Vols press on in New York, 77-72

Hopson scores 18 to send UT into NIT title game

Tennessee's Tobias Harris (12) drives past Virginia Commonwealth defends in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game during the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010, in New York. Tennessee won 77-72.

Photo by AP Photo / Frank Franklin II

Tennessee's Tobias Harris (12) drives past Virginia Commonwealth defends in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game during the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010, in New York. Tennessee won 77-72.

NEW YORK - Tennessee ran through the Virginia Commonwealth press and into the finals of the NIT Season Tip-Off Wednesday night.

The 24th-ranked Vols (4-0) scored a 77-72 victory over the Rams at Madison Square Garden and will play No. 7 Villanova on Friday (TV: ESPN, 5 p.m.). Villanova (4-1) advanced with an 82-70 victory over UCLA (3-1) in the late semifinal.

Scotty Hopson led the Vols with 18 points and Tobias Harris scored 15. Brandon Rozzell was the leading scorer for VCU (3-1) with 23 points.

“I'd had a few games where I didn't feel like I had played up to my potential,'' said Hopson, who also had 11 rebounds in recording his first double-double of the season. “I felt like I had to step up and make plays for our team.''

The Vols had 15 turnovers, but very few came against the Rams' vaunted press.

“We prepared quite a bit for their press, so it didn't give me many problems,'' said UT point guard Melvin Goins, who had eight points, two assists and two turnovers in his first game back from a deep side contusion he re-aggravated in a win over Belmont on Nov. 16. “I'm still not 100 percent, but I felt pretty good out there.''

When Goins wasn't breaking the press, he was smothering VCU's All-Colonial Athletic Association point guard Joey Rodriguez, who made just one of 10 shots and turned the ball over three times.

The Vols pounded the ball inside and slashed to the basket in building their largest lead of the game, 57-46, on a pair of Cameron Tatum free throws with 8:30 left.

VCU rallied with back-to-back 3-pointers from Rozzell, and another 3-pointer by Rodriguez that closed the gap to 57-55 with 5:42 left.

The Rams were still down by two, 67-65, after Ed Nixon scored two of his 16 points on a pair of free throws with 2:52 left.

The Vols, however, hit six of their next eight free throws to pull away down the stretch.

UT coach Bruce Pearl liked the clutch free-throw shooting, but he felt the most important element of the game was on the boards.

“Our rebounding in the second half was key,'' said Pearl, whose team held a 29-16 rebounding edge over the final 20 minutes. “Our guys really stepped up; Scotty with 11 rebounds and Brian (Williams) with 13 was huge for us.''

Williams also scored nine points, all in the second half.

“I'm from New York City, and I'd never gotten a chance to play in Madison Square Garden,'' said Williams, a 6-foot-10, 260-pound senior from the Bronx, N.Y. “My teammates said they needed me, and that if I played well we'd win, so tonight was really just about winning for me.''

Tennessee held a 33-32 lead at the half after leading by as many as nine points early.

VCU struggled throughout the game shooting, making 21 of 68 (.309) for the game and 11 of 31 beyond the arc.

“They took us out of where we wanted to (shoot); they made it hard on us,'' Rams coach Shaka Smart said. “Tennessee did some really good things, and their size and length bothered us.''

Early on, it was Harris harassing VCU, scoring 10 first-half points including a basket that capped a 7-0 run at the 9:17 mark and gave the Vols their largest lead of the first half, 23-14.

“Tobias got us off to a great start, and that was big,'' Pearl said. “Virginia Commonwealth came in here a confident team.''

The Rams, with four returning starters, battled back like one might expect from a veteran squad. VCU held UT to just one field goal over an eight-minute span to take a 29-28 lead with 1:47 left in the half.

It proved to be the Rams' final lead of the night. Hopson scored to get the Vols back on track offensively with a transition dunk and Kenny Hall hit a basket inside to make it 33-30.

VCU closed the first-half scoring on Darius Theus' drive to the basket with a second left before intermission.

Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/mgrif32 and at http://blogs.knoxnews.com/askgriff/

Get Copyright Permissions © 2010, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2010 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Related Stories

Related Links

Comments » 91

TopTenn writes:

Great win Vols on the national stage. This is a defensive team. GBO!!!

BigBadVol writes:

Very nice win against a very tough team. We have a lot of potential. Go Vols!

10SE writes:

I like it!

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

JUST WIN BABY!!!!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!!!

theoldbear writes:

Still not able to put away a lesser opponent.

Hopson did a great job getting to the rim, and then couldn't finish. Williams did look good rebounding, passing, setting picks and screens. His free throw shooting is much improved, but this whole team needs to learn to shoot!

I'm picking Villanova in the late game, and if we don't play better Friday afternoon, we will come home with a loss.

While there was equal "team" effort, there is still no chemistry, and no leader on or off the floor.

Go Vols! Win the NIT!

orangecountyvols writes:

Vols,

Congrats guys ! I had to mute the sound for 15 minutes. The media is milking the Pearl thing for all its worth. Instead of discussing the action on the floor, the 3 sideline announcers were consumed with what we already knew, yet they labored on and on with it. Enough said about that.

To me at least, I saw our Vols scrapping and playing hard the entire game. VCU had to work for everything. A little disppointment I thought was a flurry of turnovers and missed close in shots. Plus, the rams outquicked us a few times for rebounds after we got our hands on the ball.

All in all, IMO a great win on the big stage. Our playing some new guys and getting used to playing together was a great learning experience. Just a few negatives such as fouling out on the perimeter with the 3 point shooter and some missed free throws. VCU comes at you, and we didn't back down. Good game by both teams.

huntined#565710 writes:

That was a good game and I think maybe that is the toughest Williams has played. As I see it now all we need is a true 3 point shooter and they would be BAD...

vol_4_fan writes:

Nice win, the Vols played real good half court D. It was nice to see Scotty play good on offence(I think he took just 2 three's).Everyone had a good play at some point and clutch FT. Go Vols!

dwa7#337691 writes:

early predict:

UT 73
Villy 68

Orangeblood13 writes:

in response to theoldbear:

Still not able to put away a lesser opponent.

Hopson did a great job getting to the rim, and then couldn't finish. Williams did look good rebounding, passing, setting picks and screens. His free throw shooting is much improved, but this whole team needs to learn to shoot!

I'm picking Villanova in the late game, and if we don't play better Friday afternoon, we will come home with a loss.

While there was equal "team" effort, there is still no chemistry, and no leader on or off the floor.

Go Vols! Win the NIT!

Lesser opp?
St laden team that avg 25+ for a couple yes now. Blew out a wake team
This will be a solid win for the year

Great win for a young vol team

RoadTrip writes:

Good to see Williams get down and dirty under the boards - he needs to stay consistent with that. Really solid team effort against a good opponent. This team has some good upside if they will keep working hard and stay humble.

Go Vols!

born2ride writes:

Brian Williams won this game on the boards.

Hopson and Woolridge can't shoot.

We had a very weak schedule for the NIT. Belmont, MO State and VCU were all unranked non BCS schools that we should have beat by 20+. They don't have the talent to match up with an SEC school. Vols will be tested for the first time in the Championship game.

Pearl is a distraction. ESPN kept talking about him lying and said self imposing penalties was a slap to the NCAA and they should take stronger action.

And why did they have a girl calling a men's game?

Go Vols!

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to born2ride:

Brian Williams won this game on the boards.

Hopson and Woolridge can't shoot.

We had a very weak schedule for the NIT. Belmont, MO State and VCU were all unranked non BCS schools that we should have beat by 20+. They don't have the talent to match up with an SEC school. Vols will be tested for the first time in the Championship game.

Pearl is a distraction. ESPN kept talking about him lying and said self imposing penalties was a slap to the NCAA and they should take stronger action.

And why did they have a girl calling a men's game?

Go Vols!

