John Adams: Vols have a need to come out swinging

John Adams

The timing was as bad as the venue for Tennessee on Tuesday night.

The basketball Vols typically have less chance of winning at Rupp Arena than the football Vols have of winning in the Georgia Dome. But this scenario was worse than typical.

You might have figured that out while watching the revved-up Wildcats run past a UT team that seemed stuck in a lower gear. Kentucky coach John Calipari addressed his team's motivation afterwards on his post-game radio show.

Too bad UT coach Bruce Pearl was doing his own radio show from courtside at the same time. He didn't have a chance to take notes.

The Calipari message that resonated with the Wildcats was similarly suitable for the Vols after the 73-61 loss.

Kentucky wobbled into the UT game following back-to-back losses to Ole Miss and Florida. Another defeat would have doused their hopes for a regular-season SEC championship.

Now, it's the Vols who are backpedaling. They have lost successive games to Alabama and Kentucky. Up next: SEC East-leading Florida in Gainesville on Saturday.

Remember when Pearl referred to the UT-Vanderbilt game as a "must win" after back-to-back losses to Arkansas and Florida in January? A must win in February has more desperate connotations.

The Vols can't drop another game to the Gators and realistically aspire to win an SEC championship. The situation demands their best, which is just what Kentucky produced against UT.

Its production was preceded by creative preparation.

Calipari showed up at practice with a team's worth of boxing gloves and a couple of heavy bags. His cross-training was more figurative than physical.

"I was trying to tell them this is a dog fight," Calipari told his radio audience and the enthralled fans still remaining in the arena. "I did (the boxing regimen) two straight days. It's a mentality we had to change."

The coach said he gave his players a few, quick boxing lessons; then expressed amazement at how skillfully some of them responded. He was even more impressed by the carryover effect on the court. The Wildcats played with a newfound energy and toughness, as well as sense of urgency that so often has been missing from a team that relies more on talent than experience.

Their transformation brought out the worst in UT, which languished in comparison. The Vols' sluggish start suggested they had been peppered with jabs to the forehead before they were hit by a barrage of Kentucky's 3-pointers in the first 12 minutes.

Lack of effort seldom has been an issue for the Vols in SEC play. It certainly shouldn't be for the Kentucky rematch, which is apt to go UT's way at Thompson-Boling Arena.

But Florida, not Kentucky, is the upcoming concern. And the Vols can't afford to gradually ease their way onto what should be another fast track.

Double-digit deficits don't discourage this team. It came back from 17 points down to beat Vanderbilt last month. It overcame a 12-point deficit before losing to Alabama.

The comebacks are commendable. What precedes them isn't, especially if they occur on the road against the likes of Kentucky or Florida.

Better to come out fighting.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns

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Comments » 24

BigVolFaninSC writes:

These scoring droughts would be shorter if this team would try and have more of a post game near the basket! Please recruit some bigs that can score, too!

The_Mayor writes:

Not an Adams fan, but pretty spot on with this piece.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

in response to BigVolFaninSC:

These scoring droughts would be shorter if this team would try and have more of a post game near the basket! Please recruit some bigs that can score, too!

Exactly right, BigVolFaninSC! I've been screaming this all year. Pearl's offensive philosophy is flawed because it's starts from the perimeter and works inside. That's the exact opposite of core basketball principles.

UT focuses on outside jumpers. When we're hitting, it's great. When we're missing, it's awful. Why? Pearl doesn't recruit true "big men" and, even if he did, those bigs know that they're not going to get the ball because the first option is always a jumper. So, we're left with "bigs" that aren't that skilled offensively.

The final result is that teams aren't afraid of our inside presence and pressure our perimeter game. And when our outside shots aren't falling, we're left with having to shoot our way out of the slump instead of having genuine threats to go to inside.

Time will tell if this changes. I doubt it will.

orangecountyvols writes:

Vols,

We know this is Tennessee and the SEC, but watching what UNC has just done in the first half AT Duke against the Blue Devils and the Cameron Crazies,
is how to go into a hostile arena and put your foot down. They started 8-0 and actually have led all the way and were up 18 at one point.

Duke may come back to win ( down 14 at the half ) but it'll take a big effort.

Point is..........this is how we need to bring an effort. Goes for anyone for that matter. We've seen the Vols play up tempo/effort in the past. That was what U K did to us and is how games are won. IMO at least........

CoverOrange writes:

in response to BigVolinCarolina:

Exactly right, BigVolFaninSC! I've been screaming this all year. Pearl's offensive philosophy is flawed because it's starts from the perimeter and works inside. That's the exact opposite of core basketball principles.

