Pearl pleased with Vols' effort and energy
Tennessee should be a quick study for Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun.
He will face it again Saturday afternoon in Hartford, Conn., when his eighth-ranked Huskies (15-2) take on the Vols (12-6) at the XL Center.
Before Calhoun began his 24-year run at UConn, he was a head coach at Northeastern University in Boston for 14 years. Tom Davis, Pearl's mentor, was the coach at Boston College for part of that time.
"Jim Calhoun and Tom Davis went toe to toe in Boston," Pearl said. "Rick Pitino and Jim Calhoun probably know my system as well as anybody. They grew up with it."
Pitino was the head coach at Boston University from 1978 through 1983, about the same time Davis was at Boston College.
"It won't take Jim Calhoun very long to watch us on tape and know exactly what we're trying to do and know how to take it away," Pearl said. "He's a Hall of Fame coach. He will be able to look at us and see our strengths and know our weaknesses."
Star Power: Freshman guard Jordan McRae got an inordinate amount of attention at Thursday afternoon's practice. That's because he was playing the role of UConn's Kemba Walker, who leads the Big East with a scoring average of 25.5 points per game.
Pearl compared readying his team for Walker to preparing for South Carolina's Devan Downey last season. But there's a difference.
"Downey is playing in Europe," Pearl said. "Walker is a (NBA) lottery pick."
Making Contact: When Pearl assigned guard Scotty Hopson to cover small forwards the last two games, he wasn't thinking only about defense.
Pearl theorizes that when Hopson is chasing guards around the perimeter on defense, he's less apt to venture inside offensively. Hopson, who has one of the quickest first steps in the SEC, is usually at his best when he's driving to the basket.
"We put him on the last two small forwards (including Georgia's Travis Leslie) with the idea that the closer Scotty gets to the basket, sometimes the better he looks," Pearl said. "He's having to physically mix it up more - so when we get down there on offense, we want him to mix it up. And it won't be the first time he's had to deal with contact."
Hopson was productive going to the basket against Georgia but also got in foul trouble, which limited his playing time.
Goins Too Far: UT point guard Melvin Goins is shooting better from 3-point range (38.2 percent) than he is overall (37.3 percent). Pearl has an explanation for the statistical anomaly.
"Melvin sometimes gets in there too deep, and puts himself in a position where underneath the basket there may be contact, but officials are not going to bail out someone who is 5-10 against someone who is 6-10," Pearl said. "So Melvin has got to stop getting that deep. And we've talked to him about that.
"When he gets in that deep, he's challenged to get back (on defense). So it doesn't do any good for Melvin to get in that deep and miss those shots."
Messaging Golden: Guard Skylar McBee has played 33 minutes in the last two SEC games after playing eight minutes in the previous two. He has responded by hitting four of nine 3-point attempts and hustling on defense.
He even played point guard briefly in Tuesday's victory over Georgia, which might make some wonder about the status of freshman point guard Trae Golden.
"We'd like to get more from Trae," Pearl said. "That's perhaps a message being sent."
Golden, who played just seven minutes against Georgia, is 4-for-20 from the field in the last six games.
Global Recruiting: UConn has more players on its roster from Germany (two) than Connecticut (one). Three countries, 10 states and six time zones are represented on the roster.
Tip-Ins: John Fields again will start at center and Brian Williams, who starred against Georgia, will come off the bench. . . . The Vols beat Georgia on a last-second shot by Williams in their last outing while UConn edged Villanova in its last game on a shot by Walker with 2.5 seconds remaining. . . . Hopson has scored at least 15 points in each of his last eight games. . . . Freshman Tobias Harris averaged 11 points and eight rebounds in UT's two other games against top-10 teams from the Big East, Villanova and Pittsburgh.