Mike Strange: No mistaking the heartache of this loss

Mike Strange
Florida guard Erving Walker (11) sinks the winning shot as Tennessee's Tobias Harris (12) and Cameron Tatum (23) defend in an NCAA college basketball game in Gainesville, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011. Walker had a total of 16 points to help gave Florida a 61-60 win over Tennessee.

Photo by Phil Sandlin, Associated Press

Florida guard Erving Walker (11) sinks the winning shot as Tennessee's Tobias Harris (12) and Cameron Tatum (23) defend in an NCAA college basketball game in Gainesville, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011. Walker had a total of 16 points to help gave Florida a 61-60 win over Tennessee.

Bruce Pearl on the Vols' 61-60 loss at Florida

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - This one hurt. Boy, did it hurt.

Tennessee couldn't or wouldn't mask its collective pain after a basketball game slipped away Saturday night in the O'Connell Center.

Florida's 61-60 win will be a lot tougher for the Vols to recover from than a 12-point loss at Kentucky four nights earlier.

At Rupp, they were never really in it. Here, a hard-earned win - one that would scramble the SEC East race - was theirs to take home.

But they couldn't take it.

The way things went down in the final 25 seconds was a shot to the gut and it left the Vols both stunned and doubled over.

"This is one of the more disappointing losses of my career,'' said an obviously frustrated Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl.

Senior center Brian Williams reacted as if it were the most disappointing loss of his career, too.

After the game-deciding sequence - Cam Tatum misses a one-and-one; Florida's Erving Walker drives for go-ahead bucket; Vols botch final play call and miss 3-point shot - Williams was literally doubled over in anguish.

He had to be helped up to go through the hand-shaking ritual with the team that had just buckled his knees.

"A lot of emotions came out at once,'' Williams said later. "We had the game.''

The last we heard of Pearl on Saturday night was probably unintentional. His path from the locker room to the team bus took him past the media work room and he could be heard, um, shall we say, loudly expressing disappointment that Scotty Hopson got to the free-throw line only twice in the second half.

If you've been following the Vols the past few months, you understand Tennessee's frustration wasn't just about this particular night.

The ending that played out in the O'Connell Center is a recurring nightmare.

Go back to Charlotte and Southern Cal in December.

Rewind the finish at Arkansas. Replay the Florida ending in Knoxville. The Alabama ending, too.

And let's not forget how last season ended in St. Louis - missed free throw, no chance to set the defense, Michigan State scores in transition . . .

"This is reminiscent of the loss to Michigan State,'' confirmed Pearl.

This season, an unusual number of UT games have gone down to the final possession. And aside from Georgia, when Williams made a put-back shot at the buzzer, the Vols just can't get it right.

"We could beat anybody on our schedule,'' Williams said. "And we've lost five or six games in the closing seconds that we should have won because we didn't execute what the game plan was.''

The recurring nightmare has left the Vols at 15-10 overall and only 5-5 in the SEC.

That's a sketchy NCAA tournament resume with six regular-season games to play.

The Vols also are tied with Kentucky in fourth place in the SEC East, ahead of only South Carolina.

Florida, meanwhile, has cleared another hurdle toward a championship. The Gators are 9-2 in league play.

And when it comes to close calls, they're the anti-Vols. Florida, with five returning starters from last season, is 5-0 in overtime or last-possession games.

"It's coaching, it's seniors and it's having been in this position before,'' Pearl said.

But hasn't Tennessee been in this position before, too?

The Vols just can't seem to change the ending.

"We let one slip through our hands,'' said Hopson. "We did a lot of great things, things to win the game. But we didn't make the play down the stretch.''

"We had a chance,'' added Williams, "to beat Florida. We played an awesome game.

"This would have started something that we really need.''

Instead, it just perpetuated a familiar problem. And it really hurt.

Mike Strange can be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com or 865-342-6276. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http:blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

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Comments » 52

BubbaJ writes:

Granted, Tennessee played well enough to win on the road, until the last 2 minutes. This team, just doesn't know how to win the close ones.

Tatum missing FT's at the end gave the Gators room to take the game, then Goins, failed to do what a Senior PG should do. Execute a called play, and if things don't fall in place, knock down the last shot. That said, this team continues to show a lack of basketball smarts come crunch time.

Although I am no coach, I do question not using a timeout at the end, to catch your breath, and go over that last play, weather it's something you work on in practice or not.

