paint, where the Trojans dominated UT last season with a pair of 6-10 Goliaths.

Alex Stepheson (6-10, 250) was a McDonald's All-American in high school who transferred to Southern Cal after starting his career at North Carolina. Nikola Vucevic (6-10, 260) averages team-highs in scoring (16.2 points) and rebounds (10.4).

"The only reason (USC) is not more high scoring is they like to control tempo, and Kevin has got so much confidence in his half-court offense and half-court defense, that he doesn't want to risk the turnovers,'' Pearl said. "(O'Neill) knows that if he gets all five guys back on defense, it's hard to score on them.

"Transition is the best way we score, and its hard to get transition baskets on them because they'll send two guys to the offensive boards, and they get back very well,'' he said. "They play precisely, defensively, the way we've struggled to win...the last couple of years.''

Pearl's match up difficulties with O'Neill were on display last season in Southern Cal's 77-55 win in Los Angeles.

The Vols were 2-of-22 shooting beyond the 3-point line in the loss.

"That game was over in about 10 minutes,'' UT center Brian Williams said. "The focus this year is way different, especially coming off two losses. This would be a slide that we definitely don't need to take.''

Williams said the Vols - like any other team - need to make shots to win games.

"We've been 2-for-27 shooting the three; I believe an NBA team would lost to a college team shooting 2-for-27,'' Williams said. "Against Pittsburgh and Villanova we played good offensive and defensive basketball, and if we showed if we put it together we can beat anyone.

"If we don't, we can lose to anyone.''

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Comments » 34

lomas98 writes:

Since Lofton left we have not been a very good 3 point shooting team and this gameplan will be like a lot of other teams played us in the past. We have been very streaky at shooting the 3 for a while. As much as we miss Chism's leadership on the floor, we miss more his ability for a big man to consistently hit that shot. Bringing the other big man away from the basket opens up those clogging lanes. We don't have any big that can hit that shot this year.

orangecountyvols writes:

Good. Now we know what we have to do........so, let's
do it !

orangecountyvols writes:

Lomas,

You are right. You might be referring to that 6:10
guy from Oakland who could pull up and shoot the ball from anywhere. It would be nice to have one like that !

SunshineVol writes:

The success of the Big Orange depends entirely on which players show up. I've definitely seen some extremely bipolar players this year.

wazzya69vol writes:

in response to lomas98:

Since Lofton left we have not been a very good 3 point shooting team and this gameplan will be like a lot of other teams played us in the past. We have been very streaky at shooting the 3 for a while. As much as we miss Chism's leadership on the floor, we miss more his ability for a big man to consistently hit that shot. Bringing the other big man away from the basket opens up those clogging lanes. We don't have any big that can hit that shot this year.

I agree lomas. Lofton had that zone he'd get in and Chism would be the team captain keeping everyone on the same page, getting in their face when needed. And hitting the shot when we needed it the most. He was just fun to watch, period. I never remember him putting his head down; not ever! GBO!!!

lomas98 writes:

in response to getsimmsout:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Wow, another well thought out post by you. It must be absolutely miserable being around you based on your posts. At least it will be nice when TN wins that we won't see you on here.

wigmeister writes:

We better be playing on all cylinders!

VolunteerLifer writes:

Sit Hopson down, move Harris to the three and Tatum to the two and Maymon to the four. Bring Harris out to the perimeter for some 3 point shots, which he can shoot. Let him work inside and outside of that zone, a la Bernard King. This way, you get a guy in there in place of Hopson who can shoot the three ball better and also get some rebounds, and Maymon can knock their big guys around. If Tatum is shooting cold, then think about putting McBee in at the two and hope he can start streak shooting threes and bust that zone. If none of that works, put Hopson in and tell him to fire away and hope he can hit something. How's that for a plan?

Lostvolinhighweeds writes:

in response to getsimmsout:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yes

bluetick writes:

I am SHOCKED that they still don't reference FREE THROWS as an issue. Learning the shot from the free throw line on a consistent basis aids in ANY shot. You have the feel of the distance of the free throw and it helps with determining distance to the basket. How many long ball shooters with a high percentage are bad free throw shooters? Not many! Practice making free throws and your shooting as a whole will improve!

wazzya69vol writes:

in response to bluetick:

I am SHOCKED that they still don't reference FREE THROWS as an issue. Learning the shot from the free throw line on a consistent basis aids in ANY shot. You have the feel of the distance of the free throw and it helps with determining distance to the basket. How many long ball shooters with a high percentage are bad free throw shooters? Not many! Practice making free throws and your shooting as a whole will improve!

