Feeding the post

Tennessee will have an imposing size advantage in tonight's game with visiting Belmont but it could be moot unless the Vols can do a better job of feeding the post.

Starting center Brian Williams (6-10, 270) is hitting 50.9 percent of his shots this season but averaging just 5.5 attempts per game. Backup John Fields (6-9, 240) is hitting 60.9 percent but averaging a mere 2.3 shots per contest. Kenny Hall (6-8, 220) is hitting 54.5 percent but averaging just 1.1 shots per outing.

You'd figure the Vols would put a premium on getting shots for the guys closest to the basket but that hasn't been the case. That's one reason the Big Orange has lost three games in a row. And that's one reason Bruce Pearl is exasperated these days.

Tennessee's head man was especially upset following Tuesday's 65-64 loss to Southern Cal. Because the Trojans have no depth behind 6-10 Nikola Vucevic and 6-9 Alex Stepheson, Pearl wanted his centers to repeatedly take the ball to the hoop and get the USC duo in foul trouble. The ploy might've worked if the Vols had gotten the ball to Williams and Fields on a regular basis. But they didn't.

"We had too many passes to post players that got deflected," Pearl said, adding that one of his top priorities is to find someone who can "either feed the post or to get the ball on-time, on-target to somebody."

That could be a tough search. Point guards Melvin Goins (3) and Trae Golden (1) combined for just 4 assists vs. USC. Power forward Tobias Harris (2 assists) is reasonably good at feeding the post but he's also the Vols' No. 1 scoring option.

No doubt Pearl is pining for the days when he had guys like Dane Bradshaw and J.P. Prince. Both were poor shooters and modest scorers but both excelled at squeezing entry passes through tight quarters and into the post area. Playing power forward, Bradshaw recorded 162 assists as a junior in 2005-06 and 141 as a senior in 2006-07. Playing small forward, Prince recorded 97 assists as a junior in 2008-09 and 113 as a senior in 2009-10.

Pearl would love to find a post-feeder of the Bradshaw/Prince ilk among this year's Volunteers.

"I told 'em I'm looking for somebody who I can put the ball in their hands and they can make that pass on-time and on-target, make that play," the coach said. "And there just aren't enough guys with good assist/turnover ratios on this team that have that skill and have demonstrated that ability.

"We have the post open an awful lot but we can't get it to 'em without turning it over."

He has a point. The Vols committed 18 turnovers vs. USC, compared to just 11 assists. Tennessee's players understand that they must do a better job of feeding the post and developing their inside-out game if the offense is to click again.

"It's a little out of sync right now," junior wing Cameron Tatum said. "We've just got to get everything back together as a unit, get things back to flowing. One of the things that's making us lose games is our offensive inefficiency. We're doing OK on defense, even though there's still some things we can do better.

"Even with good teams that don't play great defense, their offense sometimes helps them out. Our offense isn't really helping us out right now, as far as our cohesiveness on the floor. We just need to get back to understanding everybody's roles."

Once the Vols understand their roles, perhaps one of them will discover that his role is feeding the post. That might help snap the three-game losing streak they carry into tonight's game with Belmont.

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