Vols have homework to do against Mississippi State

Tennessee guard Scotty Hopson celebrates in the final seconds of Tennessee's 60-51 upset win over Vanderbilt in Nashville. Hopson led Tennessee with 19 points.

Photo by Mark Humprey, Associated Press

Tennessee guard Scotty Hopson celebrates in the final seconds of Tennessee's 60-51 upset win over Vanderbilt in Nashville. Hopson led Tennessee with 19 points.

Mississippi State guard Jalen Steele

Photo by AP Photo / Eugene Tanner

Mississippi State guard Jalen Steele

Tennessee's Scotty Hopson raises his hand in celebration near the end of Tennessee's 60-51 win at Vanderbilt on Tuesday.

On paper, Tennessee is supposed to beat Mississippi State tonight in Thompson-Boling Arena.

On the men's basketball court, however, both teams have been hard to figure.

The Vols have more top-50 RPI wins (nine) than any program in the nation but have work left to do if they're to make the NCAA tournament for a school-record sixth consecutive season.

The Bulldogs handed Florida one of its two SEC losses (71-64) and led Kentucky by 11 in Rupp Arena before falling 85-79. And yet, Mississippi State has losses to LSU and Auburn.

The SEC's Jekyll and Hyde programs square off at 6 p.m. (TV: ESPN). Both teams have potential second-place finishes in their respective divisions - and first-round SEC tournament byes - within reach.

"It's not about beating the teams we're supposed to beat, it's about matchups, and some have been better for us than others,'' said UT coach Bruce Pearl, whose team is a 10 1/2-point favorite tonight.

"(Mississippi State) can put four guys on the floor that you could make an argument on any night could be as good at their position as anyone in the league.''

Tennessee (17-11, 7-6 SEC) is coming off one of its best wins of the season at Vanderbilt on Tuesday and looks to build momentum against Mississippi State (14-13, 6-7).

"We have to come in with our best game; we can't dictate how they are going to play,'' Vols senior Melvin Goins said. "We still have a lot to prove, and we want to show some consistency late in the season.''

UT also wants to prove it can play well at home.

The Vols have more home losses this season (six) than any of Pearl's previous five teams in Knoxville.

"We've got to find a way to play better at home, it's an issue,'' Pearl said. "We've had a lot of discussion about our routine. There are distractions, families at home, more ticket issues, don't run errands on Saturday.

"If we're at Mississippi State, we'd be at the hotel and going to practice and then off our feet,'' he said. "Here, we might get our hair cut, we might go to the mall. We don't lock them down or stay in the hotel the night before.''

As for the Bulldogs, Pearl has taken note they've played their best in high-profile games.

"Mississippi State has played its best basketball against the best teams in the conference,'' he said. "They beat Florida, they had Vanderbilt beat, they beat Arkansas, beat Ole Miss twice, played great at Kentucky.

"The other common denominator is how well they've played in national television games, on ESPN and CBS. Those kids have paid attention to those games.''

The Vols will be particularly attentive to the Bulldogs on the perimeter, as Mississippi State is tied for first in SEC games with 7.8 made 3-pointers per contest and ranks fourth in 3-point shooting percentage (37.1)

UT must also be mindful of 6-foot-10, 275-pound post Renardo Sidney, who's coming off 22- and 24-point performances in his past two games against Ole Miss and LSU.

"Sidney is starting to get in shape and starting to feel better about his presence in the low post,'' Pearl said. "He does a really good job scoring down there, and it's hard to double him because he'll be out there with (6-8 forward) Kodi Augustus and two shooters.''

One of those shooters is 6-7 wing Ravern Johnson, who has hit 11 of his past 15 shots beyond the 3-point arc and leads the Bulldogs with 17 points per game.

"This is a very talented team with a great big man,'' UT freshman Tobias Harris said. "But we're starting to figure out how to finish games and win down the stretch.''

