Changing of the guard?

Tennessee's point-guard play has been so erratic the past few weeks that head coach Bruce Pearl says there may be a new look to the rotation Wednesday night against South Carolina.

"We're going to consider making some change at point guard, whether it be coming off the bench or starting," Pearl said today. "I'm going to look at (shooting guards) Josh Bone and Skylar McBee potentially to play the position.

"That doesn't mean Melvin may not come back and start but it means we're going to take a look at it. I want to challenge both Melvin and Trae to play better. I think they both can."

Since posting a 6-assist, 0-turnover outing Jan. 26 against LSU, senior starter Melvin Goins has produced more turnovers (11) than assists (9) over the past five games.

Backup Trae Golden, a true freshman, hasn't been setting the woods on fire lately, either. His stats for the last five games show 10 assists and 7 turnovers.

"We've got to get better point-guard play," Pearl said. "Our point guards have got to do a better job of getting the ball distributed some more.... Our guys aren't going by and turning corners well enough... You can see that in our assists."

Goins has averaged just 2.4 assists per game in the Vols' first 10 SEC outings, despite playing 29 minutes per contest. In addition, he has made just 30 percent (12 for 40) of his field-goal tries and 25 percent (5 for 20) of his 3-point attempts over the past five games.

Golden has averaged 1.6 assists in league play, despite playing just 12 minutes per game. He has shot just 36.4 percent (4 for 11) from the field and 11.8 percent (1 for 6) from 3 over the past five games, however.

"We've got to do a better job of having guys create shots for each other," Pearl said, later adding that: "The shooting percentages by our point guards aren't good. We're not shooting the ball well, and we don't have a positive assist/turnover ratio."

Pearl praised Goins' defense, his toughness and his ability to penetrate into the lane, but noted that "When he goes in there he's looking to score versus getting guys the ball. I've got to encourage him to get guys the ball. It'll make us better."

The coach believes Tennessee's playmaking has not been a season-long problem, however, noting that "We were getting better point-guard play earlier."

Statistically, he's right. Goins had several outstanding games previously. He recorded 5 assists with 1 turnover in 15 minutes of Game 6 vs. Middle Tennessee, 6 assists with 1 turnover in Game 8 vs. Oakland and 5 assists with 1 turnover in 20 minutes of Game 14 vs. Memphis.

Goins has had some superior outings, as well. He registered 7 assists with 2 turnovers in just 15 minutes of Game 4 vs. Virginia Commonwealth and 8 assists with 1 turnover in 19 minutes of Game 14 vs. Memphis.

Neither man has played particularly well the past few weeks, however, and that's a key reason Tennessee has lost six of its last 11 games.

"In order for us to play better," Pearl said, "that's an area we've got to improve in."


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