Vols 'accountable', 'alert', continue to be resilient

Tennessee's Tobias Harris is hit in the face by Kentucky's Terrence Jones as he goes to the basket during the first half of their NCAA college basketball gam, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011, in Lexington, Ky. No. 18 Kentucky won 73-61.

Photo by Ed Reinke, Associated Press

Tennessee's Tobias Harris is hit in the face by Kentucky's Terrence Jones as he goes to the basket during the first half of their NCAA college basketball gam, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011, in Lexington, Ky. No. 18 Kentucky won 73-61.

Tennessee has plenty of reasons to feel sorry for itself.

A challenging schedule, key injuries, the incongruent nature of its head coach going on and off suspension, and a restless fan base with great expectations on the heels of five straight NCAA tournament appearances.

And yet, men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl said his players continued to exhibit a resilient attitude on Wednesday.

"The kids have gone through a lot,'' said Pearl, whose return from his eight-game SEC suspension was spoiled by a 73-61 loss at Kentucky on Tuesday night. "But I thought the guys in the (Wednesday) film session were very accountable, and they were alert.''

Tennessee (15-9, 5-4 SEC) knows that any shot it has at winning the SEC Eastern Division likely will be on the line at 6 p.m. Saturday (TV: ESPN) when it plays at No. 17 Florida (18-5, 7-2).

Pearl kept his players off the floor on Wednesday.

The Vols need to get their legs under them after arguably the most difficult stretch of three SEC games in six days since Pearl was hired some six years ago.

It was the fourth time in the Pearl era that UT has played three SEC games in six days, but only the second time that two of those games were on the road.

The other occasion was last season. The Vols handled LSU in Baton Rouge, 59-54, came home to beat the last-place team in the East, South Carolina, 79-53, and then lost at Vanderbilt 90-71.

"I think playing three games in six days was a factor when you consider it was a late game at Auburn that we got back from at 3:30 in the morning, and then the Alabama game went to overtime,'' Pearl said. "Then you take the bus to play an athletic Kentucky team at their place, where they haven't lost.

"But I'm still disappointed; we don't need to start looking for any excuses.''

Pearl said that leading scorers Tobias Harris (14.6 points per game) and Scotty Hopson (16.2 ppg.) will practice in preparation for the Gators despite being hobbled by recent ankle injuries.

"They will go, but we'll limit out how long they are out there,'' Pearl said. "Tomorrow (today) is a very important day of practice.''

Harris, who rolled his ankle in a 74-57 win at Ole Miss on Jan. 29, has not missed any playing time.

Hopson, injured in a Feb. 1 practice, missed two games before starting and playing 24 minutes at Kentucky.

Kentucky Wrap: The Wildcats out-rebounded the Vols 38-28 and outscored UT 21-10 in points off turnovers.

Pearl explained that center Josh Harrellson's 16 points for Kentucky were a byproduct of UT center Brian Williams playing help defense.

"Some of those guys were able to turn corners and get into the lane, and that really made a difference in Brian having to rotate over,'' Pearl said. "Harrellson was able to clean up on the backside.''

Kentucky shooting guard DeAndre Liggins, who scored a game-high 19 points, was one of the Wildcats penetrating.

"They took advantage of Scotty, because he was limited defensively,'' Pearl said.

The Good: Pearl said he was pleased with the offensive performances of Melvin Goins (16 points, five rebounds) and Josh Bone (13 points, 5-of-6 shooting), as well as UT's half-court defense.

"We played really good defense, numbers don't really show that in the sense they shot (44.9 percent),'' he said. "But you have 21 points off turnovers, most of those were fairly easy, open shots. When we got back and got in the half court, we guarded them pretty well.''

On The Bubble: According to ESPN.com's "Bubble Watch,'' the Vols' showdown in Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday could prove pivotal come NCAA tournament selection time.

While Florida and Kentucky are listed as "locks," UT is in the category of "work left to do.''

The Vols are No. 24 in the RPI rankings and No. 2 in schedule strength, according to RealTimeRpi.com.

Pearl said it's too soon to panic.

"This league is going to grind you up if you let it,'' Pearl said. "Until this SEC season is in the books, it's too soon to pass judgment.''

Forbes Talk: UT assistant coach Steve Forbes said at the Big Orange Tipoff Club on Wednesday that the inability to rebound free-throw misses after the Vols rallied from a 19-point, first-half deficit was a deciding factor in the outcome.

"They hadn't scored a basket in the last 5:51 of the first, and going into halftime down seven we thought we could play better,'' Forbes said. "We made the first basket of the second half, and a lot of times when you do that, you can see the other team get a little bit tight and see some doubt creeping across their face, and I could see that in Kentucky.

"Their crowd got a little quiet, and we were in pretty good shape,'' he said. "Then we couldn't get a rebound off a free throw . . . they beat our guys across the lane and got the ball, and I thought that took a lot of momentum from us.''