Home Attendance: UT has finished fourth in the nation in attendance the past four seasons but needs a big crowd today to finish there this season.

UT is currently fifth with today's game and a March 6 date with Kentucky ahead. The Vols average 18,667 per home game, behind Kentucky (23,494), Syracuse (21,991), Louisville (21,736) and North Carolina (18,812).

Thompson-Boling's largest crowd this season was 21,198 for Vanderbilt.

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Comments » 49

wellswillie#404648 writes:

NOT IN OUR HOUSE!!! FANS DO YOUR PART - IF YOU CAN COME & BE LOUD!!! Let's come out in numbers and support our Vols to a great finish!! We can help them win when they're at home. Let's bring a huge crowd and show the Vols a flood of POSITIVE BIG ORANGE support! You can BE a factor!

BigVolinCarolina writes:

Our biggest homework "assignment" is to play defense! Rebounding and wise choices on offense will help, too.

Hope we don't come out and lay an egg. This team is so unpredictable that I find each game hard to watch because I never know which team is going to show up.

C'mon, Vols! Go Big Orange!!!!!

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

maybe they don't play well at home because of the other distractions (partying, drugs ?) There is some history there.

james#216392 writes:

Need this game badly. Go Vols

rab63 writes:

I know it probably doesn't matter, but why don't we ever get the opening tipoff. We did get it a couple of games ago but it was because the other team tipped it out of bounds. Alternate possessions have made the opening tipoff unimportant I guess, but I would like to see us get one once in a while anyway.

davidray31#232814 writes:

I will be there to show my support for Bruce and the coaching staff. Sadly but realisticly probably the last time I will get to see the man who brought Tennessee basketball back to prominance. I sincerely do hold out hope that he and Tony jones and the rest of the staff will be back.Go Vols!!!!

dwa7#337691 writes:

early predict:

Vols 72
Bull pups 65

lomas98 writes:

If our big men can hustle down the court and frustrate Sidney defensively he will not be a factor. He has a terrible attitude and is one of the laziest college basketball players I have seen. Miss st will shoot a lot of threes so hopefully our perimeter defense will be great just like Vandy. If the defense shows up that played against Charleston, they will make a lot of them.

orangecountyvols writes:

Vols,

Aside for the several trolls who showed up here ( as usual ) very good comments from the rest of you.

orangecountyvols writes:

Excuse me Vols, I am beginning to use grammer like the trolls to whom I just referred...........

Should be "aside FROM the several trolls"

Go Big Orange

1vavolfan writes:

in response to lomas98:

If our big men can hustle down the court and frustrate Sidney defensively he will not be a factor. He has a terrible attitude and is one of the laziest college basketball players I have seen. Miss st will shoot a lot of threes so hopefully our perimeter defense will be great just like Vandy. If the defense shows up that played against Charleston, they will make a lot of them.

Good points. I never understood why UT would double the post players and leave Charleston's guards with open looks. That is something that UT has done for most of Pearl's tenure at UT. Let Williams and Harris take Sidney and Augustus and live with the consequences. Just don't leave Bost and Johnson with easy looks or it will be Charleston all over.

VOLDoll writes:

Lets just hope and pray that Pearls lying and cheating ways are about to end soon here in Knoxville. He whines and cries as much as his MALE supporters. lol!

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Once again another game against a team who has similar talent as the best teams in the SEC..We killed them last year because their shooting guards couldn't make anything drop..I like the way we have greatly improved our defense against straight up 3 point shooters.Also our intensity on rebounding on both ends of the floor.Still no matter how great we play on defense if we can't make the easy lay ins; the guards are shooting bricks and we miss free throws we will lose..Our 20% shooting in the first 10 minutes vs GA is pretty much why we lost a very important game

jdcdjc writes:

in response to jhayes0926#638474:

maybe they don't play well at home because of the other distractions (partying, drugs ?) There is some history there.

Where did this cime from and if you don't have any proof just keep your trap shut. I can't stand negative people.

