‘Effort on defense' killing UT

Problems abound as Memphis, SEC loom

There aren’t any quick or easy fixes for the Tennessee men’s basketball team.

Instead, it will come down to the same type of hard work and focus that led to the Vols’ 7-0 start and the No. 7 ranking in the country.

UT coach Bruce Pearl said Sunday he’ll cut the rotation to 10 after playing 11 or 12 players the past few games.

“I’m not going to give any definitive answers of what we’re going to do or how we’re going to do it before Wednesday’s game,’’ Pearl said.

The Vols (9-4) host Memphis (11-2) at 9 p.m. Wednesday (TV: ESPN2) at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Tigers beat Tennessee State, 91-86, on Sunday.

Tennessee opens SEC play Saturday at Arkansas.

Pearl met with his coaching staff Saturday to discuss the deficiencies that have led to UT losing four of its past six games, including Friday’s 91-78 home loss at the hands of the College of Charleston.

The conclusion?

“It’s effort on defense,’’ said Vols assistant Steve Forbes, who specializes in coaching defense. “We’re playing the man after he catches the ball instead of before he catches it.’’

Pearl said that has been uncharacteristic of his Tennessee teams.

“We’ve always played harder than our opponents, especially when we were a pressing, trapping team,’’ he said. “But lately we haven’t been playing hard enough in the half court on defense.

“Because of that, we’re not getting out in transition and scoring.’’

The Vols had only one fast-break basket in Friday’s loss to the Cougars.

Pearl said UT’s half-court offensive woes have as much to do with how teams are defending the Vols as anything.

“Teams have seen the film,’’ Pearl said. “They aren’t defending us like Pitt and Villanova did.’’

It’s likely that until UT proves it can make open 3-point shots, defenses will continue to sag in man to man or play zone.

The Vols rank last in the SEC in 3-point shooting percentage (.303) and 10th in 3-pointers made (4.8).

As for the personnel decisions, two of the fringe players said they’re willing to do whatever it takes for the good of the team.

“I like the system we play, and I’m here because this is where I want to be,’’ said 6-foot-7, 258-pound sophomore transfer Jeronne Maymon. “Whatever is best for the team, I’ll buy into that.

“I know I could be a lot better right now — I’m better than what I’ve shown,’’ he said. “We just need to come together as a team, and the sky is the limit.’’

Vols’ backup shooting guard Skylar McBee said he’s ready to accept whatever role he’s dealt.

“I’ve always been a firm believer that the coach I play for is going to make the best decisions for us to win,’’ McBee said. “Whether that means cutting the rotation, playing 13 guys or five guys, even if it means I could lose playing time.

It’s not about any individual, it’s about the team and winning games.’’

Parting Shot: Pearl pushed the Vols through a three-hour contact practice on Sunday.

“It was very tough, but you could see we’re getting back to those physical and fierce practices we used to have,’’ junior Scotty Hopson said. “You could see it from position one through five that we were all here to get better, and with the time we have to get ready for Memphis, this was much needed.

“Positive energy, positive practices, and the physicality was a must,’’ Hopson said. “That’s one area we’re been losing games. We’re Tennessee, and we need to be the aggressors in the games.’’

Pearl was pleased with the Sunday marathon as well.

“This was more fun,’’ Pearl told his players. “This was more intense, and we made progress today.’’

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Comments » 49

BigVolinCarolina writes:

The need to play defense is obvious. Not sure I'd agree with Pearl's statement that "we've always played harder than our opponent" because I've seen us get outhustled numerous games while he's been here.

UT's problem is that we have always been extremely reliant on making perimeter shots (primarily the 3-pointer) under Pearl. When you can't make those shots, teams pack in the defense which makes it harder to score.

We've never truly had a legit "big man" under Pearl and even the ones we have had (Chism, Tyler Smith, etc...) are guys who liked to shoot the 3-pointer. Until we get a true, inside presence on a regular basis, we'll see some very rough patches--it's happened each year, it's just that this year it's happening against mid-major programs.

In the meantime, hang in there Vols and fans. We can get through this. May take some significant changes, though.

blewissmith writes:

Used to be fun to watch them win or lose...now it is a chore since the effort just doesn't seem to be there!!

newportvol writes:

Did anyone see that College of charleston who spanked up friday lost by 20 to morehead st today 49-69

BigVolinCarolina writes:

in response to newportvol:

Did anyone see that College of charleston who spanked up friday lost by 20 to morehead st today 49-69

Wow, that loss to them stings even more now.....Ouch!

govolsrpa writes:

Guard Play, we lack it bad. But I thank Bruce has fixed it for the future. Chris Jones and Kevin Ware our both dynamite play makers. Galatians 2;20

Volfan1 writes:

With apologies to Simon & Garfunkel:

"Where have you gone Chris Lofton?
Our Vol Nation turns its' lonely eyes to you.
Woo, woo, woo.
What's that you say, Mrs. Pat Summit?
The three point shot has left and gone away.
Hey, hey, hey. Hey, hey, hey."