UT focuses on outside jumpers. When we're hitting, it's great. When we're missing, it's awful. Why? Pearl doesn't recruit true "big men" and, even if he did, those bigs know that they're not going to get the ball because the first option is always a jumper. So, we're left with "bigs" that aren't that skilled offensively.

The final result is that teams aren't afraid of our inside presence and pressure our perimeter game. And when our outside shots aren't falling, we're left with having to shoot our way out of the slump instead of having genuine threats to go to inside.

Time will tell if this changes. I doubt it will.

Change that "doesn't" to "can't". He's tried for 6 years and hasn't convinced anyone to come. Major failed. Wayne and Duke were meant for another position. Brian needs 3 or 4 more years to develop. Same with the point guard position. Instead we get the experiments called Ramar then Bobby then Mel, next year it'll be Trae. We almost had Daniel West and Aaron Craft but posters on here badmouthed them both which didn't help the cause (though not the cause that they aren't here).

For whatever reason, Pearl can't get a legitimate 5 or a 1.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Change that "doesn't" to "can't". He's tried for 6 years and hasn't convinced anyone to come. Major failed. Wayne and Duke were meant for another position. Brian needs 3 or 4 more years to develop. Same with the point guard position. Instead we get the experiments called Ramar then Bobby then Mel, next year it'll be Trae. We almost had Daniel West and Aaron Craft but posters on here badmouthed them both which didn't help the cause (though not the cause that they aren't here).

For whatever reason, Pearl can't get a legitimate 5 or a 1.

Thanks, UAVol for adding to my point. The only correction I'd make (and it's a slight one) is that Major Wingate was Buzz Peterson's recruit and not Pearl's. That being said, Major made some unwise choices that led to his demise.

I really think the reason Pearl can't get a legit 5 is because of his offensive philosophy. No NCAA championship has ever been won using Pearl's system (Tom Davis, his mentor, used it for years and it produced good/great regular season results but teams always faltered in the tournament). When you look back at the last 25-30 years of NCAA champs, they all had a legit point guard, big man, and reliable 3 or 4 who could be counted on. We don't have any of those 3 positions and, using Pearl's system, we never will.

lguy (Inactive) writes:

in response to workinlikehek:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You must have something seriously wrong with you to make a post like this. Get it under control and stop villifying the world around you.

jryevols#222657 writes:

Will someone please tell me why we are not playing Maymon...is he hurt , redshirted....what gives...he is better than what we are putting on the floor. Why bring him in if he isn't going to play?

richvol writes:

Playing with toughness and energy is exactly what Tennessee was lacking. It's amazing to me that these players have to be reminded to play hard. At this level of sport it's embarrasing. This team has had to be told on several occasions AND they have admittedly not played with intensity at times.

I can take us being a bad team but I can't take lack of effort. I'm getting tired of watching this team.

tmartin writes:

in response to jryevols#222657:

Will someone please tell me why we are not playing Maymon...is he hurt , redshirted....what gives...he is better than what we are putting on the floor. Why bring him in if he isn't going to play?

You haven't heard??? S Pearl is better!!!!!

tomkats3242 writes:

Adams needs to be removed from this site. It makes me sick to see someone who has never said a good word about UT get his space. Why the paper keeps him is beyond me. That is the reason I quit the paper and will now quit this site if he stays on it. FIRE Mike Hamiliton

kcbigorngX writes:

in response to lguy:

You must have something seriously wrong with you to make a post like this. Get it under control and stop villifying the world around you.

I suppose you and the_mayor enjoy Adams' backhanded slaps at the football team.

I would enjoy seeing ja with a mouthful of something a lot smellier than dirt.

Vol fans will have to settle for crow, which is a dish best prepared cold. It'll b on your menu in 2012, johnny boy.

gwills228#231210 writes:

tennessee got mashed in the mouth by kentucky! williams does not play tough enough inside. he needs to own that basket,but he hardly ever shows it!. having said that,i was more upset losing the way we did to alabama than kentucky.

GreeneVol writes:

I admit that I have a certain dislike for Calipari. But I must say the boxing role play was smart, effective coaching.

On the other hand, our guys have got to quit playing 'Dig Dug' and get out of this insane hole... Big Brian needs to quit searching the rafters of Rupp for ghosts and start playing like a man. If he fouls out of a game, SO WHAT. At least he would be SETTING THE TONE.

