Complete performance

After two years and one month of glimpses, Tennessee basketball fans finally got to see 40 minutes of the complete Scotty Hopson Saturday afternoon.

The former McDonald's All-American from Hopkinsville, Ky., did a little bit of everything in the 11th-ranked Vols' 83-76 upset of No. 3 Pittsburgh ... and he did it all very, very well.

The 6-foot-7 guard hit 10 of 13 shots, including 3 of 3 from beyond the 3-point arc. He made 4 of 5 free throws. He pulled down 3 rebounds, dished out an assist and made a steal. And, despite being unusually active on offense, he committed just two turnovers in 33 spectacular minutes.

In short, it was the kind of complete performance the Vol Nation has been expecting of Scotty Hopson for quite some time.

"Everything you've seen signs of he put together for 40 minutes ... and played good defense," head coach Bruce Pearl said following a spirited Sunday evening practice. "When we needed a big basket he got it. He just put it all together."

Hopson arrived at UT with All-America skills but seemed content to play a background role in his first two years on campus. Now that he's the team's most experienced player, he finally is becoming more assertive.

"Scotty's teammates have encouraged him and supported him," Pearl said. "They need him, and he's putting forth more of a consistent effort defensively. His focus is better.

"I've been saying it. I said it to Jay Bilas and he said it on the air: Scotty had a really good freshman year. He got better as a sophomore. Now, as a junior, he's looking like he's a guy that can play in the NBA and be considered a first-round pick. That's exciting for him. Obviously, he's going to have to stay hungry and humble but he's become much more consistent, and that's a real positive."

Hopson's inconsistency and occasional lapses in focus frustrated fans who could sense the untapped potential within him. Saturday that potential was tapped, and the Pitt Panthers had no answer for him.

"I've always been a guy that's put emphasis on scoring and putting the ball in the basket, being successful for this team," Hopson said. "Now I have to do it more than I was forced to do it in the past. I'm pretty much doing the same things but making more plays and being more aggressive than I was in the past."

Hopson was 3-happy when he arrived at Tennessee. A whopping 48.9 of the shots he attempted as a freshman and 39.9 percent as a sophomore were from 3-point range. Saturday vs. Pittsburgh, however, he attempted just three of his 13 shots from long range - routinely choosing to attack the rim or pull up for short jumpers in the lane. This made him unpredictable and virtually unstoppable.

"It's just different dimensions of my game that I always worked on but sometimes haven't been able to show because we've had great players," he said. "Now I'm in a position to do more and show those different dimensions. Now I'm taking advantage of every opportunity I have to be aggressive and stay in attack mode. It's been working out for me."

It certainly worked out Saturday in Pittsburgh. Putting up big numbers against a Chattanooga or a Middle Tennessee is one thing; hanging 27 points on an elite team like Pitt is a whole different ballgame. Hopson concedes as much.

"It's a great confidence factor," he said. "I'm so happy I had the opportunity to come out and play great and we got the win. That was my main focus going into the game: I knew if I played hard every possession everything else would take care of itself."


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