Is four-game stretch against West 'must-wins' for Vols?

Game preview: UT vs. LSU

The Tennessee men's basketball team has turned the page on its 72-61 loss at Connecticut on Saturday.

"We had time to think about the loss on Sunday, and yeah, it hurt because it was a missed opportunity,'' Vols junior Cameron Tatum said after Monday's practice. "But it's time to move forward.

"The guys all understand we can still take the SEC.''

The march toward an East Division title for the Vols (12-7, 2-2 SEC) begins at 8 p.m. Wednesday against LSU (10-9, 2-2) in Thompson-Boling Arena.

"We've won two straight (SEC games) and we're still in last place,'' UT senior center Brian Williams said. "These next four games are must-win, have-to-win, however you want to put it.''

Vols coach Bruce Pearl, who will serve the final four games of his eight-game SEC suspension beginning with LSU, stopped short of calling the next four contests must-wins.

But Pearl agreed with Williams' assertion.

"We've got to win every game we're capable of winning, and then we've got to get a couple we maybe aren't expected to get,'' Pearl said. "That will put us in position to go to a sixth consecutive NCAA tournament, which is something that's never happened in the history of Tennessee (men's) basketball.''

The Vols play at Ole Miss on Saturday, at Auburn on Feb. 3 and finish their four-game stretch against SEC West teams with Alabama at home on Feb. 5.

Despite LSU's recent struggles - a loss at Kentucky, 82-44, on Jan. 15 and at home to Ole Miss, 78-51, last Saturday - the Tigers don't figure to be an easy matchup.

"It's the complete opposite of Tennessee basketball,'' Williams said. "They force it in to their bigs, they slow it down and they don't run at all.''

Pearl pointed out that each of UT's past three games against LSU over the past two years have been closely contested.

"Three times we've played (coach) Trent Johnson teams, and three times we played them in close games,'' Pearl said. "LSU, defensively, did about as good a job on us as anybody a year ago.

"They played 37 minutes of 2-3 zone in our last contest against them in the SEC tournament, and we struggled in that game as much as any.''

About Scotty: Pearl said a return to basics can help junior Scotty Hopson, who's coming off a five-turnover performance against UConn.

"Two hands on everything, two hands for rebounds, two hands for loose balls, and improve his ball-handling as he looks to attack the basket,'' Pearl said. "Have those turnovers become forced turnovers. We don't create a ton of possessions defensively, and therefor we have to value our possessions more.''

Pearl said he thinks Hopson will be fine mentally.

"I think Scotty is accountable; I think he understands the inconsistency,'' Pearl said. "The big thing is don't allow one play to factor into the next play, especially if it's going to be negative.''

Hot Bone: UT reserve wing Josh Bone has put together two of the better performances for the Vols the past two games.

Bone came through with a clutch basket late in the 59-57 win at Georgia last Tuesday while playing stellar defense. Against Uconn, Bone was 3-for-3 shooting with two rebounds and a steal in 15 minutes.

"I feel like I can play with anybody,'' said Bone, who missed the first 11 games of the season with a fractured wrist. "The transition (coming back) was a little tough, as far as getting a feel for the game.

"But I feel like I've got my wind back, and that was the hardest thing.''

Get Copyright Permissions © 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

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

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 19

lomas98 writes:

They may not be must wins, but if they lose to LSU or Auburn they can point to those games as why they are not playing in the NCAA. Call them must "not lose". Call it what you want but losses to LSU at home and a loss to Auburn anywhere are horrible losses. Auburn is worse than all the teams that have already beat us. I agree with Pearl on winning the games they are capable of winning. He is basically saying they are capable of winning the next 4 and they better.

FeelVol writes:

Bone should be splitting time with Tatum and probably on the floor at the end of the game.

tnvol4ever writes:

I think we can go 4-0. But why is Jorden McRae being punished for trying to help Woolridge with the the rap lyrics and help CBP be more like coach Cal. Seems a little harsh.

