Best Vols must step forward
Posted: Tuesday, December 29, 2009 5:41 pm
By: By BETH RUCKER, Associated Press Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Tennessee will have a chance to discover who the nine or 10 best Vols are before entering Southeastern Conference play thanks to a few tougher opponents.
The No. 14 Volunteers (9-2) play at Memphis (9-2) before hosting Charlotte and No. 1 Kansas next week.
“You’re going up against better defensive teams, therefore you’ve got to work harder to get good looks and there’s more a price that you pay for the miss,” Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said Monday. “You’re not going to get as many good looks, so when you get them you’ve got to knock them down.”
The Vols didn’t work too hard for their shots in a win over North Carolina A&T and loss at Southern California.
They averaged just 15.5 assists in those two games, choosing to fire freely from the outside rather than to pass inside. But they averaged just 39.8 shooting from the field and 14.2 percent on 3-point shots.
No one is shooting well consistently, so Pearl has played as many as 12 or 13 players in some games, trying to find the right combination.
He’d like to pare that down a bit before Tennessee kicks off Southeastern Conference play Jan. 14 against Auburn.
Freshman forward Kenny Hall and sophomore guard Renaldo Woolridge have played well enough lately to be factored in the rotation while senior center Wayne Chism has been dealing with a bruised pelvis. Freshman guard Skylar McBee and senior guard J.P. Prince have put pressure on sophomore starting guard Cameron Tatum.
“Every opponent we play now is either as good as us or better,” Pearl said. “Every player will be challenged, so therefore how each player responds when challenged will determine what the rotations are.”
The Tigers are limiting opponents to just 58 points per game and 39.8 shooting with an athletic and aggressive defense.
Pearl knows for his Vols to be successful on offense, they must work harder to get open, pass more often, work harder on the offensive boards and avoid taking difficult shots.
He hopes his players got some shooting time in while they were at home for the holidays, but in case they didn’t he drilled the ones who had returned to Knoxville by Sunday night in a shooting practice.
Senior forward Tyler Smith said he and his teammates understand they don’t have to rely so heavily on transition shots or 3s if they work harder in their half-court offense.
“We have to be patient, just keep our poise,” he said. “We lost our poise at USC. We really weren’t knocking down shots, and we didn’t know any way to account for that. I think going into this game, being through those things at USC, we’ll know what to go through, we’ll know what to expect if our shots aren’t falling.”