VOLDoll writes:

in response to jdcdjc:

Where did this cime from and if you don't have any proof just keep your trap shut. I can't stand negative people.

I take it you dont live in Knoxville?

VOLDoll writes:

in response to davidray31#232814:

I will be there to show my support for Bruce and the coaching staff. Sadly but realisticly probably the last time I will get to see the man who brought Tennessee basketball back to prominance. I sincerely do hold out hope that he and Tony jones and the rest of the staff will be back.Go Vols!!!!

Its easy to get things when you manipulate rules and do things that are illegal.
Maybe you want that reputation for this university but I know that I dont.
Bruce Pearl has brought nothing but disrespect and humiliation to this university.
Again, if he has to cheat to win then he didnt deserve to be here in the first place,.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to 1vavolfan:

Good points. I never understood why UT would double the post players and leave Charleston's guards with open looks. That is something that UT has done for most of Pearl's tenure at UT. Let Williams and Harris take Sidney and Augustus and live with the consequences. Just don't leave Bost and Johnson with easy looks or it will be Charleston all over.

Can't say for sure what was wrong with the game plan against Charleston, but for the most part the Vols have been very good at defending against the other team's best perimeter player. I doubt there will be any major emphasis on holding down the MSU inside game, since they are among the best in the conference from the outside. Besides, one of the best ways to hold the post players down is to pressure the guards so they can't penetrate or pass easily into the post. If the Vols just generally take of business the way they know they can, they should win comfortably at the end.

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

Everybody that wants Hamilton out - who was it that hired Dooley? Does Hamilton get credit for that?

UT is still on track for a 5 or 6 seed if they close out strong. Should be no problem with MSU or SC. If we can take care of Ky and get in the SEC finals, we could carry a 5 seed in the big dance.

TKO writes:

Jekyll and Hyde team concerns me tonight. Hopefully Pearl can ground and focus them.

volfaninbuckeyeland writes:

Interesting comment by TH:"...we're starting to figure out how to finish and win down the stretch." With the regular season winding down, I find it reassuring that this invaluable lesson is finally being recognized. However, I seem to recall that this team was indeed "schooling" other teams in this technique early in the season which prompted Jay Bilas to refer to their performance in the Pitt game as a "clinic." Seems to me, that original formula was tampered with, much like that of original Coke, and, consequently, met with the same disastrous results. Rather than throwing up a desperation 3 at the end which has little or no chance to go in, just drive to the basket, draw the foul, and make the FTs. Wonder which formula the Vols will use today? Hopefully, it will be settled before the final 15 seconds.

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to VOLDoll:

Lets just hope and pray that Pearls lying and cheating ways are about to end soon here in Knoxville. He whines and cries as much as his MALE supporters. lol!

If Pearl is eventually fired maybe it will keep the scum like Volskank off this site

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to jdcdjc:

Where did this cime from and if you don't have any proof just keep your trap shut. I can't stand negative people.

I have proof. I can't post an internet link. But I see Cam and BW blunted on the strip all the time. It's always the same two dudes. I'm not being negative, just being honest. So until you can prove me wrong, why don't you just shut your trap.

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

Thank you Rich.

murrayvol writes:

in response to VOLDoll:

Lets just hope and pray that Pearls lying and cheating ways are about to end soon here in Knoxville. He whines and cries as much as his MALE supporters. lol!

Those cooties acting up again?

murrayvol writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

Once again another game against a team who has similar talent as the best teams in the SEC..We killed them last year because their shooting guards couldn't make anything drop..I like the way we have greatly improved our defense against straight up 3 point shooters.Also our intensity on rebounding on both ends of the floor.Still no matter how great we play on defense if we can't make the easy lay ins; the guards are shooting bricks and we miss free throws we will lose..Our 20% shooting in the first 10 minutes vs GA is pretty much why we lost a very important game

Sometimes our best offense is a missed shot. Whatever works.

murrayvol writes:

in response to TheBlue:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

It won't happen against Kenturkey.

