Bruce Pearl: 'We have to play better'

Vols looking for spark against Vanderbilt

Georgia forward Trey Thompkins grabs a rebound as Tennessee guard Melvin Goins, left, and center Brian Williams, right, defend at Thompson-Boling Arena Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011.  Georgia defeated Tennessee 69-63.

Photo by Adam Brimer

Georgia forward Trey Thompkins grabs a rebound as Tennessee guard Melvin Goins, left, and center Brian Williams, right, defend at Thompson-Boling Arena Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011. Georgia defeated Tennessee 69-63.

Pearl: Compete or get off the court

It’s difficult to make changes at this late in the season.

So says Bruce Pearl.

And yet, the Tennessee men’s basketball coach knows that UT must change if it’s to beat No. 18 Vanderbilt and strengthen its position for an NCAA tournament at-large bid.

Tennessee (16-11, 6-6 SEC) plays the Commodores (20-6, 8-4) in Memorial Gymnasium tonight (TV: ESPN, 9 p.m.).

“What we have to do is play better,’’ Pearl said. “Play with efficiency, rebound your position, defend physical, be accountable.

“It’s not about confidence or effort, it’s about performance.’’

Pearl delivered that message to his players in fire-breathing fashion at the conclusion of Monday’s practice before the team boarded a bus for Nashville.

The Vols are in dire need of a spark, having lost four of their past five games despite junior shooting guard Scotty Hopson enjoying some of the finest performances of his career.

“I’ve been playing some good basketball and putting up some numbers,’’ said Hopson, who’s coming off a career-high 32-point performance in Saturday’s 69-63 home loss to Georgia. “But I would trade those numbers for some wins. I’m just going to go right at them (tonight).’’

Vanderbilt enters the game as a seven-point favorite, which one might expect considering the Commodores are riding a five-game win streak and are 14-1 at home this season.

Memorial Gym, with the teams’ benches at the ends of the court instead of at the side, has been a thorn in Pearl’s side.

The Vols have dropped three of their past four games in the 59-year-old, 14,316-seat arena.

UT senior point guard Melvin Goins said the gym’s unique configuration — which includes a raised floor — can be a factor.

“You just have to listen and look for Coach when he calls the plays,’’ Goins said. “It’s different, but we’ve got a sour taste in our mouths. I’m just going to go at them defensively and try to wear their guards down.’’

Vanderbilt’s 6-foot-3 junior point guard, Brad Tinsley, leads the SEC in assists (4.4 per game), averages 10.8 points per game and is hitting 37.5 percent of his shots from beyond the 3-point arc.

Then there’s the wing duo of John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor to contend with: Jenkins leads the league in scoring (19.9 ppg), and the 6-7 Taylor is coming off a 20-point, 10-rebound effort in a 77-60 win at Auburn on Saturday.

There’s a good chance UT senior reserve Josh Bone will see 20 or more minutes coming off the bench, as he’s considered the Vols’ best perimeter defender.

Bone said he hopes to draw Jenkins, with whom he competed over the summer while playing in Nashville’s invitation-only pick-up games in Memorial Gym.

“I know his game a bit; we’d guard each other last summer,’’ said Bone, a Nashville native. “He’s a lights-out shooter, so you try to make him uncomfortable, bump him off screens, and try to get him to put it on the floor.’’

Bone said he’ll be on the floor chasing loose balls or raising his voice when needed.

“I’m normally a quiet person who doesn’t say much, but losing isn’t what I came here for,’’ said Bone, who transferred from Southern Illinois two seasons ago. “Losing isn’t in my blood.’’

Williams flu?: UT senior center Brian Williams sat out part of practice with what Pearl said were flu-like symptoms, but he is expected to start tonight.

Williams had eight points and 12 rebounds in the teams’ earlier meeting this season, as the Vols rallied from a 17-point deficit for a 67-64 win.

OUTLIVE: UT announced it has raised $70,000 this year for its cancer research/screening initiative for the UT Medical Center Cancer Institute. That boosts the total raised since the program’s inception during the 2008-09 season to more than $330,000.

