John Adams: Goins needs to flex muscles down stretch

John Adams
Tennessee guard Melvin Goins collides with Georgia guard Gerald Robinson as he drives toward the basket during UT's 59-57 win at Athens on Tuesday.

Photo by Richard Hamm, Associated Press

Tennessee guard Melvin Goins collides with Georgia guard Gerald Robinson as he drives toward the basket during UT's 59-57 win at Athens on Tuesday.

Melvin Goins' statistics in Tennessee's 75-53 victory over LSU on Wednesday night hardly seemed significant. In fact, you might contend that nothing was significant against an opponent as feeble as LSU.

You show up. You win. You move on.

It's a three-step process that will be executed repeatedly against the Tigers this SEC basketball season.

But in UT's case - and Goins', in particular - don't dismiss what happened at Thompson-Boling Arena as merely another example of the haves beating up on the have-nots.

The Vols needed to play a good game against a bad team, just to break a trend if nothing else. And Goins needs to play well against everyone if this team is to distinguish itself in March.

The team and the point guard both rose above the competition, which could have been subdued with only slightly more exertion than required for your average shoot-around. If they can avoid overlooking LSU, perhaps they can maintain their edge through the supposedly cushy westward swing of their upcoming schedule.

Up next is Ole Miss on Saturday in Oxford. Then come Auburn and Alabama. The threesome already has combined for 27 losses.

If the Vols can maintain the consistency that too often has eluded them, they should win all three games. If so, they could be playing for first place when they take on Kentucky in Lexington - and coach Bruce Pearl returns from SEC-imposed exile.

Goins will have a huge say in whether the Vols pull it off.

He might not be as smooth as the prototypical point guard. He might not bring fans to their feet with dazzling passes. But his value is becoming increasingly more evident, especially in light of the last two games.

In last Saturday's loss to eighth-ranked Connecticut, he was UT's best player. And it wasn't close. He had 15 points, six rebounds and five assists. He also had the lead role in his team's defense of Kemba Walker, who scored a season-low 16 points, nine below his average.

Goins' performance was consistent with his caliber of play against ranked opponents. In UT's last three games against ranked opponents, Goins has averaged 16.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.3 assists.

"It's a challenge to be on the floor with great players," he said. "I try to rise to the occasion."

This just in: LSU isn't ranked, and if it has any great players, they're well disguised.

But while the competition dropped off drastically, Goins didn't. He had 11 points, six assists and no turnovers in 22 minutes.

He realized the relevance of back-to-back good games.

"Once you come off a good game, you want to try to get yourself going to be more confident throughout the game," he said. "I think hitting that first shot was big for me."

Some of Goins' gains have been more subtle. Last week, Pearl pointed out that Goins' penetration sometimes was leaving him too close to the basket, which could thwart the offense as well as transition defense.

You didn't see that against either UConn or LSU.

"It's something I've been conscious of, going back and watching film," Goins said. "I'm trying to learn from my mistakes. I think I'm playing more under control."

Goins already was advanced in other areas. Few point guards can match his strength. His strength and tenacity are apparent whenever he's within striking distance of a loose ball. Once he clutches the ball, he rarely finishes second in a tug o' war.

"I think it's 'will,' " he said. "If it's a 50-50 ball, whoever wants it the most gets that ball.

"I do think I'm stronger than most guards I'm matched up with, thanks to (assistant strength and conditioning coach) Troy Wills. He's got me right."

Maybe Goins can do the same for his team down the stretch.

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.

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Comments » 18

BigVolinCarolina writes:

Goins does play a vital role, but this team doesn't have much margin for error. We need everyone to step-up and give their all each game the rest of the season.

Looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds....

NorthwestVol writes:

I've missed seeing a number of games this year but, as the article suggests, it does seem Goins is a poster boy of the Vol's season. Inconsistent.