This team has it's work cut out for it now. Lets say they beat USC twice, and Miss St (not a given). Then split with UGA and UK (nothing easy about that either). It looks like this team may have to win a couple in the SEC tournament to make the NCAA. Very disappointing at this point.

lomas98 writes:

in response to Plasticman:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

We have certainly missed some key free throws at certain times, but have made some as well to ice games. We are actually middle of the pack in the whole country in ft percentage. We rank 182 out of 346 teams so there are worse. Of the top 25 ranked teams in ft percentage, only 4 are ranked in the top 25 poll. Wisconsin, Vandy, BYU and Villanova. Two are Ivy League schools and there are other teams that fit the same stereotype. Ole MIss is the highest ranked SEC team in percentage, what is that getting them? To say we don't concentrate on it is not true, do you really not believe they practice them? Tatums' missed free throws tonight were huge, no doubt. I just think blaming games on ft's are not the only reason team lose. All teams miss them. If they were so automatic the rules would say nobody has to shoot them and teams would be rewarded 2 points. Looking at the statistics, we are really not that bad.

lomas98 writes:

in response to Plasticman:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The biggest problem I have is only 10 attempts. Two of those were on a technical foul so really only 8 attempts based on a whistle.

vol75 writes:

Winners find a way to win. Losers find a way to lose. This team is a mental mess from the top down. Right now I would rather sandpaper a bobcat's butt in a phone booth than to watch this team play.

VolMoment writes:

What in the world was Pearl doing sitting Hopson after his third foul with 4:20 left. Saving him for breakfast. These kids deserve better coaching.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

The season in a nutshell: "The ending that played out in the O'Connell Center is a recurring nightmare." For whatever reason, this team continues to struggle with basic aspects of the game, and the result is devastating losses.

We can make all sorts of excuses, but the reality is that multiple players make several inexcusable mental errors each game. Some examples are: lazy passes on offense that get converted by the opposing team into fast-break dunks, poor defense on screens, repeatedly winding down the shot clock only to take a horrendous shot. Each game, you can count on these situations happening over and over.

I assume that the players would be tired of the same outcome, particularly since they're the ones who have the most invested. As an alum and fan, I know I am.

1vavolfan writes:

Credit Cam Tatum for this one. Missed FT to go along with two intercepted passes that led to dunks at inopportune times

pvtoe writes:

in response to Claudettevol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You saw no such thing. PERIOD

UTVOLSRROCKN writes:

in response to Plasticman:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Hey Plastic....Surely there is an app for that!

CoverOrange writes:

in response to Plasticman:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I fear that someone on "his staff" does focus on FT and that is why the struggle. How can Hopson come in as a McDAA shooting guard and not be high percentage from trey land? How is Sky McB encouraged to walk-on with no other reason than he is a super shooter and now he barely draws iron on his shots? Who does instruct on shooting? Jones? Shay? One of the ball boys?

CoverOrange writes:

According to CantStandSaban's logic, since we led for 34 out of 40 minutes we actually won this game.

dead_vol_foul (Inactive) writes:

Bluntly:
we have no mental toughness. WE are p#ssies when put under pressure, and we expect to lose.

Bad team this year. Just is.

dead_vol_foul (Inactive) writes:

and BTW....I've been following the bball vols as long as I can remember, grew up listening to john ward...earliest remembrances are of Mike Edwards.

So, no, I'm not a just-graduated whatever. I've stuck with these guys forever.

This team just doesn't have a ballbreaker, and it needs one badly.

And boy, do I wish we'd gotten Craft and Selby...

VolunteerLifer writes:

This isn't just missed free throws or Cam Tatum or Hopson or Goins. This is coaching. The poor performances of this season are squarely on Coach Pearl. The guys play hard. They deserve better coaching. This is a poorly coached team. It's that simple

VOLKING writes:

I remember the good ol' days when we went 5-20 or 10-15 and got massacred by 20+ points. We didn't get mad after losses. We just shrugged and said, 'Hey, we are a football school." Life was less stressful. Then, this can't-coach Pearl came in and we started to compete. We always had lesser talent, but somehow we found ways to be competitive. We went to the NCAA tourney, year after year after year, with no NBA talent on our team. Last year, we were within a few seconds of going to the Final Four! How dare this can't-coach Pearl get our hopes up and destroy our peaceful bliss of constant losing. Now, we are going through a tough stretch and losing some close games to some pretty good teams. What has happened? We are relevant and competitive in basketball. Unlike the last few years, we are losing the close games and fans are livid! Send this NCAA-rule-breaking-can't-coach-Pearl to the gallows!!! Half this board can coach better! Don't believe me...just ask them. I want my basketball irrelevancy back. That way I can go peacefully through the winter months wondering when football season starts.