Good post bluetick. I'll be the first to admit that I overlooked that point. Excellent! GBO!

UTVOLSRROCKN writes:

in response to lomas98:

Since Lofton left we have not been a very good 3 point shooting team and this gameplan will be like a lot of other teams played us in the past. We have been very streaky at shooting the 3 for a while. As much as we miss Chism's leadership on the floor, we miss more his ability for a big man to consistently hit that shot. Bringing the other big man away from the basket opens up those clogging lanes. We don't have any big that can hit that shot this year.

Tobias can knock down the three!

UTVOLSRROCKN writes:

in response to VolunteerLifer:

Sit Hopson down, move Harris to the three and Tatum to the two and Maymon to the four. Bring Harris out to the perimeter for some 3 point shots, which he can shoot. Let him work inside and outside of that zone, a la Bernard King. This way, you get a guy in there in place of Hopson who can shoot the three ball better and also get some rebounds, and Maymon can knock their big guys around. If Tatum is shooting cold, then think about putting McBee in at the two and hope he can start streak shooting threes and bust that zone. If none of that works, put Hopson in and tell him to fire away and hope he can hit something. How's that for a plan?

Sounds like a GREAT plan to me!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Goins, Tataum, Hopson, Harris, Williams

That's all we need... No fouls by Hopson, Harris, or Williams. Keep the ball mostly in Harris hands on offense and good D and crash the boards. Let Cam and Harris test the lanes and dish it to Hopson out or Williams in. Goins needs to stay out side for control except when the lanes open or to be a screen for Hopson or Harris. Haaa wait? IT WON'T WORK! They're too big!! What are we gonna do??
sorry
Where was I? I like that plan where Harris is POINT. NO ONE ELSE SHOOTS!! GOT IT?
Not really. Go HOPSON you're due tonight. Go Harris you're due for at least 20. Cam?? Have you had a 20 point game yet? Brian you need a 20 rebound game. BW gets 10 points, 12 rebounds+, and 5 assists. and we win!

seaplane#216536 writes:

If you can't make free throws, you sure ain't going to make the 3's!

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

I know many of us have been coming down on Hopson for his cold shooting but give him credit for improving his style of play..He's done well creating a nice 12 foot jump shoot which also has led to some nice dish offs for easy lay ups.Hopson is no longer a one trick pony perimeter guard..We all saw what he did against Pitt and others..As we know he doesn't have the consistency of a player like Evan Turner but Pearl's game plan is centered around Hopson and playing good defense..Just like when we had the duo of Lofton and Smith;Hopson and Tatum must elevate to those standards..It's clear that when the our shooting guards are cold;it puts too much load on Harris and we lose..30% shooting will get you beat just about anyday of the week..Hopefully Bruce has a better game for USC than launching from the perimeter!!

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to VolunteerLifer:

Sit Hopson down, move Harris to the three and Tatum to the two and Maymon to the four. Bring Harris out to the perimeter for some 3 point shots, which he can shoot. Let him work inside and outside of that zone, a la Bernard King. This way, you get a guy in there in place of Hopson who can shoot the three ball better and also get some rebounds, and Maymon can knock their big guys around. If Tatum is shooting cold, then think about putting McBee in at the two and hope he can start streak shooting threes and bust that zone. If none of that works, put Hopson in and tell him to fire away and hope he can hit something. How's that for a plan?

Interesting game plan but like it or not our game plan centers around Hopson and Harris depending upon what the defense throws at us..Maymon is a role player who takes what the defense gives and Pearl has found it hard to put him on the floor with Harris because we are forced to play with 3 guards..As for McBee he will probably be a threat next year but for now he's too inconsistent to be a factor.

VolunteerLifer writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

Interesting game plan but like it or not our game plan centers around Hopson and Harris depending upon what the defense throws at us..Maymon is a role player who takes what the defense gives and Pearl has found it hard to put him on the floor with Harris because we are forced to play with 3 guards..As for McBee he will probably be a threat next year but for now he's too inconsistent to be a factor.

Yeah, you're right about all that. Damn it.