CCLC writes:

The East is strong this year or the West is just weak? The SEC East Division is officially a jumble:

Florida .... 4-1
Georgia .... 3-2
Kentucky ... 3-2
S. Carolina. 3-2
Tennessee .. 2-2
Vanderbilt . 2-2....I'd say the Vols need to win, if they want to stay in contention and make it to the tournament.

huntined#565710 writes:

Most every game here on out is a must win in the SEC. KY-VANDY AND FLA all in top 25 so we have to win about all of them if we want to win the SEC. or at least get into the NCAA.

doh writes:

They have to win these games. The second half is tougher. 8-8 wont make the tournament this year. I hope Bone starts and gets more minutes. He deserves it.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

I definitely agree with lomas98. Tennessee really needs these next four wins and losing any of them will certainly hurt Tennessee's chances.

That being said, NONE of these next 4 games are automatic wins. We'll have to play hard to win. We're certainly vulnerable to teams with good, inside big men.

johnlg00 writes:

Agree completely with those who say Bone should get more playing time. He is one of the most fundamentally-sound players on a team that seems not to have many. Since most of our losses have been due to sloppy turnovers and defensive lapses, he is one who won't hurt us in that regard. I also agree that the Vols REALLY need to win these next four, to restore the team's confidence as much as for any other reason.

TDTennesseeisfree writes:

in response to doh:

They have to win these games. The second half is tougher. 8-8 wont make the tournament this year. I hope Bone starts and gets more minutes. He deserves it.

With a 8-8 finish, that would leave us 18-13 heading into the SEC tourney. 19-14 would likely get us in with the strength of schedule and wins against Pitt and Villa and hopefully KY once.

murrayvol writes:

Must wins? Depends.

If the Vols want to compete for the SEC Championship, they are.

huntined#565710 writes:

Just looked at the women schedule on here and it is wrong as they left out the FLA game..

Vols_Epiphany writes:

The biggest issue I have is with Melvin Goins. I honestly think he spends more time trying to look cool with the WAY he dribbles the basketball than actually making it work. If we had a PG that dribbles the ball like its nothing extra he is doing, I think we will be so much better off. I am tired of seeing Goins come in past the half line and then dribble the ball like he wants everyone to look at how nonchalantly he can do it. Just play, darn it.

And yeah, we need to win the next 4 games.

VOLUNTEER_FEAR writes:

8-8 league mark gets us to the dance . We will loose a few more especially on the road in the SEC is Brutal and hard to pull off. Look for a couple of upsets on road and a few let downs as well I look for us to finish 8-8 and get a 9 seed in tournament

VOLUNTEER_FEAR writes:

WE NEED MORE AUTOMATIC PURE SHOOTERS
Chris Lofton could hit any shot with guys hangin all over him and well as smith . Can not wait till the two guards come in next year

Down_The_Field writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

awww....come on, dude! have a little faith in peeebody.

Ironcity writes:

in response to Vols_Epiphany:

The biggest issue I have is with Melvin Goins. I honestly think he spends more time trying to look cool with the WAY he dribbles the basketball than actually making it work. If we had a PG that dribbles the ball like its nothing extra he is doing, I think we will be so much better off. I am tired of seeing Goins come in past the half line and then dribble the ball like he wants everyone to look at how nonchalantly he can do it. Just play, darn it.

And yeah, we need to win the next 4 games.

I agree I really believe the offense doesn't work because Goins is to busy doing nothing instead of actually trying to get the ball to the scorers where they can score. That said Golden couldn't defend my mother so I am not sure where we go.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Tatum does need to come off the bench...something to inspire him I guess...Bone should get his minutes if he can't play any better...although I still think Tatum's potential is there.

Vols_Epiphany writes:

in response to Ironcity:

I agree I really believe the offense doesn't work because Goins is to busy doing nothing instead of actually trying to get the ball to the scorers where they can score. That said Golden couldn't defend my mother so I am not sure where we go.

Neither Goins nor Golden is the answer. We need a really good point guard. I am very much an optimist when it comes to Tennessee sports, but realism is a wall between optimism and utopia...and I have hit that wall regarding our basketball team for this year.

It is clear to see that we do not have the talent we need at the point guard slot to compete effectively in the big dance. Do I expect to make it to the NCAA tournament? Yes, absolutely. But I do not expect us to go deep at all.

We need to improve leaps and bounds next year at the PG position. That is something I am looking forward to.

GBO

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Goins can play point...He needs to focus on his passing. It's not accurate(yet) and he stays in one spot too long. His spacing is troublesome. I don't really get him. He appears to be selfish, but maybe that's what they're coaching him to do...make passes to the wing and back to the point? Then drive as the clock runs out...looks like he wants the shot?

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features