Bruce Pearl: "We need better point guards to win"
Forward, rewind. Forward, rewind.
Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl ran the tape of the Florida game back and forth on Sunday, searching for answers.
The Vols (15-10, 5-5 SEC) played one of their best games of the season against the Gators on Saturday, hitting an SEC-best 49 percent from the floor and grabbing a season-high 14 steals.
And still, it wasn't enough, as UT fell to No. 17 Florida, 61-60.
Pearl recognizes that when his team's best isn't good enough, change is in order. Tennessee's next men's basketball game is at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Thompson-Boling Arena against South Carolina (13-10, 4-6).
"We have to have better point guard play, so there could be some changes,'' Pearl said. "Right now, it's Melvin Goins and Trae Golden. It could have to be Skylar McBee or Josh Bone. That could be in the cards against South Carolina.''
UT fans will remember that without Goins, the Vols likely would not have beaten San Diego State in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season. Nor would Tennessee have beaten top 10 teams Villanova and Pitt earlier this season without Goins' stellar play.
But Goins has struggled to make plays recently, dishing out two assists in the 94 minutes he has played over the past three games.
Golden, Georgia's high school player of the year last season, has four assists in 33 minutes over the past three games and has failed to score a field goal.
"We've got to get our point guards to distribute the ball more efficiently,'' Pearl said. "I know Melvin is capable of it. It's going to require him to be more aggressive getting to the basket to make plays for others.''
McBee, who currently backs up Scotty Hopson at shooting guard, had strong performances in wins over Vanderbilt and Georgia while running the point.
Bone has proven valuable most anywhere he has played this season, and like McBee, he brings an element of hustle that has sparked UT.
Pearl doesn't necessarily believe the Vols are broken as much as they are in need of some fine-tuning at point guard.
"After South Carolina Wednesday we'll have gone through everyone in the league except Mississippi State, and there's no one we can't beat,'' Pearl said. "We had better rhythm offensively at Florida, and it was good to see Scotty back being aggressive again and attacking the basket.
"It's just a matter of getting guys on the same page.''
Timeout review: Pearl reversed his stance on his decision not to call a timeout when he saw the final play going awry.
"I've gone through the last possession a number of times (on tape),'' Pearl said. "I should have called timeout with five seconds left when we didn't have floor balance. It was 14.7 (seconds) when the ball went through the net (on Erving Walker's basket). At the 12-second mark, I'm calling the set, and that's a long time to get to our spots.
"But we just didn't get to our spots. At that point, what we should be trying to do is drive the ball to the basket.''
No Charity: The Vols are last in the SEC in free-throw attempts per game, averaging 14.8.
LSU ranks 11th in the SEC in that category at 17.1 per game. Vanderbilt, averaging 25.9 shots per game from the foul line, leads the SEC.
"The bottom line (against Florida), was that we went to the foul line 10 times and Erving Walker went to the line 10 times,'' Pearl said. "I can not comment any more on that.''
UT led the nation at one point prior to the start of SEC play in free-throw attempts per field-goal attempt.
Hot Scotty: Hopson is the top 3-point shooter in SEC play, making 16 of 33 from 3-point range (48 percent) in UT's 10 SEC games.
"I felt we did a lot of great things,'' Hopson said after the loss to Florida. "Guys had that swagger again, and we all felt we were going to win.
"We made some progress as far as guys realizing what it's going to take.''
RPI watch: The Vols have dropped to No. 25 in the most recent RPI ratings, but they still boast the No. 3 strength of schedule nationally, according to RealTimeRpi.com.
UT's RPI doesn't figure to get a boost with its next opponent, as South Carolina is only 120 in the RPI ratings.
The Vols have the highest RPI of any 10-loss team in the nation. The next-best RPI for a team with 10 losses is Michigan State, coming in at No. 48. The Spartans are 13-10 overall, 6-6 in the Big Ten, and have the No. 8 strength of schedule.
UT was listed as a No. 7 seed in the NCAA tournament by ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi prior to its loss to Florida on Saturday.