The Wildcats used a 13-0 run to sprint away from the Vols after Goins' shot to open the second half cut the lead to five points.

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Comments » 16

vols1990 writes:

i love this team. it would be helpful if vol fans would get behind them. we win one game and this is the most talented and deep team pearl has ever had. we lost one game and we are lazy, soft, disheartened players. support them or don't.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

I support this team and am a committed BasketVol fan through thick and thin. This year's squad has not decided which "team" is going to show up.
We do have some talent and we do have potential but we are highly unpredictable. For fans, that's frustrating.

Contrary to some never-can-be-satisfied fans, I don't expect UT to have a perfect record or never make mistakes. However, it's certainly fair to expect that they'll play with heart and give effort. That's my main problem with this year's team--some games we look and play like we just don't care, and that is what drives me crazy about our current squad.

There's still time for it change. Only time will tell if it will, though.

On another note: no excuse for Harrellson (UK's center) to score 16 points against us last night.

PeeEllthree writes:

Watching Duke/UNC. All these teams and coaches make mistakes. The difference? Duke can handle the ball, penetrate, attack the basket and spot up for the kick out. They all play with confidence and will pull the trigger at any time. Those are assets that BP and UT do not have right now. There's not really a magic formula. Handle and shoot the rock. When you can't, you look bad.

VolunteerLifer writes:

I agree with the coach's assessment of the failure to get rebounds off of missed Kentucky rebounds. I got so frustrated watching our experiencd players fail to execute a basic requirement of the game that I gave up on the game and the team. If they can't do the simple basic fundamentals correctly after playing in college for this long, I don't know what reason there is to keep paying attention to them.

rocky_topper writes:

Accountable and alert? Nah, I ain't buying that nonsense again!

tnvol4ever writes:

in response to Plasticman:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Spot on PMAN. The fact that 3 of the 4 players you mention (correct me if i am wrong) were in the car with Tyler last year concerns me. They seem to be in a fog some games.
Sorry to even bring this up. Hope I am wrong.

VOLDoll writes:

in response to Plasticman:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Its so, so simple

WE DONT HAVE A COACH!

WE DONT HAVE A COACH!

VOLDoll writes:

A guy on here always cries that we dont have a point guard.
A guy on here cries that UK's worse player dominated the UT.
Why is it the same guy does not get that the coach is responsible for bringing in a quality point guard?
Why is it he is not smart enough to realize that Calipari had his worse player prepared to play and our coach did not have his team prepared.

It all boils down to Bruce Pearl and he is killing this program day by day and a handful of people are not smart enough to see it.
Cant wait until all of the big time recruits come in next year. Oh wait!

richvol writes:

Pearl is not getting the best out of his players anymore...not like those first couple of years where he actually had less talent and depth.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Good grief...

Madkels writes:

VOLDoll, it's easy to blame Pearl, but the reality is he has taken this program to the Elite 8 and Sweet 16. He is responsible for the dark cloud of possible sanctions hovering over the program. This alone had caused a lack of focus and will hurt recruiting this year. But to panic and make a knee jerk decision to fire him, may put us further behind. Let's see what the NCAA has in store and go from there.

Tennfan4075 writes:

in response to VOLDoll:

A guy on here always cries that we dont have a point guard.
A guy on here cries that UK's worse player dominated the UT.
Why is it the same guy does not get that the coach is responsible for bringing in a quality point guard?
Why is it he is not smart enough to realize that Calipari had his worse player prepared to play and our coach did not have his team prepared.

It all boils down to Bruce Pearl and he is killing this program day by day and a handful of people are not smart enough to see it.
Cant wait until all of the big time recruits come in next year. Oh wait!

Your comment is ridiculous. The Vols had no basketball until BP. He and the team is not having a good year but who in their right mind would want to go back to the years before BP. You should think before you comment.

MBEACHVOL writes:

in response to richvol:

Pearl is not getting the best out of his players anymore...not like those first couple of years where he actually had less talent and depth.

I agree about the depth, but I think we had much better talent at the top on the first couple of Pearl teams. CJ watson the first year, and of course #5. We might have better athletes now but would you trade Lofton for Hopson. No way.

orangecountyvols writes:

Mr troll, ( Mr Pearl.....still - here unfortunately )

Are you through rambling? Even if anything you said was true, we get the point.......after 500 posts saying the same thing.

Biggie writes:

"They took advantage of Scotty, because he was limited defensively,'' Pearl said.

Then why didn't you put in someone who was NOT limited defensively?

VOLCHICK writes:

I love my Tennessee Volunteers. And while I do not expect them to win every game, I do expect them to play with enthusiasm and pride. Did I think we would win at Rupp Arena ? No. Did I think that we would represent well ? Yes. As a devoted fan of the program, it was extremely disappointing to witness our team look defeated before the first basket was ever made.

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