Orange Slices: Vandy leads the SEC in free-throw attempts (301) and free-throw shooting percentage (77.1). The Vols rank last in the SEC in free throw attempts (198) and are 10th in free-throw shooting percentage (65.2). ... The only game in which Vandy had more than 15 turnovers this season was its loss in Knoxville (21). ... UT is No. 33 in the most recent RPI rankings with a strength of schedule ranked No.2. Vanderbilt is No. 17 in the RPI rankings. ... Pearl is 30-6 against in-state opponents at UT.

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Comments » 28

toldyouthatspsuckedfor3years writes:

I am glad that you put your son in the game and he had a turnover and then gave up a lay up in the post and you quickly ran Tobias back to the scores table. Scotty is having the game of his life and you take him out with 3 minutes left and Georgia goes up by 7 points. The only shot we have is playing Scotty and Tobias 40 minutes a game and not playing your son. Then we might make a run.

TNVol71 writes:

It would be great to see this Vol team come together to make a run these last few games. If they fail to do that, we will definitely be looking at the NIT. Let's put the fire and togetherness on the court that showed in those first 7 games. The Vol Nation is pulling for you. GBO!!

tnvol4ever writes:

"Play better" Your a genius Gump!
Anybody think we got a snowballs chance here?
Just can't seem to muster up anything positive about this game. Oh well GBO-Shock the world.

VOLDoll writes:

Resign coach and I guarantee you these kids will play better. You are killing these kids career.

paradisetaxi writes:

some more smoke and mirrors

MidTennVol writes:

You people shame me. Hard to believe we wear the same colors. BP is the best thing to happen to Tennessee BB since Ray Mears. I too have been orange-blooded for close to 50 years. And I remember all those many, many seasons where it was considered an absolute miracle to simply win 20 games.

Yeah, coach screwed up big time. He lied about a BBQ. Was that cheating? Maybe not but it was stupid and wrong nonetheless -- as coach says. A stupid error in judgment.

He played loose with the rules, disrespected them and betrayed the integrity of the school colors. No excuse. He did wrong, he has confessed it ad nauseam, and he's being punished before our eyes.

He was given a second chance by the school, by the SEC, a second chance that will most likely be validated and confirmed by the NCAA.

A stone-cold outrage, huh? Didn't deserve a second chance for lying about a BBQ you say?

I would ask you people excoriating Pearl for playing his son -- how many practices have you watched? Do you spend time with the team in the weight room? If BP feels SP helps the team, that's his decision as coach. Get over it. I trust him...

...which means I also trust him to make mistakes from time to time, either in judgement or as a basketball coach. And that means I trust him to learn from his mistakes -- on the court and off the court.

Obviously, something is wrong with this team this season. We have far too much talent to be playing like we are. I am certain nobody is losing more sleep over that than Bruce Pearl and his staff.

Maybe it's the chemistry, maybe it's the rotation, maybe it's over-engineering, e.g. too many called plays for a single player rather than just letting the boys play to get somebody (anybody) open and then get the ball to him.

Guys sometimes seem afraid to shoot and afraid to miss when they do shoot. Maybe they just need to be cut loose and told to play...

Maybe we won't make the show. Maybe we'll have to set our sights on winning the NIT (again). Whatever happens, I am one hundred percent confident that this team and these coaches will learn from it. And it will make us better.

Down_The_Field writes:

"You just have to listen and look for Coach when he calls the plays,"

i thought we quit listening to the coach in december.

kazoo writes:

in response to VOLDoll:

Resign coach and I guarantee you these kids will play better. You are killing these kids career.

I guess you missed the 20 years when UT's basketball program was a joke--the 20 years leading up to the arrival of Pearl, who has been the best coach this university has ever had and nearly got us to the final four last year, something UT has never done. But, yea, let's push Pearl out and then return to the crappiness that defined UT basketball for decades. That would be smart!

voiceofreason writes:

If you understand anything about basketball, you would realize that Steven Pearl plays because he hustles, gets steals, is the only person on the team that knows how to block out to get a rebound and last but not least he's not afraid to play physical defense. Harris has great offensive skills, but is a very poor defender. The guy for Georgia that he attempted to guard Saturday had a carreer day and that's why Tennessee lost the game.