Ironcity writes:

It starts with the leaders. I think they believe they are playing with effort but if they looked at the film, they would see how easy we are to play right now.

Good luck coach. I think you have some tough decisions.

born2ride writes:

Look for the team to improve when Pearl starts serving his suspension.

VOLtage writes:

Remember the bombs dropped in by Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith and how exciting those times were. That's my comment. Carry on.

SunshineVol writes:

As an UT fan for 50 years who does bleed orange, I’m remain behind the round-ballers and coaching staff 100%… even if they have made five average teams look like high NCAA tournament seeds of late.

VOLKING writes:

As much as I love Chris Lofton and all the 3 point shots, I don't ever remember him playing in an Elite 8 game for us. We didn't have a three point shooter last year either. Chill guys, we will be alright. I loved Lofton because he could lead, not because he made lots of 3 pointers. Hopson doesn't seem to be able to put this team on his back yet. Maybe Harris needs to forget he's a freshman and grab the reins.

eduardo writes:

The same freakin team that smoked us COC lost to Morehead St by 20!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What is going on with us???????????????

tennrich1 writes:

Now is the time for men to rise up and act like men...stop the whining already....buckle down...play hard nose defense and hustle like S. Pearl and S. McBee....and we can make it until we get help at the one spot next year...by the way.. we do have a couple of freshman who are suppose to be able to hit the three...Just hold on...We have several storms to pass thru before this is over....

richvol writes:

McBee is a defensive liability and neither he nor Pearl can score and that's just unacceptable.

If Pearl's obscure comments about the lineup are code for giving his son more playing time then he is loosing fan support rapidly.

fundamentals83 writes:

Pearl / Woolridge / McBee
shouldn't see anymore playing time.
Questionable is Golden and McRae.

mcdevitt#229126 writes:

Until we have a couple of guards who can stop the ball and keep the opposing team from driving the lane, collasping our defense, and then kicking out for the three; we are going to have a long couple of years. I would rather us get beat up the court pressing all game that the stuff happening now. Its not even enjoyable to watch us play. I feel like Buzz Peterson is back. We are even on the same court as Auburn and LSU who are the worst in the west. Its going to be a long SEC season. Hopefully, we can get to 8-8 in the league but I beleive this is even highly doubtful. This about the ugliest basketball I have seen played in the orange for a long while. Even Wade Houston was better.

auttat writes:

Empty words...

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

We're not the only one w/ problems. Mempizz barely eeked one out against Tenn St.

arkyvol writes:

wouldn't the byline better read, 'lack of effort on defense killing u.t.?'

Vols2022 writes:

Bruce, give us a break and quit playing your Son he is terrible when on offense the other team doesnt even cover him. If he could play wouldnt someone have offered him a scholarship?

JayTee writes:

Defense is great but Coach you haven't recruited a good perimter shooter in the five years you've been here. Your helter skelter offense is okay but when you get forced into a half court game the players look clueless. Most of the times you have lost those games even to teams with a lot less talent.

wigmeister writes:

There is no effort. They are not a good offensive team, and an even worse defensive team. It is amazing they have won as many games as they have. They need to get their heads OOTA and play with some emotion. All of them, all of the time. If they can't, maybe they ought to transfer to a division 3 program.

rbut5252#220065 writes:

It's unusual that Tennessee plays Tigerhigh this week, and the only people who care are fans of the 2 teams.

stevefrommemphis writes:

Mike Hamilton has cancelled the trip to Connecticut in three weeks because he fears that we won't be able to compete against the Huskies. Hamilton is bringing in Buffalo as a replacement.

carbonzip writes:

Passing around the perimeter until the shot clock winds down and then driving the lane against zones and sagging m to m defense isn't going to get the job done. Especially when a big post player is under the basket along with the man gaurding him.

kazoo writes:

This team HAS to defend well or it will lose regularly--as it has been--because the Vols are not a good shooting team. When you don't shoot well, you have problems--and that is doubly true because UT doesn't have much inside scoring either. Goins can play--but he needs more help on the perimeter.

kazoo writes:

Really, while the defense has been slack lately, the offense has been a major problem too. You can play Steven Pearl for his defense--but he just contributes mightily to UT's offensive woes. When you have one or two guys who are NO threat to score, the other team will not cover them and you are left playing three or four against five when you have the ball. That's trouble.

