John Adams: Digging out of 0-2 is tough

John Adams
Tennessee forward Tobias Harris tries to gain ground on Florida forward Alex Tyus, left, as he defends at Thompson-Boling Arena Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011.  Harris scored 18 points for the Vols with 10 rebounds during their 81-75 loss to the Gators.

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee forward Tobias Harris tries to gain ground on Florida forward Alex Tyus, left, as he defends at Thompson-Boling Arena Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011. Harris scored 18 points for the Vols with 10 rebounds during their 81-75 loss to the Gators.

Basketball alarmists usually amuse me. In the context of a 30-something-game season, such extremists can watch one unfavorable game and envision a disastrous season.

I'm usually at the other end of the spectrum. One game - no matter how dazzling or dreadful - is of little import. And one bad week is just as insignificant.

In fact, you can struggle through an entire December or January and not convince me you're incapable of ascending to Final Four contention.

Usually, you can do that. But Tennessee provided an exception Tuesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Never mind that the SEC basketball season isn't a week old. Tennessee's 81-75 overtime loss to Florida was crucial for a team that aspires to win a conference championship.

Combine that setback with Saturday's defeat at Arkansas and you have a rare 0-2 beginning in SEC play for UT.

How rare? Ray Mears coached 15 years at UT and never started 0-2 in conference play. Don DeVoe coached the Vols for 11 seasons and never lost his first two SEC games.

It never happened in five seasons with Bruce Pearl running the Vols, either. Pearl, who is serving the second game of his eight-game SEC suspension, watched at home while his team rallied to tie the Gators in regulation before faltering in overtime.

Tony Jones discusses UT's 81-75 overtime loss to Florida

This game was different than the non-conference encounters the Vols frittered away this season on their home court. They played better. They just didn't play well enough to beat the Gators.

The loss is magnified by what happened last Saturday and by the challenges of competing in the competitive SEC East.

If you hope to win a championship, don't lose a divisional game at home and don't lose a non-divisional game anywhere. The Vols have violated both maxims.

They also have lost their five-game home winning streak against the Gators.

There were times in both the first and second halves when you probably thought the streak would continue.

Twice in the first half, the Vols appeared on the verge of taking control. Cameron Tatum, who had a team-high 21 points, and Scotty Hopson, who scored 20, fueled their momentum with big shots.

But each time, the Gators rallied, thanks mainly to a variety of offensive resources and a UT defense that was too often too lenient. Florida's starters scored between 11 and 18 points - and they did so from both inside and out. Alex Tyus tormented the Vols inside with 18 points; Chandler Parsons and Kenny Boynton combined to hit seven of 12 3-point tries.

That combination helped turn the game Florida's way in the second half. But when the Gators stretched their lead to eight points, the Vols demonstrated their resilience under associate head coach Tony Jones.

The Vols didn't lack for effort. They didn't lack for support, either.

A crowd of 19,846 turned up the volume in the best and worst of times against the Gators. And their team responded for the most part.

Along the way, you saw flashes of a UT team that has been good enough to knock off Villanova and Pittsburgh, yet bad enough to lose to Oakland and Charlotte.

In the overtime, UT simply couldn't produce enough offense, missing from both near and far as Florida took a six-point lead.

As tough as an overtime loss was, what comes next is tougher: digging yourself out of an 0-2 hole.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http//twitter.com/johnadamskns.

© 2011 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 25

cdonsbach writes:

Vols are NIT bound if they're lucky. I'll still be at every home game, but this team is incredibly frustrating to watch at times.

everydayisorange writes:

The team didn't play with intensity.I don't know what it will take to get the ship righted. Pearl has a great task ahead and if he can get this team back on track it will be his best coaching job yet! I haven't given up but things don't look to promising at this time. Peabody may be just the medicine this team needs! GBO!!!

JayGee writes:

The talent is there, they need coaching, strategy, and discipline to build a team. Take care of business as a college team instead of playing backyard ball.

rclarkvols#224537 writes:

We have the best 2 road wins of any team in the country as well as a top 10 strength of schedule. All we have to do is finish 500 in the conference and we are a lock for the NCAA tournament. It's a long season and the Vols will turn it around.
The constant harping on Pearls misfortune by the ESPN announcers reminds me of their well orchestrated campaign to rob Peyton of the Heisman. How did that cell phone photo of Pearl and Aaron Craft end up at the NCAA office anyway. Just wondering.