Witch Doctor suggest you try watching sports for the fun or excitement rather than the opportunity to have a reason to whine......geeez you NON sports types are so difficult to make understand "sports".
Bones never lie.
* so you think spo

rdrgtr writes:

I hate to be negative. A win is a win. This team needs to grow up fast if it plans to beat UCLA or VILL. I still feel that we have played inferior opponents. Not one of our 4 wins were against what I consider D1 competition (I said I wasn't going the mention the Indy embarrasment). We could not put 3 of those teams away. We just do not have very good "big man" play for a top 25 team. I hope the "bigs" don't get exploited friday night. Just sayin.

ChatBleu writes:

in response to dwa7#337691:

early predict:

UT 73
Villy 68

You're as delusional as Pearl and his wife if you think UT is going to beat Villanova. This is UT's quality win of the season, a 5 point win over a Colonial Athletic Conference team? Villanova will blow the Vols out of the building and embarrass them more than Pearl and his wife's mouths.

rdrgtr writes:

in response to born2ride:

Brian Williams won this game on the boards.

Hopson and Woolridge can't shoot.

We had a very weak schedule for the NIT. Belmont, MO State and VCU were all unranked non BCS schools that we should have beat by 20+. They don't have the talent to match up with an SEC school. Vols will be tested for the first time in the Championship game.

Pearl is a distraction. ESPN kept talking about him lying and said self imposing penalties was a slap to the NCAA and they should take stronger action.

And why did they have a girl calling a men's game?

Go Vols!

So the Vols have not been tested yet? Are you kidding me? UT CHAT was the only game that they have not been tested in. (oh yeah, they were not tested in that Indy scrimage either right?)

sidwalkvol writes:

Hard to say what is more frustrating: trolls, or ignorant trolls. Belmont matches up against many FBS-teams, including taking Duke to the wire a couple of years ago. They have a solid tradition. As for VCU, they wore-out Wake Forest. If you guys are gonna comment, at least show a LITTLE knowledge of the game and its traditions.

volspaws writes:

the only negative was having to listen to Doris "Martina Navratilova" Burke beat her gums for two hours...ESPN, a network that never misses an opportunity to shove political correctness down the throats of its viewers, needs to put Burke where she belongs--doing color for Division III women's volleyball telecasts...wonder what dear ole Doris thinks of Calipari and World Wide Wes?

eduardo writes:

in response to ChatBleu:

You're as delusional as Pearl and his wife if you think UT is going to beat Villanova. This is UT's quality win of the season, a 5 point win over a Colonial Athletic Conference team? Villanova will blow the Vols out of the building and embarrass them more than Pearl and his wife's mouths.

hey blue why dont you go check on some of your sat scores that 1/2 your squad doesnt have!! And by the way why are you posting on here while you kitty cats are getting run out of the bldg in Maui???

iowavol writes:

Pretty darn good effort. Everyone working hard on defense - I love it. Brian Williams diving for a loose ball and causing a turnover - awesome. We need Brain to get PO'd every night. He was working hard on offense too, he just needs to go hard with two hands and throw it down. We make a few more of all those <2 footers we missed and we win this game by 15. Great defense by Goins, Golden and McBee - how about McBee playing defense like that. And Steven Pearl was a maniac out there - keep it up. Nuff said about Harris and Hopson - they will be awesome by mid season.

We are going to need to play with more confidence from what I've seen of Nova so far. However, I think we match up with Nova pretty good.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Well I disagree with everyone one here!!

Vol_a_tile writes:

REMEMBER EVERYONE, THIS TEAM HASN'T PLAYED MUCH TOGETHER YET.... CHEMISTRY IS THE DESCRIPTION OF A TEAM BONDING- THE TEAM WILL BOND WITH MORE TIME. A WIN IS A WIN AND ALMOST ALL TEAMS ARE TRYING TO FIND THEIR IDENTITIES IN NOVEMBER... LETS SEE WHAT COACH PEARL CAN GET OUT OF THESE GUYS. I WAS PROUD OF THEIR TOUGHNESS, MAYBE THEY WEREN'T VERY SHARP, BUT THEY WERE GRITTY ON DEFENSE. GOOD DEFENSE WILL KEEP US IN A LOT OF GAMES.