BuckFama writes:

You Lewinski'd this one, Bruce.

NYvolFan writes:

Not calling a timeout was Pearl's fault...what a fool...he admitted on the radio he had NO CLUE! Bye...Fired once the loser AD gets back from Africa.

tnvol4ever writes:

There has not been a game on our schedule that i looked at and said we don't have a chance to win and we have one of the toughest schedules in America.
I love to play armchair quarterback as much as the next guy. But when has TN basketball been any better than the Pearl years. Still don't see a game on the schedule that we can't win including SEC tournament.

richvol writes:

Lack of execution means two things...poor coaching AND players that can't follow direction.

This is a recurring theme with this team as evidenced by their results in these close games. I have lost any emotional attachment to this team because they give you nothing to pull for when things are on the line. Fans become fans by watching their team rise to the occasion. Not these guys.

richvol writes:

These excuses for losing winnable games because we were not very good in the recent past is a ridiculous argument. We lost last night,and five other times this year,because we were out coached and our players can't execute one play at the end of a game.

Don't make excuses for Pearl's mistakes by blaming former coaches. What sense does that make? Face it...Pearl is not the best in game bench coach and his players don't listen to him. The evidence is clear.

Yes,Pearl has done well here but ANY good coach could have made Tennessee a winner...we just hired really poor coaches since Devoe. Now Pearl has gotten us into so much hot water it has damaged UT's reputation on national TV countless times and people want to believe that if we lose him we will never be good again? That's stupid on the face of it.

UT was poor in basketball before Pearl because it was badly managed and ignored. I,for one,am tired of hearing he is the only one that can put a good product on the floor and it is especially wearing thin when this is the product of his labors. A bunch that doesn't execute and constant reports on his misdeeds that weren't necessary in any way.

VOLFORLIFE writes:

in response to VOLKING:

I remember the good ol' days when we went 5-20 or 10-15 and got massacred by 20+ points. We didn't get mad after losses. We just shrugged and said, 'Hey, we are a football school." Life was less stressful. Then, this can't-coach Pearl came in and we started to compete. We always had lesser talent, but somehow we found ways to be competitive. We went to the NCAA tourney, year after year after year, with no NBA talent on our team. Last year, we were within a few seconds of going to the Final Four! How dare this can't-coach Pearl get our hopes up and destroy our peaceful bliss of constant losing. Now, we are going through a tough stretch and losing some close games to some pretty good teams. What has happened? We are relevant and competitive in basketball. Unlike the last few years, we are losing the close games and fans are livid! Send this NCAA-rule-breaking-can't-coach-Pearl to the gallows!!! Half this board can coach better! Don't believe me...just ask them. I want my basketball irrelevancy back. That way I can go peacefully through the winter months wondering when football season starts.

I love it, VOLKING! Best post I've seen in awhile.

GO VOLS!!!
JUGHEAD

AlpharettaVol writes:

They look lost in the final seconds of the game. Do we have anyone who isn't afraid to drive to the basket in the final seconds? The FL point guard ( only 5'8") certainly isn't.. Let's see some guts out there when the game's on the line. Make the refs make a call. Shooting 25-footers at the end are the hallmark of guys who can't (or won't) take it to the rim when it matters most.

It's at least 5 times this season and they must know it's a major drawback. It all the fans can see UT, they should be able too.

baneberry writes:

BP was mad about Scotty Hopson not getting to the free-throw line? Why? This team can't throw it into the ocean from 15' uncontested. 40% from the free-throw line is worse than abysmal. What's the big deal about Melvin Goins shooting the three? He is one of the very few on this team that can at lease hit the backboard from over 5'.

iowavol writes:

I too was wondering why no TO to set up the last play. But the last play was called and the ball didn't get to Goins like it was supposed to so that he could get the ball to a driving Tatum or Hopson like he was supposed to. Now that being said, and all these monday morning qb's bashing Pearl saying we shouldn't be shooting a 3, we should be driving to the basket, we should be calling a TO, we need a better coach - well maybe you need to rethink your thinking. And putting all this on Tatum missing his FT's, yeah it hurts and the long term impact can be a slippery slope. But he was not the only one missing FT's. I don't understand, with his quickness, why Goins did not drive to the basket himself. I know he peaked around the right and left, but it looked like he could get a step. I think this thing comes down to confidence in the last seconds. It looks like we panic every time.