callforlogic2 writes:

In his post-game show after the COC game, Bruce clearly said that the guys who play defense would get playing time; the guys who don't play defense, won't play. Clearly, Hopson is one of our worst defenders. So, according to Bruce, Hopson will not see as much playing time. Hopson also consistently goes one on two (or three) instead of passing to the open man. He consistently is high on turnovers, even in the games that he decides to play on offense. Unless Hopson changes his game, this team is better off without him on the court.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to kazoo:

Really, while the defense has been slack lately, the offense has been a major problem too. You can play Steven Pearl for his defense--but he just contributes mightily to UT's offensive woes. When you have one or two guys who are NO threat to score, the other team will not cover them and you are left playing three or four against five when you have the ball. That's trouble.

This is a major misconception that many people seem to have. MOST teams rely on two or maybe three guys to do most of the scoring; the others play because they rebound, play defense, set screens, and keep the ball moving. Whatever they contribute to the scoring is gravy. If one of their big scorers is being defended well or just having a bad night, they have trouble scoring.

I think the team's offensive and defensive woes are both related to the extensive churning of the lineup. Knowing the proper defensive rotations is just as important as running good offensive plays, and both are hindered by having groups who are not used to playing with each other in a variety of game situations. IMHO, with the assortment of talents this team has, it almost doesn't matter WHO the rotation ultimately consists of as much as it does that there IS a rotation of guys who know their roles and are willing to play TOGETHER. When--if!--CBP shortens the rotation, team play WILL improve, and it seems he is ready to do that now.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to fundamentals83:

Pearl / Woolridge / McBee
shouldn't see anymore playing time.
Questionable is Golden and McRae.

Coincidentally the first initials of those three are SOS. Coincidentally.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to johnlg00:

This is a major misconception that many people seem to have. MOST teams rely on two or maybe three guys to do most of the scoring; the others play because they rebound, play defense, set screens, and keep the ball moving. Whatever they contribute to the scoring is gravy. If one of their big scorers is being defended well or just having a bad night, they have trouble scoring.

I think the team's offensive and defensive woes are both related to the extensive churning of the lineup. Knowing the proper defensive rotations is just as important as running good offensive plays, and both are hindered by having groups who are not used to playing with each other in a variety of game situations. IMHO, with the assortment of talents this team has, it almost doesn't matter WHO the rotation ultimately consists of as much as it does that there IS a rotation of guys who know their roles and are willing to play TOGETHER. When--if!--CBP shortens the rotation, team play WILL improve, and it seems he is ready to do that now.

John, what I noticed in the CoC game was on several ball screens by CoC both UT defenders going with the ball rather than switching, letting the screener go free. I believe this is a result of the experience/communication shortfalls with so many new players. Cutting the rotation will help but it will take awhile for the effect to show. I fear for the month of January.

Volunatic writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Coincidentally the first initials of those three are SOS. Coincidentally.

Renaldo's first name starts with "O"?

martinvol34 writes:

in response to eduardo:

The same freakin team that smoked us COC lost to Morehead St by 20!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What is going on with us???????????????

Nothing that can't be fixed. When we play teams with short quick guards, it's a mismatch on our taller, slower guards. Morehead State shut down Monroe and the other smaller guard who scored 59 of CoC points against us.

Not a coach, but it seems to me that the team would be better to put Golden, Goins and Bone on the floor more often to match up with those type guards. I also think that the team is better with Golden, Tobias and McRae on the floor. Scotty is so talented to be so passive that it's painful.

Volumnus writes:

Defensive effort? You mean there WAS a defensive effort???? I found the total lack of effort to be offensive....

sheep writes:

Seems that some people here forgot that Mcbee did not play in the COC game, and the defense was shaky. He did however play in the other games, and he provided solid defense(I did not say expert). He gives effort, and he can score and has scored. Forget not that he had 4 points in the last game he played in before he had the flu. That total was the higest off the bench(he only got 3 shots), he also had a steal and a rebound in 11 minutes. Get off the boy until you read the box scores, and know your information.

sleeveofwizard writes:

I think the chemistry comes from the top. Pearl obviously doesn't have his head in it because of the off court issues. Maybe he knows he toast. Maybe the players sense it too. You better hope it's something like that because if it's not, it might mean Pearl has been exposed for his poor bench coaching skills. You mean to tell me that all us yokels can see that playing 12 players is a problem before he does? That scares the shat outta me.