Caspian writes:

in response to born2ride:

Brian Williams won this game on the boards.

Hopson and Woolridge can't shoot.

We had a very weak schedule for the NIT. Belmont, MO State and VCU were all unranked non BCS schools that we should have beat by 20+. They don't have the talent to match up with an SEC school. Vols will be tested for the first time in the Championship game.

Pearl is a distraction. ESPN kept talking about him lying and said self imposing penalties was a slap to the NCAA and they should take stronger action.

And why did they have a girl calling a men's game?

Go Vols!

I bet you'd complain even if they hung you with a new rope.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

OK not really. Seriously you're all idiots!!
joking! GREAT defensive exhibition! Fortunately the first half of the first half we played under control. Same for most the second part of the second half. Enough to win...lol I didn't really say anything!!?? No. I don't drink...anymore.

WEEEEE WWWWOOOONNNNNN!!!!!

Vols4Ever writes:

in response to bankofdad3:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Last time I looked getting more points than your opponent equates to a win which is usually a good thing.

We are playing in the finals of the NIT in MSG on national TV. Tomorrow, when you cannibalize your close turkey kin on the table, also get some cheese with your whine.

I witnessed some of the best coaching in the BB game with BP at UT. The disaster on New Years produced a win over the then #1 team and a Final 8 appearance. If he is able to only coach @ the Pratt Pavilion through the first half of the SEC and still produce a 5 and 3 record, please STFU forever.

UTVOLSRROCKN writes:

Very happy with the win. Glad to see Williams play much better. He stated that the guys told him that they needed him and if he played well, they would win. Brian, we need you EVERY game! Hats off to you.

Golden was great with his assits. Defense was great. We hit clutch free thows near the end. This team is starting to play some ball. Go Vols let's win it all!
VOLS.....TCB......KOKO.....GBO!!!

CoachFulmer writes:

Beat Nova/UCLA.

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

wow...weird. kept hearing how we had NO chance against VCU. Guess what, someone out in Hawaii is getting the wood laid to them right now! Oh, well, Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

UTVOLSRROCKN writes:

GO VOLS, BEAT NOVA! HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYBODY

Hey ChatBleu, UKJarhead, catscratch, wildcat..Now come talk some smack. You just got killed by UNCONN!!!! However, I will not be trolling on YOUR boards rubbing it in.

Hey RickJames, aka BOK. Guess this win has shut your trap up. CBP and the VOLS WON! Sorry to disappoint your sorry azz. I take that back, I'm not sorry at all....I'm thrilled!!!!

memphis_vol_fan writes:

in response to Driving_Ms_Dooley:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I dunno why you're complaining about Hopson. He had 18 points and 11 rebounds.
But yeah, you're right about our consistency on offense. In the past three games, we've had double digit leads in the second half. Instead of burying the other team, our guys get complacent and start taking bad shots.

TopTenn writes:

We were dissed by ESPN broadcasters.

jerseydevilvol writes:

Nova is 5-0 not 4-1. The Vols will have to play better to beat them. Nova is somewhat a local team for me and I get to see all their games and they are legit. Every year they put a quality team together and they never seem to have down years. The Vols can win this game however It will in no way be easy. Jay Wright is one of the best coaches in the country and he is a genius when it comes to ingame adjustments. We will def see where the vols are at friday night. Remember though the Vols have taken out some big east teams before and surely they can do it again.
All you people that are saying that Belmont and VCU are push overs and arent good basketball teams are very stupid and know nothing about college basketball so go play in traffic

dburgvet writes:

in response to Vols4Ever:

Last time I looked getting more points than your opponent equates to a win which is usually a good thing.

We are playing in the finals of the NIT in MSG on national TV. Tomorrow, when you cannibalize your close turkey kin on the table, also get some cheese with your whine.

I witnessed some of the best coaching in the BB game with BP at UT. The disaster on New Years produced a win over the then #1 team and a Final 8 appearance. If he is able to only coach @ the Pratt Pavilion through the first half of the SEC and still produce a 5 and 3 record, please STFU forever.