Greyfeathers writes:

UT -- and the fans-- are reaping the results of UT bowing to Big Jim Haslam and not firing Lyin' Bruce when it first became clear what he had done. We, and UT, are getting just what we deserve. Too bad, it could have been much different, we could be playing with honor rather than what it is now.

lomas98 writes:

in response to rclarkvols#224537:

We have the best 2 road wins of any team in the country as well as a top 10 strength of schedule. All we have to do is finish 500 in the conference and we are a lock for the NCAA tournament. It's a long season and the Vols will turn it around.
The constant harping on Pearls misfortune by the ESPN announcers reminds me of their well orchestrated campaign to rob Peyton of the Heisman. How did that cell phone photo of Pearl and Aaron Craft end up at the NCAA office anyway. Just wondering.

Going 8-6 the rest of the way in conference will be a monumental task. Even at that a .500 record in what is considered a bad leage will not look good. The wins are great that we have, but the losses are worse. The team that has showed up in the losses look more of what we really are compared to the big east wins. I wouldn't consider 8-8 a lock. As far as ESPN just get over the fact they are going to harp on it every game. Just wait until gameday comes in this weekend.

Pullingguard writes:

well face it, there has been a lot of distractions starting with Pearl's problems which I am sure affected his attention to the team. The players had to be affected by these distractions and it continues presently with Pearl being suspended.. Pearl has really pulled the plug on the entire program, from present to future with cap on recruiting and the cloud of NCAA hanging over the program.. Its really set the program back some 2/3 years maybe more and who is to blame ....Only Bruce Pearl.... And if NCAA comes down hard the program will suffer greatly in future years.. How long will the fan base remain loyal with a record not indicative of big dance prospects...

196SVol writes:

Vols may match SEC Football record opening at 0-3 after Vandy hits town.

LEXKYVOLS writes:

in response to Pullingguard:

well face it, there has been a lot of distractions starting with Pearl's problems which I am sure affected his attention to the team. The players had to be affected by these distractions and it continues presently with Pearl being suspended.. Pearl has really pulled the plug on the entire program, from present to future with cap on recruiting and the cloud of NCAA hanging over the program.. Its really set the program back some 2/3 years maybe more and who is to blame ....Only Bruce Pearl.... And if NCAA comes down hard the program will suffer greatly in future years.. How long will the fan base remain loyal with a record not indicative of big dance prospects...

For better or worse is what I say!

Unlike football, in basketball you can still turn it around and have a chance at a great season. Here is to - hoping that is what happens! Either way - behind my VOLS 100%!

RockyTop1_old writes:

Folks this team and I use that term loosely, DOES NOT know how to finish a game. Too many 3-pointers and not enough taking the ball to the basket. TOO SLOW to setup plays and NO DEFENSE!! This all leads us to six losses - it may get much worse if they don't get a handle on this issue.

I wonder if the players KNOW the hammer will fall and all of this is moot? Nothing to play for, so they don't put forth the effort? Just wondering after Indianapolis, Oakland, Southern California, and Arkansas.

College of Charleston just beat us with the 3-pointer all day long, so that was one we would lose. But, again way too much outside shooting and no fundamentals being played!

Frustrated in Alabama! GBO

lomas98 writes:

in response to DukeDeLuca:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

That is technically true since any team can win their conference tournament and be an automatic qualifier to the NCAA. But the regular season does mean a lot for an NCAA hopeful team. Lose enough of the regular season games and there is no March. Can't be in the tournament when the record isn't good enough.

Futurecoach16 writes:

in response to RockyTop1_old:

Folks this team and I use that term loosely, DOES NOT know how to finish a game. Too many 3-pointers and not enough taking the ball to the basket. TOO SLOW to setup plays and NO DEFENSE!! This all leads us to six losses - it may get much worse if they don't get a handle on this issue.

I wonder if the players KNOW the hammer will fall and all of this is moot? Nothing to play for, so they don't put forth the effort? Just wondering after Indianapolis, Oakland, Southern California, and Arkansas.

College of Charleston just beat us with the 3-pointer all day long, so that was one we would lose. But, again way too much outside shooting and no fundamentals being played!

Frustrated in Alabama! GBO

They've got nobody on the inside TO score. Williams, only 2 buckets from the field and a total liability at the foul line. Fields is not quite as bad but he's still not a scorer, but a much better defender. Best option to score (which is still not an ideal option) is the mid-range and the 3-ball from Harris, Hopson, and if he's on, Tatum. Never would've thought that Williams would turn into such a wimp on the inside.

rockytopatl writes:

Defensive woes aside, I can't get over how bad Tennessee's half court offense is. They never seem to run a play. They just pass it around and eventually either throw up a brick of a three or drive into traffic and lose the ball.

Clear one side and let Hopson or Harris operate one on one. Set a few screens. Give and go. Alley oop. It's like they never heard of any of that. Are the two point guards so bad that they can't set up a play and run it?

