Bruce Pearl on his team's ability to win close games
Scotty Hopson is on billboards, buses, press guides, posters and media passes.
But where the Tennessee junior shooting guard really wants to be is in position to hit a game-winning shot in the final seconds.
"When it comes down to it, I want the ball in my hands,'' said Hopson, who has not attempted a potential game-winning shot in the closing seconds of a loss this season. "I want that pressure.''
"I have every confidence in Melvin to make that shot,'' Hopson, who is shooting a league-best 48.5 percent from beyond the 3-point arc in SEC games, said after Saturday's loss. "But at the same time we've got to be able to get it into our playmakers' hands when coach calls the play.''
Tennessee (15-10, 5-5 SEC) went to work refining the point guard position Monday in preparation for the contest against South Carolina (13-10, 4-6) at Thompson-Boling Arena on Wednesday (TV: 7 p.m., CSS).
Goins was held out of practice while receiving treatment on his neck. He took a nasty fall in the first half at Florida but returned and played 31 minutes.
Golden, the Georgia high school player of the year last season, is a jet in transition and has flashed play-making abilities (55 assists, 28 turnovers) and poise at the free-throw line (29 of 36, 80.6 percent).
But like many freshmen across the country, he appears to be hitting the proverbial "wall." He has failed to make a field goal in the past three games in 33 minutes of play, and his 3-point field goal percentage has sunk to 22.2 percent.
McBee has proven a better defender and shooter, hitting 88.2 percent of his free throws and 30.4 percent of his shots from 3-point range.
McBee, who has been backing up Hopson at shooting guard, hasn't run the point guard position since Jan. 18 at Georgia.
The Vols are 4-0 with wins over Missouri State, Villanova, Vanderbilt and Georgia when McBee has backed up Goins at point guard, according to the UT coaches.
"I thought I played pretty decent there at the point,'' said McBee, who also played point guard at Grainger High School before turning down scholarship offers at Santa Clara, Winthrop and Marshall to begin his UT career as a walk-on. "I think I can bring some defensive energy, and I can get the ball where it needs to go on the offensive end.''
Goins leads the Vols with 15 steals in SEC play, but McBee has 14 in less than half as many minutes (287-130).
And while McBee is hitting 29 percent of his 3-point attempts in SEC games (9 of 31), he's 6-of-12 shooting the 3-pointer in the four games he has played the point guard position.
"There's no excuse for how poorly I have shot the 3 this year; I'm supposed to be a shooter and I pride myself on that,'' said McBee, who was placed on scholarship last fall. "For some reason I have shot the ball better at the point. I guess it's just knowing when I'm going to shoot it and being more relaxed.''
McBee played point guard on his trip to China with other collegiate players as part of Sports Reach ministries last summer, and Pearl also had him working with the UT point guards in fall drills.
"Coach did a smart thing putting him in the point guard drills at the end of summer and in the fall,'' Hopson said. "He's stepping into a role he's prepared for, and I think he's going to do a good job.''
Last-second shooters: Tatum had the final shot against Charlotte; Harris had the final shot in losses to Southern Cal and Arkansas; Brian Williams had the final shot in regulation in an overtime loss to Florida in Knoxville, Harris took a potential game-winner that Williams rebounded and put back in at Georgia, and Goins has had the final shots against Alabama (in regulation) and Florida.
Hopson was supposed to get the last shot in the OT loss to Florida in Knoxville and the win at Georgia, but on both occasions he was double-teamed and passed the ball.
On Point: Josh Bone hasn't played point guard since January of last season, and prior to this season he told the coaches he's more comfortable playing the two or the three, as he has of late.
"Obviously, I'm a competitor, and if coach comes to me and asks me to play the one, I will,'' Bone said Monday. "I'll play where the team needs me to play.''
Pearl hinted it's likely Goins will retain the starting role.
"Melvin is playing solid defense, and I love his toughness,'' Pearl said. "I'm not unhappy with Melvin and Trae, but we need better point guard play for us to win.''
On Tobias: Pearl said he believes Harris is still bothered by the ankle injury he has played through since hurting it on Jan. 29 at Ole Miss.
"He will tell you he's fine, and yet, I will tell you he's not fine,'' Pearl said. "He's not as quick, he's not quite as explosive. He won't be pleased to hear I commented on that - he's not an excuse maker.
Pearl said he wants Harris, as well as Hopson, to get more shot opportunities down the stretch.
Positive Pearl: "We did everything but win the game,'' Pearl said at his Monday news conference. "We missed some free throws, turned the ball over late, and we didn't execute on the last possession.''
So how did Pearl want the team to respond on Monday?
"First of all, don't panic - you can't go to Florida and play as well as we did most of that game and panic. You have to point to the positives and give the guys credit for the effort, energy and focus.''
Bracketology: Tennessee remains a No. 7 seed in Joe Lunardi's updated bracketology NCAA tournament projection on ESPN.com.
According to Lunardi, the SEC projects to have six teams in the NCAA tournament: Florida (No. 3 seed), Vanderbilt (No. 5 seed), Kentucky (No. 5 seed), Tennessee (No. 7 seed), Georgia (No. 10 seed) and Alabama (No. 12 seed).