Excellent!!!!!!

richvol writes:

Brian Williams finally showed some passion and fight and guess what...he got 13 rebounds and 9 points. Why won't he play like that every night? He's a senior now.

McBee hustles but he couldn't hit the ocean in a game. Nice win.

NYvolFan writes:

in response to volspaws:

the only negative was having to listen to Doris "Martina Navratilova" Burke beat her gums for two hours...ESPN, a network that never misses an opportunity to shove political correctness down the throats of its viewers, needs to put Burke where she belongs--doing color for Division III women's volleyball telecasts...wonder what dear ole Doris thinks of Calipari and World Wide Wes?

Amen...Exactly my thoughts...I felt I was watching a lesbian tennis U.S. Open Event nearby versus a college BB game in MSG often. My wife ageed!

VolzsFan writes:

Let's see, Vill has played
Bucknell, Marist, Boston Univ and Lafayette. UCLA has played Cal State Northridge, Pepperdine and Pacific. I think someone on here is jumping the gun on UT has not played anyone. It has been 4 games. Last year at this time all where doing similar whining. Elite Eight is where that ended up. They are not suppose to be a well oiled team in November. But, the road UT took is just as hard and probably harder than UCLA or Vill. All of UT's opponents where in the NCAA last year and will be again this year. Neither of the other NIT teams can come close to saying that.

While the internet experts keep blasting Hopson the NBA scouts all look to take him in the first round. I will take their analysis over the internet crowd.

NYvolFan writes:

Doris needs to GO!

NYvolFan writes:

Admit it all...Little Pearl plays hard, great defense, and has bulked up...he plays like Dane did...a bigger Dane

NYvolFan writes:

Poor little UK Kitties got their butts handed to them in Hawaii...Now THAT's a nice long trip home for Calipari and his little "one-and-done" wonders...LMAO...Vols get to beat UConn soon at home!

tlc3wp#268997 writes:

Watching this team play can be hard sometimes. I can't figure out who the leader is,who we could go to at crunch time and how the chemistry of this team will ever mesh. The Villanova game will tell alot. This is a good team that is well coached and if we play like we have all season against inferior competition this game will not be close. But its just a game so let's sit back an enjoy it.

tonyvick#213307 writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor suggest you try watching sports for the fun or excitement rather than the opportunity to have a reason to whine......geeez you NON sports types are so difficult to make understand "sports".
Bones never lie.
* so you think spo

Witchy I was thinking the same thing. He spew his venom and then in the end he says "Go Vols" as if he really wants them to win. Belmont and VCU are very good teams every year. Tennessee can match up and beat every team in the SEC. Pearl is not a distraction for me nor for the team as they play hard for him. That "girl" has forgotten more about basketball than he will ever know.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to tlc3wp#268997:

Watching this team play can be hard sometimes. I can't figure out who the leader is,who we could go to at crunch time and how the chemistry of this team will ever mesh. The Villanova game will tell alot. This is a good team that is well coached and if we play like we have all season against inferior competition this game will not be close. But its just a game so let's sit back an enjoy it.

Yes. This team probably won't have a single leader. I'm just guessing but I think we have a lot of scorer's but are winning with defense. Our defense played really well on the point and in the lanes. Their players found it hard to move the ball at times...
Our leader to me was the 14 rebounds by Williams...was it 14? anyhow double digits. Goins did a good job running things and deserved his playing time. He seemed to spread the ball well and several players picked it up a notch when Harris went COLD. Harris rushed quite a few shots the 2nd half...they were playing good D on him.
I like Cam's play a lot!! He's a steadying presence for everybody. Your gonna see lot's of mistakes against their style and we limited ours well on offense. You could see Williams' attitude last night (lol) and I loved it. He was angry! Not at others I think but himself. It showed some on offense (not in points unfortunately)but he was going against a pretty good player defensively...can't think of his name. I guess I wrote too much here trying to figure it out but even though Hopson had the most points they came mostly when he let the ball come to him or when he saw open lanes. His dribbling seemed like a different guy!!?
I think we'll be ok win or lose in the championship. We may get blown out or may win but I hope we improve as a team.
I have noooo predictions.
I didn't stay up for the 2nd half of UCLA Villi but they both looked athletic as you'd expect...tho' they didn't impress me with the part I watched. Sorta stumbling around like we do at times. It's still early season.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to Plasticman:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I thought it was Bone??lol He looked pretty good! Didn't he? Did you notice we did ok on the zone they threw at us? We survived it at least...good move on their coaches side, but it didn't work.

