Vols look for better play at home

UT more efficient on road

Here's what coach Bruce Pearl needs to do Saturday to ensure that Tennessee beats Mississippi State at Thompson-Boling Arena:

Load the Vols on a bus and drive them around for about three hours prior to tipoff.

For whatever reasons, Tennessee has played better on the road this year than at home.

The big non-conference wins against Villanova and Pittsburgh came away from Knoxville. In SEC play, the Vols are 4-3 on the road, only 3-3 at home.

"I talked to the team about that today,'' Pearl said Thursday.

"I think it's focus. I think it's the discipline to understand it's us-against-them. We play better as a team.''

Noted senior Josh Bone, "We're very aware of it, and hopefully we can overcome it.''

The Vols (17-11, 7-6 SEC) are fresh off a huge road win at No. 18 Vanderbilt and need to sustain their momentum against the Bulldogs (14-13, 6-7) in a 6 p.m. tipoff Saturday (TV: ESPN).

Short of moving the game to Starkville - where UT won 75-59 last year on Mississippi State's Senior Day - the Vols have to translate their focus to a friendly environment.

"We have a sense of urgency on the road,'' said junior Scotty Hopson. "Sometimes we get nonchalant at home.

"It's always good to get road wins, they're sweet. But we've got to bring it home. This is where it counts, representing Tennessee basketball at home.''

Statistics support that UT is more efficient on the road in SEC play.

In conference games, the Vols shoot 43.4 percent on the road, only 41.3 at home.

From 3-point range, UT hits 32.2 percent on the road, 29.2 at home.

At the free-throw stripe, the Vols shoot 66.3 percent away, 64.3 at home.

Of the three SEC road losses, Kentucky was the only one the Vols didn't have a chance to win or tie on the last possession.

The numbers haven't escaped Pearl.

"Cameron Tatum is the only guy on the team that plays consistently better at home,'' Pearl said.

Hopson joked that it's Brian Williams' fault the Vols are better on the road. But it's really no joke.

In SEC road games, Williams averages 10 points and shoots 70.5 percent. At home, he averages 5.7 points and shoots 36.1 percent.

"It's just something about that orange jersey that I love,'' Williams said. "Ever since I've been here I've always played better on the road. I like it being my team against the world.

"And,'' he added with a laugh, "I like people talking bad to me. As much as people talk bad about me here I can't hear 'em and I can hear 'em on the road.''

No Distractions: Athletic director Mike Hamilton dropped by practice Thursday but neither he nor Pearl would address the NCAA investigation.

"It's no distraction,'' said Bone. "It's been going on all through the season so we're over it.''

Added Hopson, "There's so much going on on the basketball court it's hard to think about what's going on off the basketball court.''

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

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Comments » 7

BleedN_OrangE writes:

I think Brian Wialliams just about summed it up..this team thrives off of Negativism (ha!..if thats even a word) and adversity...they play 100 times better when people are doggin e'm...but there comes a time when you have to realize.."hey..there is a reason 20 somethin thousand people come to this arena to support us"...its almost march boys...time to "Man" up and play sum ball..or season will be over early..and then u can sit at home and wonder why u didn't play like u could have and should have when u were suppose too....GBO!!!.

tnvol4ever writes:

Finish up regular season 3-0 and looking at the 2 seed in the SEC tourney.
(20-11 & 10-6) Not bad with all we lost last year. BP for SEC coach of the year. GBO!!!

Mule_Days_King writes:

in response to wlvol12:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I can't decide whether you or Pearl Must Go is the #1 whiner now.
Just do us a favor and take the "vol" out of your screen name. Criticism is warranted for Pearl's actions. You and PMG take it a step further into the personal zone.

FlagwriterVol writes:

in response to Mule_Days_King:

I can't decide whether you or Pearl Must Go is the #1 whiner now.
Just do us a favor and take the "vol" out of your screen name. Criticism is warranted for Pearl's actions. You and PMG take it a step further into the personal zone.

Well put!

jship writes:

Wear the Orange jerseys at home... problem solved.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Mama_Calls_Me_Precious:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I'm not that crazy about your tone, but it is true that those coach-of-the-year awards and such are popularity contests as much as objective awards. At times it has looked as though the refs are out to punish CBP, too. Steve Pearl had at least two "phantom" fouls called against him in the Vandy game that wouldn't have been called against "John Doe", IMHO.

GreeneVol writes:

So everyone in T-B Saturday, harrass our guys, applaud the visitors and maybe they'll step up. After all Vols, we're here to do what we can for you..or maybe I should say we don't want to do anything for you and you should get lost.?.?...lol...It's a strange dynamic for sure.

Seriously, the team doctor might consider prescribing this to a few of our guys: adderall. It's for ADHD & focus-problem folks. I have a good friend that takes it and works wonders for him. I'd like to know how many student-athletes are on the stuff. I know a couple years back, lots of college students were taking it legally and illegally to help with focus on tests, projects, etc. It might just be the ticket...but who am I, they've probably already taken that into consideration.

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