JDL211 writes:

A lot of you are busy beating up on the poor guy who misspelled liar (with none of you admitting that you know exactly what he meant), so you probably haven't had time to this kind of research. The 5 teams that UT has lost to (so far, the season is still young) are a combined 41-28. 3 of those teams are hovering right around .500. I'm sure it's a little disheartening to see College of Charleston dominated by Morehead State, which lost to Tennesse State earlier in the year. Better hope they beat Tennessee Tech later this week or it will be hard for UT to make a case as best in state. You're welcome.

VOLDoll writes:

in response to Plasticman:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

My goodness, I cannot imagine ever being so enamored by a single person, especially if he is not directly effecting my life. My man you need to step back and realize that CBP has no clue who in the hell U R.

Bruce Pearl recruited these kids, he coaches these kids and he is the one that makes damn good money to make these kids play better. If certain pieces are not in place then it is CBP who is to blame.
This is not, repeat his first year in Knoxville. The pieces should be in place to make this team competitive.
Why is it that you feel it necessary to kiss his azz so much?
He makes a boat load of money to represent the University in a leadership role and for the last few years he and his players have failed to do just that.

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

We have seen that the potential for an outstanding season and/or run in the tourney is possible. This team can be as good as last yr. Rather than coaching being the primary problem, I tend to blame the play of Brian and Goins as the biggest problem.

I think Tobias has picked up where JP was last yr. Melvin is nowhere as good as Maze, and Brian is nothing close to Chism. That appears to be the problem in contrasting last yr. to this yr. JMO

MusicCityVol writes:

UT/Memphis come in limping. Still a great rivalry.

http://checkerboardchatter.blogspot.c...

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Coincidentally the first initials of those three are SOS. Coincidentally.

..except that Wooridge's first name begins with an 'R'

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

in response to Volunatic:

Renaldo's first name starts with "O"?

Yep...O'Renaldo...he's Irish.

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

in response to TIGERDAN:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You act like those 2 losses are the only ones that Tiger High will have, which is not the case.

beetlebomb7 writes:

HEADLINES::::::::::::
Lady Vols shoot 17 of 19 from 3 point line. Ladies grab 33-12 rebounding edge to blister the mens' team by a 109-41 margin. Simmoms leads ladies with 58 points, 9 rebounds and >>>>>>>>>>> 11 steals. All this in a practice game last night. The coaches wanted to get a grip on the team woes. It didn't work. Ladies to get hair cuts and will replace the guys. Two UT vols seen leaving the building with kleenex and sobbing. Now some of you will believe that. It sounds about as intelligent as some of the posts we read on G-V-E.

JDL211 writes:

in response to Plasticman:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I wouldn't rely too heavily on the "Memphis vacated" part of your argument. Theoretically speaking, a vacated Championship game would trump a vacated Elite 8 yes? No problem with the rest of the statement.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to Volunatic:

Renaldo's first name starts with "O"?

Brain fart. Can't stop calling him Orlando.

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Brain fart. Can't stop calling him Orlando.

Sorry, I hope I didn't come off as condescending on correcting you. I can be a real smartazz sometimes, but it's all in fun.

UTByrd writes:

I've noticed in their wins that the team (on offense) was constantly on the move, weaving in and out of the opponents defense. In their losses, it seemed they were standing around waiting for someone to take control.
I believe there is some personality problems in the locker room. I hearken back to Tyler Smith and how the team looked to him to take over a game. Hopson is not the man for the job. I believe the problem lies in the fact that the freshmen don't want to overstep their status as underclassmen.
Ya'll are going to laugh at me but I think the offense should go through Cam Tatum. He has not been allowed to be the player he can be.

ps I thought running 12 man rotations would allow UT to press he other team's offense without wearing down.

Go VOLS!!!!!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to VOLDoll:

My goodness, I cannot imagine ever being so enamored by a single person, especially if he is not directly effecting my life. My man you need to step back and realize that CBP has no clue who in the hell U R.

Bruce Pearl recruited these kids, he coaches these kids and he is the one that makes damn good money to make these kids play better. If certain pieces are not in place then it is CBP who is to blame.
This is not, repeat his first year in Knoxville. The pieces should be in place to make this team competitive.
Why is it that you feel it necessary to kiss his azz so much?
He makes a boat load of money to represent the University in a leadership role and for the last few years he and his players have failed to do just that.

Well, I cannot fathom being so BOTHERED by "a single person, especially if he is not directly [a]ffecting [your] life." The pieces ARE in place to make this team competitive, as Villanova and Pittsburgh discovered. It is not kissing azz to appreciate the positive things CBP has done here, but to constantly criticize and ignore those positives is just as biased and short-sighted as you accuse his fans of being.

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