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.
“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.’’