TennVol01 writes:

I am so disappointed. I could not fall asleep last night because I was so upset. I am still a fan, but .... it is tough. Everyone in the room was yelling "call time out...call time out.."

This team is too up and down to watch comfortably. After the first half, we were all cheering. After the second half ... well ... you know.

I am beginning to believe that the coach has his mind on the SEC sanctions and the upcoming NCAA sanctions. Maybe once that is behind him, he can concentrate on coaching. He has certainly lost his edge. Let's hope he gets it back soon. He brought life back into the mens basketball team since he has been here.

OrangePride writes:

This one was almost as bad as NC stealing our win in Nashville! Yet.....it is the story of this season and it has been played over and over. Vols play well enough to win but don't execute in the last minutes and fail to close it out. How many last shots have we missed now to lose games? I'm thinking five. It's at least that. It has come to the point where we almost expect that if its real close in the last minute, we're in big trouble. I wish I could say I see this turning around, but I just have no confidence in that. NCAA is looking very doubtful, very doubtful. Tough season, but I'll still be at TBA yellin, so GO VOLS!

bigdisbig writes:

If the Vols are to make it to the big dance then they will either have to win out or win the SEC tourney. They have lost too many games they should have won. Beating Fla. at their house would have scored huge NCAA points. I thought Tenn. played a great game last night. Their defense was awesome but once AGAIN coaching lost the game. Pearl should have called a time out and ran a play to get the ball inside. Goins shooting a 3 pointer was absolutely the wrong play. You get NO rebound on a missed 3 point shot. IF you work the ball inside with the big guys going for the score you have a much better chance.

PeeEllthree writes:

in response to VOLKING:

I remember the good ol' days when we went 5-20 or 10-15 and got massacred by 20+ points. We didn't get mad after losses. We just shrugged and said, 'Hey, we are a football school." Life was less stressful. Then, this can't-coach Pearl came in and we started to compete. We always had lesser talent, but somehow we found ways to be competitive. We went to the NCAA tourney, year after year after year, with no NBA talent on our team. Last year, we were within a few seconds of going to the Final Four! How dare this can't-coach Pearl get our hopes up and destroy our peaceful bliss of constant losing. Now, we are going through a tough stretch and losing some close games to some pretty good teams. What has happened? We are relevant and competitive in basketball. Unlike the last few years, we are losing the close games and fans are livid! Send this NCAA-rule-breaking-can't-coach-Pearl to the gallows!!! Half this board can coach better! Don't believe me...just ask them. I want my basketball irrelevancy back. That way I can go peacefully through the winter months wondering when football season starts.

There are only a few of us sane and sound thinking ones around. Everyone else wants a scapegoat or to fire somebody, CONSTANTLY. It's a rough patch, and we are still in reach of an NCAA bid. I talk about the team and BP losing composure at certain times, but the "fans" on here make them look like fonzie. Good post.

PeeEllthree writes:

in response to NYvolFan:

Not calling a timeout was Pearl's fault...what a fool...he admitted on the radio he had NO CLUE! Bye...Fired once the loser AD gets back from Africa.

MH is already back and watched the game at corner pub in nashville, drunky.

huntined#565710 writes:

I was more upset at the loss to BAMA then this game..We had them at home and this game was on the road and at a hard place to win period.Fla is a good team and have played together for some time and they have a Point guard that can drive or hit the three. I have said you GOT TO HAVE A STRONG HEART to be a VOL FAN and last night proved it..

mikkim writes:

This year is about a lack of leadership. The whole "scene" surrounding the program can't be ignored by kids that live on the internet. After a while it begins to eat at them and the distractions and "talk" would get the best of anybody. Combine this with the fact that the team lacks shooting depth and a floor leader (i.e. true blue chip point guard) and what you have is a 5-5 SEC team. Yes, there have been moments of greatness but the inconsistency has become the only thing that can be counted on. Success is built on consistency and without leadership this can't happen. Whatever is in store for the future of TN basketball, it is becoming increasingly clear that the BP situation is "rotting the fish from the head"! I am a big BP fan but at some point it is going to be evident that the program is deteriorating. The question is do you decide to let it go down with him or without him. With him, the uncertainty will kill recruiting and the image of a tarnished coach is hard to hide in our "internet" based society. Further sanctions are almost certain. He is a good coach and has gotten TN basketball back on the map. Without him, you are rolling the dice. The irrelevance of basketball at UT could start all over and the Fulmer to Kiffin to Dooley scenario could repeat itself all over again, this time in basketball. Whatever the outcome, I know one thing for sure and that is Mike Hamilton should not be making the call on the future of BP or the UT program. He has demonstrated a keen ability to fund raise but it is evident his judgement is certainly questionable on many fronts. In the end, Pearl should be forgiven as no one can ever say they are without "issues". The forgiveness though does not mean he should continue to be the leader of TN mens basketball. A long term approach needs to be well thought out here with a confidence level that UT can attract coaches, talent, players and money into the program because it is UT and not because of Hamilton or Pearl!

Futurecoach16 writes:

in response to Plasticman:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Actually, apparently the ball was originally to come in to Goins to get the ball to Tatum or Hopson, but it was Tatum that decided to hang back and take the inbounds pass. So that was a mistake by Tatum, not Goins. The thing that has killed Pearl's teams are free throws. I know the discrepancy is that Florida took 22 and the Vols took 10, but Florida made 16 for almost 73% while the Vols only hit 4, but they took the ball outta their hands for a 2nd shot on 1 and 1s, so that was at least 4 outta 11. If the SHOOTING guards (Hopson and Tatum) could make more than 25% and 33% respectively, the team wins. Easily. Even the big man (Williams) hit 50% last night. Just terrible.

rockytopatl writes:

A lack of any consistent offense has been this team's primary problem, and that is the direct result of horrible point guard play. Game after game, our PGs get either no assists or one or two. This offense depends on great guard play and we don't have it. Why not put McBee on the point and give him a chance? I guarantee you he wouldn't have run out the clock on the last possession before finally throwing up a 30-foot brick at the buzzer.

bigdisbig writes:

in response to Plasticman:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Dude, Williams is 6'10 and contrary to some people on here the guy can score. Sure, he misses a few here and there but overall he is more likely to score than Melvin. He had 11 points last night and Macklin had 12. Tobias is not only big but strong. You work the ball inside and let those guys hit the boards instead of Melvin's pathetic 3 point shots. Brian Williams has had some great games but like everyone else he has had some bad games too. I would take getting to ball to him inside anyday over Melvin shooting outside.

tan007 writes:

in response to VolMoment:

What in the world was Pearl doing sitting Hopson after his third foul with 4:20 left. Saving him for breakfast. These kids deserve better coaching.

Exactly what I have been saying for several games, what I see is a player getting really "hot', playing well & bam! he is on the bench. Those guys aren't given enough credit for being in good enough shape to play more than 3 or 4 minutes a stretch. Typical game..we get ahead 6 or 7 points, get a whole new rotation in that lets the opposition catch up. Then they have to do it all over again. I don't understand the coaching we are seeing right now.

brokendownoldvol writes:

One has to wonder how many of these games would have even come down to the last play if the starters had just played 5 more min. in each game instead of walk-ons. Terrible coaching IMO.

grrflash writes:

22 Free throws for the Gators and 10 for the Vols...thank the Zebras...and what happened in the last 10 seconds? Down by 1 Pearl doesn't call a time out and set up a play to go to the paint? We throw up a Hail Mary 3 pointer when we go 1 of 7 for 3's in the second half....Bruce you blew that one.

james#216392 writes:

You are playing the number one team in the conference. You have two chances tow in-make free throw or make the last shot. Sounds like Pearl had an excellent game play and got got results. He can't shoot the free throws or run the last play. Would a time out help? maybe but past history says no. I have coached over 25 years and all a coach can do is put players in a position to win. The players have to excute. If I had called a ply at the last break, would I have taken a time out? Yes- when Tatum got to the wing and had to back up with about 10 seconds, I would have called timeout. The called play had been broken. Take a timeout and try to fix it. Tatum hits both free throws a few seconds earlier and then both when he was fouled late and we win. Can't really blame the coach.
...