VOLDoll writes:

in response to VolFanInTheBoro:

If Pearl is eventually fired maybe it will keep the scum like Volskank off this site

What is your moms name on here?

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

On duty today = can't watch.. hope the home crowd pulls them through.. Let's play some crushing defense and score about 90 points, and we'll be fine.. LOL

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

BTW, the fact they beat UF and had a big lead on UK doesn't scare me. Our guys have gone toe to toe w/ the best all season long. Just gotta play smart basketball. Everything else will take care of itself.

PeeEllthree writes:

in response to Rich_Is_Re-born:

I have proof. I can't post an internet link. But I see Cam and BW blunted on the strip all the time. It's always the same two dudes. I'm not being negative, just being honest. So until you can prove me wrong, why don't you just shut your trap.

You see Cam and BW smoking blunts on the strip?

PeeEllthree writes:

Stay in Raverns jersey. Steele out hurts them. Bost-Sidney-Ravern-Augustus-talented. Their mental focus kills them. More high ball screen and less flex please.

SEC1 writes:

in response to PeeEllthree:

You see Cam and BW smoking blunts on the strip?

Well Well.... you can't spell b l "U" n "T" s without the U&T, as well as "U" n e "T" h ical without the U&T

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to SEC1:

Well Well.... you can't spell b l "U" n "T" s without the U&T, as well as "U" n e "T" h ical without the U&T

Vols,

Anyone know what this troll is trying to say?

Not that it matters, anything coming from a troll...........

PeeEllthree writes:

in response to SEC1:

Well Well.... you can't spell b l "U" n "T" s without the U&T, as well as "U" n e "T" h ical without the U&T

Pitiful attempt.

UTVOLSRROCKN writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

Vols,

Anyone know what this troll is trying to say?

Not that it matters, anything coming from a troll...........

OVC,

That troll is being his usual smartarese self and you're right, it doesn't matter anyway.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Here we go! GBO beat Bulldogs!

jimr07 writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

you have no idea to whom the job was offered. in fact, you do not know who he interviewed.
you are a sick person and need help.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Hmmm...I'm not sure what happened to that early lead and then they are up...now tied. Spotty defense? They had 11 fast break points? That's a lot.

orangecountyvols writes:

Vol friends,

For anyone watching right now, not trying to be hateful, but someone explain how we win home games.
We play a super game at Vandy and follow it up this way against MSU.

Brian Williams taking a jump shot? An 8 point lead, then we give up a 13 point run without taking a time out? Golden throwing bricks and Maymon fouling people standing on the sideline? Just a few things I know you saw. Hopefully we'll talk it over at halftime and play some defense similar to the Vandy game. Often it seems it should be against the rules for anyone other than Scotty and/or Tobias to take a 3. Give credit to MSU, they are scrapping, but we know the Vols are better than this.

AllforTenn writes:

During the game ESPN is reporting that Calipari has just earned his 500th career victory. Question: since both Massachusetts and Memphis were stripped of as many as maybe a full season's victories (I don't know the exact numbers), wasn't he also stripped of these "victories?"

UTVOLSRROCKN writes:

in response to AllforTenn:

During the game ESPN is reporting that Calipari has just earned his 500th career victory. Question: since both Massachusetts and Memphis were stripped of as many as maybe a full season's victories (I don't know the exact numbers), wasn't he also stripped of these "victories?"

