A step in the right direction for Vols, VCU

Goins back in lineup after injury in opener

Brian Williams returns home for the NIT Season Tip Off

Bruce Pearl discusses VCU matchup

NEW YORK - Two programs are taking a self-perceived "big step up" in tonight's Tennessee-Virginia Commonwealth men's basketball game.

The Rams (3-0) and the 24th-ranked Vols (3-0) meet at 7 p.m. (TV: ESPN2) in the first game of the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden. UCLA (3-0) and Villanova (3-0) follow in the other semifinal, with the consolation game set for 2:30 and the championship following at 5 on Friday.

"After we beat Wake Forest I told our team we're taking a big step up,'' said VCU coach Shaka Smart, whose Rams upset Wake Forest, 90-69, on Nov. 16 to reach the semifinals. "We're playing in the heavyweight division now.''

Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said he's not so sure his Vols are ready to play like contenders, particularly against an experienced team like VCU, which returns four starters from last season's 27-win team.

"The key is going to be how well we play together,'' Pearl said. "The level of explosiveness and athleticism VCU has is something we haven't seen, and we have to be careful they don't run away from us.

"This is a big step up for us.''

UT will take that step with senior Melvin Goins at point guard.

Goins suffered a deep side contusion in a Nov. 12 win over Chattanooga and re-injured it on Nov. 16 in the second half of a win over Belmont.

Goins missed last Wednesday's win over Missouri State as well as practices the remainder of the week. He returned to practice Sunday, but Pearl had been listing Goins' status as "day-to-day" for tonight's game.

"Melvin will start for us, and I thought he looked good in practice today,'' Pearl said following the Vols' 2 1/2-hour practice at the Palladium Athletic Facility at New York University on Tuesday.

"Trae (Golden) has done a great job for us, but Melvin is quite a competitor and he's a senior.''

Smart, who served as an assistant coach to Florida's Billy Donovan in 2008-09, isn't underestimating the Vols.

"The thing that impressed me about Coach Pearl and his team is that they played with such great confidence,'' Smart said. "You would have thought they believed they could beat the (Los Angeles) Lakers.''

Smart has confidence in his team's style, as well.

"We call our style 'Havoc' " Smart said. "We've got four or five different presses, and we try to force tempo and get teams playing differently then they are used to playing.

"Tennessee is used to playing pretty fast, so it should be pretty entertaining for the fans and the players.''

Trophy Hunting: Pearl has yet to win an exempt tournament with the Vols.

UT went 0-2 in his first trip to Madison Square Garden with the Vols in the 2006 Season Tip-Off, losing to Butler (56-44) and North Carolina (101-87).

In 2007, UT split a pair of games at the Legends Classic in Newark, N.J., beating West Virginia (74-72) before falling to Texas (97-78) in the title game.

The Vols went 2-1 at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla., in 2008, beating Siena (78-64) and Georgetown (90-78) before falling to Gonzaga (83-74) in the championship game.

Last season, the Vols beat East Carolina (105-66) and DePaul (57-53) in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, but lost in the Paradise Jam title game to Purdue (73-72).

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Comments » 12

Ironcity writes:

Go Vols lets win the preseason NIT.

UTByrd writes:

My ESPN2 has the Temple/Miami, OH football game. Where in the heck is the basketball game?
Go VOLS!!!!!

dwa7#337691 writes:

it's tommorrow.....duh

UTByrd writes:

Or, as Homer Simpson would say, "Doh!". I know KNS writes these stories for tomorrow. It's just that I've been thinking it's been Wednesday all day today. I felt old but alot better when I realized this is Tuesday. lol
UT needs to hit on all cylinders TOMORROW...here's hoping they do.
Go VOLS!!!!!

ULTIMATEVOLUNTEER writes:

in response to UTByrd:

Or, as Homer Simpson would say, "Doh!". I know KNS writes these stories for tomorrow. It's just that I've been thinking it's been Wednesday all day today. I felt old but alot better when I realized this is Tuesday. lol
UT needs to hit on all cylinders TOMORROW...here's hoping they do.
Go VOLS!!!!!

That turkey you cooked for tomorrow will be dry come Thanksgiving.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

GBO We need a good game.

jakethevolguy writes:

I've been disappointed in the way the Vols have played so far this year. I hope that with Goins running the point they will look a lot better than they have so far. If not, it could be a long night against Va. GBO

tovolny writes:

My only comment: I don't read artiCLAWS from the Tenneasean's Joe Biddle.

Go Vols!

UTVOLSRROCKN writes:

in response to jakethevolguy:

I've been disappointed in the way the Vols have played so far this year. I hope that with Goins running the point they will look a lot better than they have so far. If not, it could be a long night against Va. GBO

Agree with your post. We need to get the ball in the hands of Harris more. Hopson needs to calm down and quit hogging the ball, but I have a feeling he will want to be Mr. Showtime. It's going to be a great game. GBO!

born2ride writes:

VCU isn't that good. Harris will have a big game and the Vols should win easily. But it will be hard to beat Nova in the finals.

Rockytop38 writes:

November 24th, on a Wednesday Night at 7 O'clock it is the Tennessee Vols ve Virginia Commonwealth on ESPN 2 ..BE THERE!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

14th...don't want just 13 on gameday? not superstitious just super!!!

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