Rocky_Top_Mama writes:

I am so sick of hearing people say SP is the reason this team is losing. The reason this team is losing is because you have two, sometimes three, sometimes four, starters who don't even show up to play.

This team will continue to lose as long as Melvin Goins, Cameron Tatum and Brian Williams or John Fields decides not to step up and play to their potential.

GreeneVol writes:

Play loose, Play hard, & Have fun! Oh yeah...don't get too upset with the refs & Memorial Magic - it's just part of the deal!

It will be interesting to see how effective Tinsley and Walker will be for them with their injury ankles - reminds me of our stretch with Scotty & Tobias.

And heck yeah, I'd love to hear Bone get vocal tonight. Set the tone, Brother.

Man, if we could somehow rise up and beat Vandy tonight, and then pack the house against Kentucky the final game of the season with a possible Big Dance ticket on the line - Big Orange Fans can at least hope for that, right? Right??

Jesus1Family2Career3Vols4 writes:

in response to Makeing_The_Call:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Anyone can turn negative. I still believe this team can beat Vandy tonight. We are not playing to our potential. Hard to believe this team has beaten several teams that will be Dancing in March: Pitt, Villanova, Belmont, Missouri State and Vandy. We just need all the team to play up to their potential. Scotty, Brian, Melvin, Tobias, plus guys that come in from the bench have got to step up. We can win all 4 of these games and play ourselves right back into the Big Dance.

I have to go now. I need to fill up my Ball Mason jar with more Big Orange Koolaide and eat a Moon Pie baked by the Chattanooga Baking Co.

How 'bout them Vols?

OwensboroVol writes:

This really is a pity. This team, possibly, has the best talent since Chris Lofton's Senior season. That team and this team have under performed for varying reasons but the real shame, and I firmly believe this, is that both teams could have and should have reached the final four. Chris Lofton's cancer robbed him and ultimately us of the greatest year of basketball by a Tennessee player ever. I've been around Tennessee sports a long time and Chris was the best to ever wear that orange Basketball Jersey. As far as I am concerned there was no one even close to Chris. This Years team, while not having a single player developed to Chris Lofton's ability, showed glimpses of what it could be back in December. A typical team will be substantially better in March than they were in November. Not this team. I don't know who bears the responsibility, Bruce Pearl, The NCAA, Mike Slive, or Mike Hamilton, but I guess we are now getting the answer to the question we all were asking last fall. How will Bruce Pearls NCAA problems affect the team? I guess now we know, it destroyed the team.

samvol writes:

in response to MidTennVol:

You people shame me. Hard to believe we wear the same colors. BP is the best thing to happen to Tennessee BB since Ray Mears. I too have been orange-blooded for close to 50 years. And I remember all those many, many seasons where it was considered an absolute miracle to simply win 20 games.

Yeah, coach screwed up big time. He lied about a BBQ. Was that cheating? Maybe not but it was stupid and wrong nonetheless -- as coach says. A stupid error in judgment.

He played loose with the rules, disrespected them and betrayed the integrity of the school colors. No excuse. He did wrong, he has confessed it ad nauseam, and he's being punished before our eyes.

He was given a second chance by the school, by the SEC, a second chance that will most likely be validated and confirmed by the NCAA.

A stone-cold outrage, huh? Didn't deserve a second chance for lying about a BBQ you say?

I would ask you people excoriating Pearl for playing his son -- how many practices have you watched? Do you spend time with the team in the weight room? If BP feels SP helps the team, that's his decision as coach. Get over it. I trust him...

...which means I also trust him to make mistakes from time to time, either in judgement or as a basketball coach. And that means I trust him to learn from his mistakes -- on the court and off the court.