Very good question, AllforTenn, I would think he would have been, but is sounds like he wasn't. Hope someone else can give us more insight. GBO!

jephsteph writes:

They flunked that assignment. Wait to go Pearly!

cazirkle#615142 writes:

As I sat here and watch our guys loose another close game since Pearls return, do we really need the coach. Tony Jones was doing a good job and had a winning record while he was a way and the guys were playing well for him. Does coach Pearl have too much on his plate to be effective. He does fill the Summitt but a lot of attention has been placed on our program. Tony was bringing in the fans as well as the wins. Tennessee has been pretty clean for so many years and now with mens basketball, baseball, and football, it just hard to believe the Mike Hamilton was not aware. I think that it is time for Mike to step down and move on. Under his watch, there has been much shame to Big Orange Country. After the NCAA finishes with the BB pogram, I think coach Pearl will leave and when he does, Hamilton should tender his resignation.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

We lost shooting the perimeter. Goins? Get rid of the ball!? Defense was worse than the offense. Very disappointing. I'm not sure I can watch any more till tourney time. Scotty and Harris against there 5 will never work! Where were the bigs tonight? Ahhhhghghgh! Pearl when they shoot those stupid 3s you just might have to sit 'em on the bench but at times it seems whoever's hot gets set down! I don't know I'm a little frustrated?

james#216392 writes:

Can you say "stupid coaching". You have a time out with 2:30 to go and down one and don't put Williams back in. Then you call a timeout 20 seconds later to get him in. Then with 3.4 seconds, you take your last timeout. Save that and call it as soon as Hopson gets the rebound. You can then throw it 1/3 to 1/2 of the floor and you can get to the basket in 3 seconds. Calling the last timeout forces you to get the rebound and run with it. Stupid- This is elementary coaching.

johnlg00 writes:

They lost this one in about a five-minute stretch early in the second half when they took about five three-pointers on consecutive possessions with 20 or more seconds on the shot clock and missed them all. I think MSU went on about a 10-12 point run during that period. Just STUPID offense during that stretch. I don't think Scotty touched the ball during that sequence. The Vols were basically playing from behind all the rest of the way, even though they did catch up.

BTW, I now believe that Scotty has elevated his own game to the point that he will undoubtedly turn pro after this season. Given the uncertainty in the program, that is even more reason to test the pro waters after this season. I just hope he has a few more really good games left in him this year.

Cam Tatum just needs to turn in his jersey. He isn't 25% of the player he was earlier in the season. For all the Steve Pearl haters, he wouldn't have to play half as much as he has if Tatum hadn't been such a disappointment. So sad.

Rocky_Top_Mama writes:

Again...Scotty Hopson and Tobias Harris were the only players that showed up tonight. Please Coach Pearl when all the team is doing is shooting 3's, please use them to warm the bench. I am so tired of watching this team, hold the ball and then shoot a 3 without attempting to go inside (or come running down the court and just let them fly). I'm over this team. Bubble team nothing, this team doesn't deserve to play in the NCAA tournament.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to james#216392:

Can you say "stupid coaching". You have a time out with 2:30 to go and down one and don't put Williams back in. Then you call a timeout 20 seconds later to get him in. Then with 3.4 seconds, you take your last timeout. Save that and call it as soon as Hopson gets the rebound. You can then throw it 1/3 to 1/2 of the floor and you can get to the basket in 3 seconds. Calling the last timeout forces you to get the rebound and run with it. Stupid- This is elementary coaching.

Pretty good analysis of the the final seconds. I saw a graphic during the telecast that said UT was 133-14(!) under CBP when they had a lead in the last five minutes. They must have lost about six of those this year. In every one of them, there was a stretch such as I described in my last post where they could have seized a lead or stretched one out, thus avoiding the necessity of having to try to win on the last possession. I blame the players for getting away from the offense that had kept them in the game up until then, but I blame the coaching for not stopping it earlier and INSISTING that they play decent offense. The defense has been good enough to win all season except for a few critical breakdowns. Those breakdowns wouldn't have BEEN so critical if they had taken care of business on the offensive end beforehand.

johnlg00 writes:

Reference the 133-14 stat I mentioned above: The Vols have set quite a few negative records this year. SEVEN HOME-COURT LOSSES for starters. Also, this is no doubt the lowest-scoring team CBP has had. It is clearly the worst three-point shooting team and probably the worst free-throw shooting team in the CBP era as well.

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