UT coach Bruce Pearl's take on Arkansas game
Pearl, who served the first game of his SEC-mandated eight-game league suspension against the Razorbacks, put his team back to work at Thompson-Boling Arena on Sunday.
The loss to Arkansas still was fresh on the minds of everyone in orange, with UT dropping to 10-5 overall and 0-1 in SEC play.
“It was harder because you felt pretty helpless during the game,’’ Pearl said, asked what emotions he felt on Saturday. “I took notes the whole game.’’
Pearl watched the game on TV with UT associate athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois and his wife, Brandy.
Pearl said watching the Vols battle from 13 down only to see freshman Tobias Harris miss a potential game-tying 3-point shot at the buzzer was difficult.
“I’m sure I treated it somewhat like a supporter ... nothing I could do,’’ he said. “It (watching the game with him) is not something (Brandy) is looking forward to doing again.’’
But it will happen again, seven more times including UT’s 9 p.m. Tuesday game against Florida (12-3, 1-0) in Thompson-Boling Arena.
The players said they are anxious to atone for the Arkansas loss and don’t want to let down Pearl again.
“I could tell by the way coach was walking when I first saw him after the game he was disappointed,’’ Vols junior Cameron Tatum said. “We let him down. That (Arkansas) was a game we should have won and sent a message that we were going to back up our coach.’’
Pearl met the team at the Fayetteville airport but didn’t address them until the plane had landed in Knoxville on Saturday night.
UT senior Brian Williams said Pearl wasn’t the only one the Vols let down.
“We let Coach (Tony) Jones down after he put a lot of work into the scout and getting us prepared,’’ Williams said, referring to the Vols’ associate head coach who has assumed Pearl’s game-day duties during the suspension. “We don’t want to let our coaches down or our fans down.’’
Pearl said he was pleased with the job Jones and his assistants did against Arkansas.
“But some of the things ailing us prior to that game continued to rear their ugly head,’’ Pearl said. “I thought we had fixed some of that middle ball-screen stuff against Memphis. We went back to not hedging it properly.
“We were the aggressor against Memphis; I thought Arkansas was the aggressor there.’’
Harris, who led the team with 21 points and 11 rebounds in the loss at Arkansas, took blame for some of the Vols’ issues in ball-screen defense.
“I look at myself and I didn’t do a good job in ball screens, and I learned from it,’’ Harris said. “I’m not frustrated; I just looked at the video and I saw how I could be better.’’
Extra Time: Harris was back in the gym Sunday morning and Sunday night getting up extra shots, anxious to snap out of a 1-of-18 shooting slump beyond the 3-point line.
“Trust me, I know that stat,’’ Harris said. “I’m not shooting it that much, but I’ll just keep working hard and it will come.’’
Hot Shooters: UT point guard Melvin Goins has heated up beyond 3-point range of late with 8-of-12 shooting over the past five games. Scotty Hopson is 11-of-25 shooting the 3-pointer over the past four games.
The Fix: Pearl said the remedy for the high ball-screen woes is to make sure both defenders are engaged.
“You bring two offensive players to the ball, you have to bring two defensive players to the ball,’’ Pearl said.
Williams said because the guards didn’t hedge hard enough, the post players were coming over in help defense and Arkansas was throwing it over their heads for easy baskets.
“Any big at the Division I level would have made the shots they were getting,’’ he said.