What's up with Golden? Seems his minutes have dropped. Freshman learning curve?

dvols writes:

goins is this year's jp......just get in the show!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I think Golden hasn't played as good a D as Goins...At lesast that's what Pearl said . But other than that he thinks there isn't much difference on offense. Goins (in my opinion) is pro potential. He needs to share the ball better on offense, make better passes, and not dribble in one spot. He also needs to get the team to move around more instead of just passing so much time around the point. Probably some of that is the wings needing to test the lanes more before passing back to Goins...what ever happened to ten foot bank shots? I bet Harris could hit some... It would force the defense out a little.

Fryinpansvols writes:

in response to NorthwestVol:

I've missed seeing a number of games this year but, as the article suggests, it does seem Goins is a poster boy of the Vol's season. Inconsistent.

What's up with Golden? Seems his minutes have dropped. Freshman learning curve?

I think a lot of the diminished playing time for Golden is due to the return and play of Josh Bone. Bone is one of our better defenders and his offensive game is starting to come alive. And about Goins I think you mean consistent, not inconsistent. GBO and beat Ole Miss!

Fryinpansvols writes:

As most college basketball fans know: How well your Point Guard plays determines how the rest of your team does. I think Melvin has played very well especially in clutch situations. He has become a very consistent free throw shooter. And provides not only a defensive spark but also has developed a good jumper to go with those drives to the basket. But lets not forget the stat we heard last night about Scotty Hopson. When he scores 15 or more points we are 11-1. And as mentioned above everyone has to contribute because we have little margain for error. Again GBO and beat Ole Miss!

PeeEllthree writes:

If Goins continues to confidently shoot the 3 it opens up the floor. Seems like he has been pulling the trigger some lately and hitting them. It's hard to run the high pick if the D knows you won't pull up.

lguy (Inactive) writes:

Nice article. Thought Goins had his true breakout game against LSU. If this team hits some outside shots, watch out.

hcjournals#206623 writes:

Please God, don't make us go through another excruciating period of the KNS trying to make us pay for content!
The GVx247br549 is already giving me tired head....And if you slowly start taking more and more content away under the threat of having to pay for it, I'll personally start a war of influence. I'm better at it than you...Try me...

crappieking writes:

Keep it going Melvin. You're playing very good right now. We need you! GBO!

tulelakevol writes:

Maybe the football team needs to get the basketball teams strength coach.

Ironcity writes:

in response to MrPearl_STILLHERE:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I think what he meant was potential to play in Turkey or China. Goins is a heck of an on ball defender and he shots the 3 OK. He still doesn't run the offense very well and his passing is way below average and he has NEVER thrown a bounce pass in his career. Even when he throws a safe pass the wings never receive it in the chest. I think he is the best we have but he needs to be the leader and he needs to play with a lot more focus on the offensive end.

sheep writes:

He may be a good defender,a nd can make an open three, but watch the game he never takes the ball to the left side when Hopson is in the game. Also, many times Skylar and Tobias are open for three and he wont throw them the ball. I dont know if it is a pride thing or just a habit, but he didnt go to that side much against LSU. No matter who is open the ball needs to be distributed to garner the most success from the team. I was under the impression that was the point guards job.
BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA Says the Sheep.

JSamson7 writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

I think Golden hasn't played as good a D as Goins...At lesast that's what Pearl said . But other than that he thinks there isn't much difference on offense. Goins (in my opinion) is pro potential. He needs to share the ball better on offense, make better passes, and not dribble in one spot. He also needs to get the team to move around more instead of just passing so much time around the point. Probably some of that is the wings needing to test the lanes more before passing back to Goins...what ever happened to ten foot bank shots? I bet Harris could hit some... It would force the defense out a little.