Where's the 'Passion', Pearl? I'm starting to believe that maybe all the off-court distractions are really starting to have an effect on this team's overall chemistry. I hope I'm wrong...

The_Mayor writes:

in response to BigVolinCarolina:

Exactly right, BigVolFaninSC! I've been screaming this all year. Pearl's offensive philosophy is flawed because it's starts from the perimeter and works inside. That's the exact opposite of core basketball principles.

UT focuses on outside jumpers. When we're hitting, it's great. When we're missing, it's awful. Why? Pearl doesn't recruit true "big men" and, even if he did, those bigs know that they're not going to get the ball because the first option is always a jumper. So, we're left with "bigs" that aren't that skilled offensively.

The final result is that teams aren't afraid of our inside presence and pressure our perimeter game. And when our outside shots aren't falling, we're left with having to shoot our way out of the slump instead of having genuine threats to go to inside.

Time will tell if this changes. I doubt it will.

Spot on.

Ironcity writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

Vols,

We know this is Tennessee and the SEC, but watching what UNC has just done in the first half AT Duke against the Blue Devils and the Cameron Crazies,
is how to go into a hostile arena and put your foot down. They started 8-0 and actually have led all the way and were up 18 at one point.

Duke may come back to win ( down 14 at the half ) but it'll take a big effort.

Point is..........this is how we need to bring an effort. Goes for anyone for that matter. We've seen the Vols play up tempo/effort in the past. That was what U K did to us and is how games are won. IMO at least........

I could only imagine what you would say if UT blew the lead NC blew last night. Everyone would blame the coach and the effort of the players blah blah blah.

TennVol01 writes:

I agree with Adams. If the Vols do not "come out swinging" and giving 100% (for the entire game) they will not even make the NIT. Take your best seven players and put them on the floor. Let the other play only if we have a 20 point lead. UT is no longer playing the "run and gun" offense that gave them so many wins. They are slower and only play half court. No one gets too tired playing this way.

Ironcity writes:

in response to jryevols#222657:

Will someone please tell me why we are not playing Maymon...is he hurt , redshirted....what gives...he is better than what we are putting on the floor. Why bring him in if he isn't going to play?

Maymon is a player that is not effective for 10 minutes. he needs to be playing 25-30 minutes or none at all. This came from Maymon so he is playing none at all. I think he will have a big role next year but this year he played awful.

DoolanderVol (Inactive) writes:

in response to DC_BackByPopularDemand:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Don't talk to me about being humble. You, your lover ZZ, that liar VandyTool, the conference lover SEC1, Shi.....I mean Shen, Mr. Pearl or as I like to call him Mr. I live in my parent's basement, and VolDoll (she's not sure what team she likes) talk so much trash on here. The sad part is, you do it behind a computer screen. That is why I hardly reply to any of your comments. I can't take you guys serious. The only type of fans that can run their mouth at this point are Auburn fans.

GOPROKID (Inactive) writes:

Oh... for the glory days of the half court press that created ESPN highlights...
UT will get handled saturday in Gainesville,
just like they got handled on tuesday in Lexington.
Rudely.
GATORS by Double Digits.

Print that.

GerryOP writes:

in response to DC_BackByPopularDemand:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

For once DC, I acknowledge your expertise in "getting ahead of themselves." As you stated about the guy who you predicted to be the next UF Heisman Trophy winner (Creds to Layla_K):

"Brantley, one of the worst QBs in the entire nation....
by DCflorida
Lacks leadership, lacks passion, lacks intensity, lacks desire to achieve greatness, lacks lacks lacks. He's a nicer Jeff George, he's Jeff George without the edge and b$#*s."

murrayvol writes:

in response to workinlikehek:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Now that's helpful.

murrayvol writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

Vols,

We know this is Tennessee and the SEC, but watching what UNC has just done in the first half AT Duke against the Blue Devils and the Cameron Crazies,
is how to go into a hostile arena and put your foot down. They started 8-0 and actually have led all the way and were up 18 at one point.

Duke may come back to win ( down 14 at the half ) but it'll take a big effort.

Point is..........this is how we need to bring an effort. Goes for anyone for that matter. We've seen the Vols play up tempo/effort in the past. That was what U K did to us and is how games are won. IMO at least........

Duke did come back to win which makes another point.

It's not enough to play great for short stretches, which we did near the end of the 1st half at UK. Teams have to sustain the effort and that's been tough for these Vols.

murrayvol writes:

in response to lguy:

You must have something seriously wrong with you to make a post like this. Get it under control and stop villifying the world around you.

Wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that to happen volguy.

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