Vols (Hop)ping after Pearl threat
Posted: Thursday, January 27, 2011 5:09 pm
By: By BETH RUCKER, AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl was tired of his team’s lack of toughness, so he told the Volunteers they would be running if they didn’t play hard against LSU.
“He said if we didn’t play hard and get the win that he was going to run us like dogs and that we wouldn’t want to wake up the next day,” Scotty Hopson said. “I made it apparent that I was going to get to the basket and put the ball in the hole. I didn’t want to run tomorrow. I knew coach was out there watching.”
Hopson did go to the basket early and often, scoring 17 of his 22 points in the first half as Tennessee routed LSU 75-53 on Wednesday night. It was the Volunteers’ largest margin over the Tigers in six seasons.
Pearl, who is in the middle of an eight-game suspension from SEC games, angrily told his players Tuesday to play tougher or face not playing at all. He had been especially frustrated with Hopson after a lackluster performance in Saturday’s 72-61 loss at No. 5 Connecticut, blaming Hopson’s inconsistent play for Tennessee’s inconsistencies.
“We built this program in the five years that we’ve been here on toughness, aggression and playing Tennessee basketball,” said associate head coach Tony Jones, who’s filling in for Pearl during his suspension. “We kind of got away from that, especially in the second half in the game against UConn.”
Against LSU, Hopson hit six of the Vols’ first nine points on a dunk, a fast-break jumper and an underhanded layup and finished 9-of-14 with three 3s. His 22 points were the most he’s had in his career against an SEC opponent.
The Volunteers (13-7, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) never trailed and used an 11-2 run to pull away early. Cameron Tatum hit back-to-back 3s from the same spot on the wing to give them a 22-10 lead with 10:42 in the first half.
A 3-pointer by Matt Derenbecker and a pair of free throws from Malcolm White allowed LSU to cut Tennessee’s margin to 31-24 with 3:35 in the first half, but it was as close as the Tigers (10-10, 2-3) would get.
Tobias Harris, who leads Tennessee in SEC play with an average of 17.3 points, didn’t score until 3:11 to go in the first half, but had six points before halftime to help the Volunteers take a 43-27 margin at the break.
“We were within striking distance, but when you’ve got a team as talented, skilled and on the edge like they were from their previous performance, you can’t let them open a cushion,” LSU coach Trent Johnson said. “They were in a rhythm and they were relaxed. We couldn’t put any pressure on them, man or zone.”
Hopson opened the second half with a 3-pointer from the corner, and as the Tigers’ defense gave him more attention, the rest of the Vols got open looks. Tatum added 13 points, Melvin Goins added 11 and Tobias Harris scored 11 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
The Volunteers, who have won three straight against LSU after splitting wins with the Tigers for four seasons, average just 5.5 treys a game but hit 10 of 26 against LSU. They scored 18 points off 12 LSU turnovers and 34 points in the paint.
Tennessee still struggled with consistency early but moved the ball well against LSU’s zone defense and shot 48.5 percent in the first half, compared to 30 percent shooting by the Tigers. LSU has averaged 30.9 percent shooting in consecutive losses to Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee, games which they’ve lost by an average 29 points.
The Tigers played their fifth game in a row without leading scorer Ralston Turner, who suffered a stress reaction in his right foot against Virginia on Jan. 2. Turner is averaging 13.7 points in 15 games this season.
Derenbecker, who is averaging 11.3 points in relief of Turner, led LSU with 13 points, and Eddie Ludwig scored 12 points off the bench. Andre Stringer, who averages 12.9 points per game, was limited to just six, tying a season low.
“This is getting old, this getting embarrassed like this, coming out and losing by 20 points,” Derenbecker said. “I’m not used to it. In high school Eddie wasn’t used to it. No one can get used to this. It’s embarrassing the way we’re playing, but I think everyone came out here and played hard, because we knew we’ve been on a roller coaster all year.”