I don't know if that's true, but he does resemble Tim Hardaway in physical stature having stood next to both of them in person. Now does that mean that have similar game, I don't know... Basketball was never my sport, but I would say he probably doesn't. If he can pull a Wes Moore (I think that was the PG's name @ UTC when I was there) & cut down on turnovers come tournament time, I think UT should be ok...

mocsandvolsfan writes:

For you "unbelievers I DID say potential! He has some physical skills that on defense keeps him in front of people against the best we've played. Wes Moore was a great guard! I saw him quite a bit. My day was the Gordon and Golden days though. I don't think anyone on our team actually will be NBA except maybe Scotty and definately Harris.
Oh and "MRPearlstiff" just acts like an idiot. He could have some good posts if he decides. But like above most of it is just junk! He likes attacking instead of offering suggestions. I never ever coached a day in my life and wouldn't take the job even for Pearl's pay! I DO however like to watch and try to figure things out. I don't personally need MRPearls3 or whatever to feel good about my posts.lol

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to Ironcity:

I think what he meant was potential to play in Turkey or China. Goins is a heck of an on ball defender and he shots the 3 OK. He still doesn't run the offense very well and his passing is way below average and he has NEVER thrown a bounce pass in his career. Even when he throws a safe pass the wings never receive it in the chest. I think he is the best we have but he needs to be the leader and he needs to play with a lot more focus on the offensive end.

Yes. I actually gave Goins a hard time in an earlier article when everyone was singing his praises. I didn't think he was involving the team well when he scored more. He IS a great defender. His potential is high because his effort is high. But he seems to not know how to control the offense at times...To me great PGs keep the offense moving with the way they pass and the way they move themselves. It's not about scoring. As for MY offensive strategy I laughed out loud at MrPSTillnot when he dissed me. I'm NOT a strategists...I just try to think about what the team is doing like everyone else on here.

Ironcity writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

Yes. I actually gave Goins a hard time in an earlier article when everyone was singing his praises. I didn't think he was involving the team well when he scored more. He IS a great defender. His potential is high because his effort is high. But he seems to not know how to control the offense at times...To me great PGs keep the offense moving with the way they pass and the way they move themselves. It's not about scoring. As for MY offensive strategy I laughed out loud at MrPSTillnot when he dissed me. I'm NOT a strategists...I just try to think about what the team is doing like everyone else on here.

I think your assessment is right. Goins doesn't facilitate the offense very well. At times he looks disjointed and thus we end up with a forced shot or a forced drive from one of our outside players.

The other area I think Goins has to improve on is the fast break. He really moves the ball up the court slow and often pulls it out when we have the advantage. With UT you have to push it and feed the scorers or they get antsy and start forcing shots. Its up to the point guard to really keep things moving and making sure he keeps all the scorers happy and involved. Right now the only player that gets the ball where they want it is Hopson and even he has to usually create on his own shot.

Goins can be an asset but I think he has to realize when we are the better team and force the action a little more against inferior teams. The LSU game was a game where I saw some definitive improvement. I hope thats something we will continue to see.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

Yes. I actually gave Goins a hard time in an earlier article when everyone was singing his praises. I didn't think he was involving the team well when he scored more. He IS a great defender. His potential is high because his effort is high. But he seems to not know how to control the offense at times...To me great PGs keep the offense moving with the way they pass and the way they move themselves. It's not about scoring. As for MY offensive strategy I laughed out loud at MrPSTillnot when he dissed me. I'm NOT a strategists...I just try to think about what the team is doing like everyone else on here.

Lots of us forget that Goins has never been a true point guard. When he was being recruited out of junior college, CBP said he would have to learn how to be a true major-college PG. The thing is, a PG is like a QB in football. Most big-time QBs have been QBs all their lives. Same with the great PGs. It is a certain kind of mindset that not just every athlete has, and those who switch later into either of those positions seldom make seamless transitions, or hardly ever come to resemble the "classic" types even if they learn to be effective at the position. Couple that with the fact that CBP's motion offense doesn't even really require a classic PG, and Goins had almost no chance of becoming one. Even Golden was more of a shooting guard in HS than a true pure PG. The pure types are RARE.

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