Obviously, something is wrong with this team this season. We have far too much talent to be playing like we are. I am certain nobody is losing more sleep over that than Bruce Pearl and his staff.

Maybe it's the chemistry, maybe it's the rotation, maybe it's over-engineering, e.g. too many called plays for a single player rather than just letting the boys play to get somebody (anybody) open and then get the ball to him.

Guys sometimes seem afraid to shoot and afraid to miss when they do shoot. Maybe they just need to be cut loose and told to play...

Maybe we won't make the show. Maybe we'll have to set our sights on winning the NIT (again). Whatever happens, I am one hundred percent confident that this team and these coaches will learn from it. And it will make us better.

"maybe" its the coach

Volunteer_In_Husker_Country writes:

Perhaps Brucie should stop taking our All-Americans out of the game for his stinking loser son. Steven Pearl couldn't make the Jefferson County High School basketball team. He has no business playing D1 basketball, and BP is becoming a freaking joke. I have been a strong, strong, strong BP supporter over the years, but enough is enough. He has ruined our basketball program over the last 12 months. I realize he helped get us to the pinnacle we were at last year, but I think he has become a loose cannon, and I question his sanity when he takes Tobias Harris out of the game to put Steven in. Are you nuts?!?! Or, do you realize your career as a Volunteer is over, and you dont give a hoot if we make the tourney or not, and with all that on your plate, why not give your stinking loser son a chance to play on TV against some of the best teams in the nation?

give_him_6 writes:

in response to Makeing_The_Call:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Ah, well if you are as old as you say you are then you will remember the last 20 or so years of UT basketball and whether YOU like it or not, Pearl is the best coach we have had. Short of Ray MEars, he is the ALL-TIME best. So either get behind him or get out!!!

Volunteer_In_Husker_Country writes:

Why isn't Steven Pearl listed as a "manager?" He should be washing towels and mopping floors, not playing against Georgia.

SaintDeacon187 writes:

Mark it a loss, Smokey.

ReverendOrange writes:

We're gonna go back and look at the film and work like heck to fix the problems.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Volunteer_In_Husker_Country:

Why isn't Steven Pearl listed as a "manager?" He should be washing towels and mopping floors, not playing against Georgia.

In the Georgia game, the guy Tobias Harris was guarding, Trevor Price, had a career game. At least SP had enough pride and moxie to foul him a few times instead of just watching him dunk like Harris did. Even some of those fouls were bad calls, since replays showed SP had all ball. Harris will be a great player one day, and he is pretty darned good right now, but he can be had on defense. Maybe SP can be had, too, but you usually have to score OVER him, not because he wasn't anywhere around.

jandjhome#228397 writes:

I know this is old and corny but it
fits "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear"

tulelakevol writes:

I am tired of people having "career" games against us.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

ANYONE giving SPEARL a hard time for his last name is an idiot...(no joking here). I really am sick of lamblasting a kid because you don't like his dad? Are you people 5th graders? It's ok to criticize his game and he expects that. You people are taking things too personal and blaming a college Sr. for the teams bad times.
IDIOTS! btw BRADSHAW was one of the UT greats! Serious again...I don't mean great talents but we've had many talents that didn't contribute as much...threw that in for the IDIOTS!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to Makeing_The_Call:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Funny...I seem to remember a certain coach saying the same. You can bet that BPEARL knows he should not have lied. I'd even bet he never lies to the NCAA again. Good reason maybe to keep him as some people do learn from their mistakes. If not I think we can always find a good coach...maybe not as good maybe better...It'd be a toss up...a gamble any direction we take.

holleyab writes:

Wes Rucker said on twitter i believe that 4 out of the 5 players on UT's scout team were 4* athletes in highschool. Can anybody verify that?

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to voladmiral:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

i got a gishizzle out of that one.

GreerVol22 writes:

theory.......Pearl is throwing the season in a secret deal with the NCAA to avoid probation.

If the Mythbuster guys got hold of this it would definitely be "plausible". Stranger things have happened.

murrayvol writes:

in response to CatScratchFever:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yeah, me too.

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