MusicCityVol writes:

Very painful. We outplayed them almost all day. The end of the game bit us in the butt again.

Last Second Chances Do Not Favor Vols
http://checkerboardchatter.blogspot.c...

vol75 writes:

in response to bigorangegoon:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Never mix basketball with politics. Or geography either, for that matter.

esarmstrong#231516 writes:

in response to bigdisbig:

If the Vols are to make it to the big dance then they will either have to win out or win the SEC tourney. They have lost too many games they should have won. Beating Fla. at their house would have scored huge NCAA points. I thought Tenn. played a great game last night. Their defense was awesome but once AGAIN coaching lost the game. Pearl should have called a time out and ran a play to get the ball inside. Goins shooting a 3 pointer was absolutely the wrong play. You get NO rebound on a missed 3 point shot. IF you work the ball inside with the big guys going for the score you have a much better chance.

Even Tony Jones is smart enough to know that you sometimes need to call a timeout, especially when there is considerable time left. Seems I recall that he did this in some of our close games he coached. Why on earth is a three point shot a good move when you are down by one?

This team's repeated penchant for losing the close games really does indict their toughness in so many different areas. It is true that they are middle of the pack nationally in free-throw percentage out of over 300 schools. Problem is that bad or mediocre free throw shooting puts you on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble. Then there are the lazy passes that lead to steals. Absolutely sickening to sit and watch.

Until this year, Bruce's worst team was the team of 2008-09, that got beat in the finals of the SEC tournament by Miss. State. This team now is well on it's way to take that distinction. That team and this team both had the distinction of also being a dissapointment in that they underachieved as to their potential.

Whatever the reason for this team's terrible performance this season, my sense for quite some time now has been that Bruce is gone after this year. His refusal to sign the new contract is a glaring red flag that something is up that we as fans are not seeing yet. The problem is that if we see Bruce leave, it may be too late to keep the NCAA from leveling severe enough sanctions on us, the effect of which would be to keep a good coaching candidate from coming along as a replacement. I hope I'm wrong, but we may be getting ready to enter BBall purgatory for an extended period of time because of this phooey.

Thanks in advance Bruce for all the good you've done, and the bad that has and is yet to come. You deserve credit for it all!

murrayvol writes:

in response to Claudettevol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You didn't see s*#t. Your story, per as usual, is BS.

Go over to cubicle #14 and give DC a hug.

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to Claudettevol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Vols,

Now Claudia is a lip reader. No not that...........she was apparently in the huddle hearing it all. Claudia and Voldoll need to stick to
what's going on at the beauty parlor and not trying to sound like basketball gurus.

JACK8254 writes:

Pearl has 100x my knowledge of BB. That said, it is still puzzling tht we would not take a TO to set up the last shot ( which should have been taken by Hopson or harris ) We have had much trouble getting a decent shot in previous games. Why do we not learn from mistakes? This team could be a sweet 16 team or a team left out of the NCAA . They are the most up and down team in my memory. Poor FT shooting has cost us dearly the past 2 years and that is a shame. I can make 65 out of 100 at my age. If the guys shot 100 FTS every day ( one their own) they would all improve, some markedly . Why not?

easleychuck writes:

in response to Claudettevol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Your lips must be moving again.

easleychuck writes:

First things first, everything bad that happens is Bruce Pearl's fault. And, of course, everything good that happens, well that is on the the players. Now that we cleared that up.

Players have to make a play, hence their names. If you are going to handle the ball late in the game with the other team trailing, you will get fouled. And while those free throws are of no more value than ones taken earlier in the game, you have to make them. Our player did not. Their player knocked down a shot. Our player missed.

Funny how that word player keeps coming up.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

I fear that someone on "his staff" does focus on FT and that is why the struggle. How can Hopson come in as a McDAA shooting guard and not be high percentage from trey land? How is Sky McB encouraged to walk-on with no other reason than he is a super shooter and now he barely draws iron on his shots? Who does instruct on shooting? Jones? Shay? One of the ball boys?

Free-throw percentage, as someone else pointed out, is a problem throughout college basketball. It is up to the players, largely on their own time, to perfect their free-throw stroke. BTW, Scotty is shooting over 40% from the three-point line, which is like shooting 60% from the field. He is in the top five in three-point shooting and over 70% from the free-throw line. I diagnosed Skylar's shot in a previous post. Again, it is largely up to him to develop a more compact shooting stroke with fewer moving parts.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to baneberry:

BP was mad about Scotty Hopson not getting to the free-throw line? Why? This team can't throw it into the ocean from 15' uncontested. 40% from the free-throw line is worse than abysmal. What's the big deal about Melvin Goins shooting the three? He is one of the very few on this team that can at lease hit the backboard from over 5'.