Biggie writes:

in response to rockytopatl:

Defensive woes aside, I can't get over how bad Tennessee's half court offense is. They never seem to run a play. They just pass it around and eventually either throw up a brick of a three or drive into traffic and lose the ball.

Clear one side and let Hopson or Harris operate one on one. Set a few screens. Give and go. Alley oop. It's like they never heard of any of that. Are the two point guards so bad that they can't set up a play and run it?

That's what frustrates me as well. Other teams move around and get open looks. Tennessee stands around the perimiter passing the ball back and forth. Seems like when someone does make a good cut to the basket, the pass never comes.
I'm behind CBP all the way, I'd just like to see some offensive aggression.

Pullingguard writes:

in response to Biggie:

That's what frustrates me as well. Other teams move around and get open looks. Tennessee stands around the perimiter passing the ball back and forth. Seems like when someone does make a good cut to the basket, the pass never comes.
I'm behind CBP all the way, I'd just like to see some offensive aggression.

Players react to what they are taught during practice..Do you ever hear a coach complaining about lack of movement within the offense? NO!!
But you are correct...Too much standing around.
Watch KY, Fla, Duke and its constant movement to get that open shot...

budd#207344 writes:

Learn to shoot free throws. Make 75% of their free throws and they win

Mule_Days_King writes:

Is there a reason Goins holds the ball for the first 20 seconds into the shot clock?
Why does the ENTIRE team come out to meet him when he crosses the half-court line?
Not since Jerry Green's team collapse have I been this frustrated with a Vol basketball team.
My support for the team will not waiver but something BIG has to change and now.

jbocap writes:

in response to rockytopatl:

Defensive woes aside, I can't get over how bad Tennessee's half court offense is. They never seem to run a play. They just pass it around and eventually either throw up a brick of a three or drive into traffic and lose the ball.

Clear one side and let Hopson or Harris operate one on one. Set a few screens. Give and go. Alley oop. It's like they never heard of any of that. Are the two point guards so bad that they can't set up a play and run it?

I totally agree! Makes it an easy job for an upcoming opponents scout to review Tennessee and know how to beat us.

jbocap writes:

We need a "Pat Summitt" courtside during practices and games to give that piercing "look" to players and dole out some discipline to those who aren't putting forth the effort & skill they should be.

Its sad when the player who gives the most focus and discipline to his talent is a freshman = Tobias Harris. He's on a mission and you can see it in his eyes! The veteran players need to "step up"!

I support the basketball team & coaches but I do believe the lack of fundamentals and the somewhat fear to play offense is killing this team. C'mon guys..you CAN do it...Get Focused, Get Discplined, and Just Do It!

factor writes:

Unfortunately.....I see a group of very immature players. At times I think they all need to see a shrink. I see alot of finger pointing out on the court following a lazy/stupid/rediculous play. These guys seem like they are not a team, but rather out to build up their individual stat sheet. This team needs more discipline and less playing time for those who will not go along with the program. I would rather see the bench players in there and at the top of that list would be Pearl. I'd rather watch those guys play together like a real team, hustling and talking to each other and helping each other out..........and loose than to turn off the TN/FL game because I am sick of watching the "Head-cases" blow another game!

theoldbear writes:

I've said it before so many times I hate to repeat it, but this team lacks leadership on and off the floor, and until that "take charge" leader emerges on the floor, they will lose the close ones. And close not just in score, but in talent.

With 68 (plus one?) qualifiers for the NCAA field, I suspect we'll be in it. One and done.

I do like the way that Tony Jones used Steve Pearl and John Fields. And Brian Williams showed some real passing skills.

Despite the good point totals, Hopson and Tatum put up some bad shots, and failed to finish at the rim.

This team could use a Dane Bradshaw: no talent, but pure leadership.

bjrhodes01 writes:

in response to steviejanowski:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Or when we get a crucial steal late in the game, push tempo, and score on the break...ACTJ calls a freakin' time-out to nullify it!

It was after this and several other key coaching moments that you could see it in the players' eyes...they don't trust ACTJ!

johnlg00 writes:

I was mildly surprised to realize that there are only 15 regular-season games left! I know that Vandy would be a stern test for this team under any circumstances, but if the guys don't get themselves together on Saturday, the whole season could go gurgling down the drain. I never would have thought that after the beatdown of Pitt!

tall_ky_guy78 writes:

Im a kentucky fan..and i agree, espn is running this Pearl stuff in the ground..at some point id just like to see basketball...they post phooey up at every freethrow...talk about it at half. I didnt realize how serious it was to have recuits at a cookout lol

MusicCityVol writes:

With or Without Pearl, Vols Would Have Lost the Last Two Games...

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

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