N2Motorsports writes:

I'm going to take a Kiffin before I go to the game tonight.

brod writes:

all that said, the game will be decided on the floor. i'm sure that each coach will throw a few different things at each team. they're not gonna do every single thing according to pregame interviews.

volsfan74 writes:

in response to VolunteerLifer:

Sit Hopson down, move Harris to the three and Tatum to the two and Maymon to the four. Bring Harris out to the perimeter for some 3 point shots, which he can shoot. Let him work inside and outside of that zone, a la Bernard King. This way, you get a guy in there in place of Hopson who can shoot the three ball better and also get some rebounds, and Maymon can knock their big guys around. If Tatum is shooting cold, then think about putting McBee in at the two and hope he can start streak shooting threes and bust that zone. If none of that works, put Hopson in and tell him to fire away and hope he can hit something. How's that for a plan?

Sit Hopson down?!?! Yes his last 2 games have not been that great but he put up 27 points against Pitt! We just need him to show up, drive the ball and either draw a foul or get a inside shot. Quit camping out around the 3 line and get inside.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to bluetick:

I am SHOCKED that they still don't reference FREE THROWS as an issue. Learning the shot from the free throw line on a consistent basis aids in ANY shot. You have the feel of the distance of the free throw and it helps with determining distance to the basket. How many long ball shooters with a high percentage are bad free throw shooters? Not many! Practice making free throws and your shooting as a whole will improve!

Interestingly enough, the Oakland and Charlotte games were just about the ONLY games this year where we DIDN'T shoot free-throws well. We knocked them down at a pretty good clip against both 'Nova and Pitt. Goins' miss on the late one-and-one against Charlotte probably cost us the game, but the ones he made late against Pitt won us that one. So, yeah, I wish they made all of them all of the time, but LOTS of teams don't shoot free-throws well these days. It's gonna cost us some games, sure, but we are far from the only pretty good team that has that problem.

LEXKYVOLS writes:

And yet we are an 8 point favorite for this game. I will take the 8 points and USC. VOLS in a close one!

BeRealistic writes:

I really don't think we'll see kiffin tonight, our VOLS can break out of this slump at any time.

givehim6 writes:

It's kind of a big game so the Vols should be able to play up for this game.

Colliervol writes:

I've given up trying to figure this team out. Can't predict if the team that shows up is the one from Pitt and Villanova or from Oakland and Charlotte. Guess we'll just all have to watch and enjoy (or barf whichever is appropriate). I can sort of understand the Oakland game against a veteran, tested team and a hangover from the Pitt win. But Charlotte was a pitiful team and had no business being with 20 points of the Vols. Playing up or down to your competition is a recipe for losing to some teams you shouldn't. I said that the Oakland win could be a "good" loss. Should have qualified that. It would only have been good IF they had learned something from it. Obviously I was wrong.

I know two things though:

1) Maymon is going to help us.
2) Hopson still may be the most inconsistent Vol I can remember when you consider how much talent he has. Very frustrating.

One note: Bob Kesling said on a radio interview yesterday down here that he feels the suspension is starting weigh on BP and it is rubbing off on the team. They get hit with that question about 100 times a day and especially by media on the road and Kesling said he thinks it's starting to affect the team some.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to brownsvillevol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You may have a point, but that is a side issue. I was responding to a post complaining about the Vols free-throw percentage. I merely pointed out that it has not been that bad generally and that free-throw shooting in college ball as a whole is not what some of us old-timers (think they) are used to.

bluetick writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Interestingly enough, the Oakland and Charlotte games were just about the ONLY games this year where we DIDN'T shoot free-throws well. We knocked them down at a pretty good clip against both 'Nova and Pitt. Goins' miss on the late one-and-one against Charlotte probably cost us the game, but the ones he made late against Pitt won us that one. So, yeah, I wish they made all of them all of the time, but LOTS of teams don't shoot free-throws well these days. It's gonna cost us some games, sure, but we are far from the only pretty good team that has that problem.

"So, yeah, I wish they made all of them all of the time"

75% is not all of them all of the time.

"but LOTS of teams don't shoot free-throws well these days."

I am not talking about LOTS of other teams. I am talking about TENNESSEE.

It's gonna cost us some games, sure,

What are we playing games for? To lose? More reason to practice FREE THROWS.. so we can win. What is your argument here?