Again, Scotty is a capable free-throw shooter, over 70% for the season, but as you said he only got to the line twice in the game. On at least two other occasions, he practically had his arm taken off on a driving shot but didn't get the call. In a late-game loose-ball situation, he was plainly shoved TWICE by Macklin but got no call. Walker drives the bucket and literally throws his body into a back-pedaling defender and he ALWAYS gets the call. When even the ESPN announcers are wondering about the disparity in the calls, you know something just ain't right. EVEN SO, take away two inexcusably weak, lazy passes for break-away Florida dunks, both by Tatum as I recall, and they STILL win the game. Most if not all of these late-game situations shouldn't have even happened, but it is a mystery why they don't seem able to deal with them.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to bigdisbig:

If the Vols are to make it to the big dance then they will either have to win out or win the SEC tourney. They have lost too many games they should have won. Beating Fla. at their house would have scored huge NCAA points. I thought Tenn. played a great game last night. Their defense was awesome but once AGAIN coaching lost the game. Pearl should have called a time out and ran a play to get the ball inside. Goins shooting a 3 pointer was absolutely the wrong play. You get NO rebound on a missed 3 point shot. IF you work the ball inside with the big guys going for the score you have a much better chance.

The worst of it for me was Goins still dribbling out between the rings with the clock under eight seconds. He didn't actually launch it until less than three seconds were left. Scotty actually got the offensive rebound, but there wasn't enough time left for him to do anything more than heave it off-balance at the basket and the clock had expired by then anyway.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to mikkim:

This year is about a lack of leadership. The whole "scene" surrounding the program can't be ignored by kids that live on the internet. After a while it begins to eat at them and the distractions and "talk" would get the best of anybody. Combine this with the fact that the team lacks shooting depth and a floor leader (i.e. true blue chip point guard) and what you have is a 5-5 SEC team. Yes, there have been moments of greatness but the inconsistency has become the only thing that can be counted on. Success is built on consistency and without leadership this can't happen. Whatever is in store for the future of TN basketball, it is becoming increasingly clear that the BP situation is "rotting the fish from the head"! I am a big BP fan but at some point it is going to be evident that the program is deteriorating. The question is do you decide to let it go down with him or without him. With him, the uncertainty will kill recruiting and the image of a tarnished coach is hard to hide in our "internet" based society. Further sanctions are almost certain. He is a good coach and has gotten TN basketball back on the map. Without him, you are rolling the dice. The irrelevance of basketball at UT could start all over and the Fulmer to Kiffin to Dooley scenario could repeat itself all over again, this time in basketball. Whatever the outcome, I know one thing for sure and that is Mike Hamilton should not be making the call on the future of BP or the UT program. He has demonstrated a keen ability to fund raise but it is evident his judgement is certainly questionable on many fronts. In the end, Pearl should be forgiven as no one can ever say they are without "issues". The forgiveness though does not mean he should continue to be the leader of TN mens basketball. A long term approach needs to be well thought out here with a confidence level that UT can attract coaches, talent, players and money into the program because it is UT and not because of Hamilton or Pearl!

That is a more balanced take than we usually get on here from the "Pearl must go" crowd. However, I am not nearly so pessimistic on the future of the program as many are. For one thing, Hamilton, or whoever the next AD may be, is fully aware of the willingness of the fan base to support a winning basketball program. The coaching turmoil we had in basketball after DeVoe was largely due, in the eyes of many, to Doug Dickey's lack of knowledge of basketball and unwillingness to fully support a winning program. DeVoe labored incessantly to get a bigger, modern arena, but it dragged on and on. O'Neill begged and pleaded for a practice facility, but he couldn't get one even with Pat Summit's support. There were only so many opportunities for UT basketball to get on television in Dickey's day; now, thanks to the recent contracts, every SEC game is televised somewhere. The fan and donor support are there; the funds are there; the opportunities for exposure are there; the arena and practice facilities are there. There should be no reason why the Vols can't get the best coach available if the CBP era ends soon.

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