Vols can’t be tired with Pitt up next
Posted: Thursday, December 1, 2011 7:03 pm
By BETH RUCKER
AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Tennessee forward Dwight Miller knows he can’t let fatigue get in the way of practicing and preparing for the Volunteers’ next opponent.
He says he’s still a little bit tired, though, after a week that included approximately 9,000 miles of travel, four tough games and hardly any time to rest.
“Of course you’re going to be tired, you’re a human being. But at the same time it’s your responsibility to get better and get ready for the next game,” Miller said.
The Vols (3-3) faced No. 3 Duke, No. 22 Memphis and Chaminade on three consecutive days last week in the Maui Invitational, spent 20 hours traveling back to Knoxville on Friday, practiced Saturday, flew Sunday to Michigan and lost to mid-major standout Oakland on Monday. They took Tuesday off to rest.
Now they’re back to working on getting better and getting ready for the next game, an SEC/Big East Invitational matchup with No. 17 Pittsburgh (5-1) in Knoxville on Saturday.
Coach Cuonzo Martin is glad to be home and happy for a few days to work on a few things that held the Vols back.
“If I had my way I would rather play home games to try and get your legs up under you and have maybe a couple more days off,” Martin said. “I know I was feeling it just getting up out of bed, and I can only imagine it as a player. But you have to practice, you have to go through schemes to play a game.”
During practice this week, Tennessee will be working on two problem areas from the 89-81 loss at Oakland: playing strong one-on-one defense and getting the ball to the hot shooters more consistently.
The Vols couldn’t seem to cover Grizzlies guard Reggie Hamilton, who scored 35 points, and struggled to get the ball inside to their post players, relying instead on streaky outside shooting.
“They have done a better job than I thought they would at this time in the year with attention to detail, understanding scouting reports, and their approach to practice,” Martin said. “I think that the next phase for us is a level of consistency from start to finish on both ends of the floor even though we are scoring the ball with a high level offensively.”
Tennessee is looking for its first big win of Martin’s first season as coach. Pittsburgh was the subject of its last big signature win, an 83-76 victory against a seventh-ranked Panthers squad at the Consol Energy Center in an otherwise disappointing 2010-11 season.
The youth-laden Panthers are still searching for an identity behind senior guard Ashton Gibbs, especially on defense. The defensive intensity that’s been the calling card of coach Jamie Dixon’s teams was lacking in an 86-76 loss to Long Beach State on Nov. 16.
Still, the Vols know those nonconference losses by Pittsburgh are extremely rare; their win against the Panthers in Pittsburgh was the first by a team outside of the Big East in nearly six years.
Miller knows quite a bit about that having played for Dixon at Pittsburgh for two seasons before leaving to play at a junior college for a season and then transferring to Tennessee.
“We only lost one home game when I was there in two years, and we played the best teams in the country,” Miller said. “To see them lose at home (to Tennessee) was tough. Anybody can get beat, but to see a team as good as Pitt lose at home was shocking. You’ve got to be ready.”
Published in The Messenger 12.1.11