"but we are far from the only pretty good team that has that problem."

Again, I don't care about other teams. Say what you want but YES, free throws OFTEN win ball games.

I really don't understand what it is you are trying to say here, to be honest with you. The game is played for wins, so whatever can be done to help win those games is what they need to be doing.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

We always need to make our free throws! YEP. Can't a guy make a casual observation here? Does it have to be an argument? GOOD GRIEF! Calm down you problem maker YOU!Golly dog!lol lol lol

mocsandvolsfan writes:

btw go vols we're losing a little bit. COME ON VOLS PLAY BALL!!! C'mon Refs give our bigs a break? Good game so far...EXCEPT FOR THE*&^&$$%& turnovers!!! calm...peace...deep breath ahhhhh
ARRRRRGHGHHGHH

johnlg00 writes:

in response to bluetick:

"So, yeah, I wish they made all of them all of the time"

75% is not all of them all of the time.

"but LOTS of teams don't shoot free-throws well these days."

I am not talking about LOTS of other teams. I am talking about TENNESSEE.

It's gonna cost us some games, sure,

What are we playing games for? To lose? More reason to practice FREE THROWS.. so we can win. What is your argument here?

"but we are far from the only pretty good team that has that problem."

Again, I don't care about other teams. Say what you want but YES, free throws OFTEN win ball games.

I really don't understand what it is you are trying to say here, to be honest with you. The game is played for wins, so whatever can be done to help win those games is what they need to be doing.

I'm not saying it's OK to miss free-throws, I'm just saying that no one makes them all--and few if any teams will make 75% by the time the season is over--and it is unreasonable to expect them to. Your comment is about on the same level as "to win the game, you have to score more points than the other team." Well, sure, but just saying it doesn't mean it happens on demand. I'm sure the Vols practice shooting free-throws a LOT, but they also have to practice other things. They need to improve on a LOT of things to win as much as they can. All I'm saying is that 1) the Vols as a team seem to be shooting free-throws better than they have in the past; 2) the games they have lost have been at least as much due to poor defense--Oakland--and poor offense--Charlotte--as they have poor free-throw shooting; and 3) when you lose a game by one point, like against Charlotte and tonight against USCw, there are literally dozens of plays that could have changed the outcome and/or made a missed free-throw irrelevant. There is practically NO athletic fundamental that is correctly executed 100% of the time, so why obsess about free-throws?

bluetick writes:

Because John, free throws are F-R-E-E shots (aka throws), with nobody there to contest them. You stand at the same line, same distance as it has always been. You shoot with the same form, same wrist action as always. Does it get any easier than that? Our whole team shot 75% +. Maybe it was just luck? Or maybe it was because we were required to shoot free throws at every practice for 30 mins. Argue if you want. You probably never played basketball. IF it wern't for free throws, Tennessee wouldn't have won tonight. If it wern't for free throws, Tennessee would have won vs USC. THEY'RE FREE! Easiest shot on the court other than a layup.

bluetick writes:

"I'm not saying it's"......"I'm just saying that"...."but just saying it"........"All I'm saying is that 1"..... I don't think you know what you're saying but ok.

"1) the Vols as a team seem to be shooting free-throws better than they have in the past;" So? Dude, do better than that. That is a mute point.

"2) the games they have lost have been at least as much due to poor defense--Oakland--and poor offense--Charlotte--as they have poor free-throw shooting;" TRUE! But why not be GREAT at a FREE SHOT from the same spot as it was when you first shot a free throw?

"3) when you lose a game by one point, like against Charlotte and tonight against USCw, there are literally dozens of plays that could have changed the outcome and/or made a missed free-throw irrelevant." Could have changed the outcome? Isn't that what I am saying too John? Take advantage of the FREE SHOT and shoot it better than you presently are shooting it.

" There is practically NO athletic fundamental that is correctly executed 100% of the time, so why obsess about free-throws?" Did I say 100% Why are you so confused? Think before you type and stop trying to make weak statements that you aren't going to win? Go to the gym John. Grab a basketball. Shoot 100 free throws. Find what your % is. Go back again and again and do the same thing for a month, then tell me how well you are shooting. There is no reason to leave EASY POINTS on the court. Same line, same distance as it has always been, same shot. I can shoot 5/10 blindfolded

bluetick writes:

* make 5/10 blindfolded

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