TKO writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor suggest you try watching sports for the fun or excitement rather than the opportunity to have a reason to whine......geeez you NON sports types are so difficult to make understand "sports".
Bones never lie.
* so you think spo

You are the bigggest whiner on this site. Third person dork. "Non Sports" and your resume is what moron?

iowavol writes:

in response to tonyvick#213307:

Witchy I was thinking the same thing. He spew his venom and then in the end he says "Go Vols" as if he really wants them to win. Belmont and VCU are very good teams every year. Tennessee can match up and beat every team in the SEC. Pearl is not a distraction for me nor for the team as they play hard for him. That "girl" has forgotten more about basketball than he will ever know.

Good post, but I think you meant CBP has forgotten more about basketball than she will ever know. Regardless, it was obvious she had an agenda and degrading CBP and UT was part of it. She kept mentioning that if VCU could make some of their missed shots they would be leading while the other guy kept saying the UT defense was the reason they were missing shots. BTW, if UT makes a few more of their missed shots, they win a lot bigger.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to TKO:

You are the bigggest whiner on this site. Third person dork. "Non Sports" and your resume is what moron?

Witch Doctor ask thanks for Whining about your whining...
Want some cheese with all that whine?
haha
Bones never lie.
Witch Doctor know sports boards aint for former boy cheerleaders(yourself) hahaha

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to TKO:

You are the bigggest whiner on this site. Third person dork. "Non Sports" and your resume is what moron?

*Witch Doctor does think it cute you constantly defend your boyfriend "Born2ride" you girls roomies or something? haha
Bones never lie.
Go VOLS!

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to jerseydevilvol:

Nova is 5-0 not 4-1. The Vols will have to play better to beat them. Nova is somewhat a local team for me and I get to see all their games and they are legit. Every year they put a quality team together and they never seem to have down years. The Vols can win this game however It will in no way be easy. Jay Wright is one of the best coaches in the country and he is a genius when it comes to ingame adjustments. We will def see where the vols are at friday night. Remember though the Vols have taken out some big east teams before and surely they can do it again.
All you people that are saying that Belmont and VCU are push overs and arent good basketball teams are very stupid and know nothing about college basketball so go play in traffic

Nice post..Nova isn't ranked #7 because they s#ck..They are a typical big east team with a 3 guard shooting offense..Now they have added a good post player that was the missing piece! Very similar to Mich. State..Only way to beat them is to out shoot them

Ironcity writes:

Nice to see UT play such good defense. Woolridge has been terrible on the O side but he has come a long way defensively in his three years. The good news is shooting can come and go but defense will always be there. In years past we could outscore teams but we really had trouble defending in the half court. This year we are winning and we haven't had a good offensive shooting night yet and thats a good thing. Love Golden and him and Goins plays play off of each other. golden is a much better passer and offensive player while Goins does play with passion and effort on the defensive side of the ball. I look for a really good game on Friday and if we find our shooting touch and can finish at the rim (haven;t yet this year) I think we pull it out.

Go Vols!

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Despite a below average shooting night from our top #3 scorers;we got the win.Hopson will get double figures against Nova but Tatum and Harris will have to shoot 50% or better to get the win..McBee should do like Hopson has and shoot more mid range shots because his 3's aren't falling..Might as well give Woolridge's minutes to Hall or Pearl..In 10 minutes Woolridge took 5 shots!!!Only 1 fell in..Face the facts;Woolridge only has 3 good games out of 20+...A win against Nova would be HUGE!!

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features