Crump needs 'touches'

Tennessee basketball player Brandon Crump is scoring fewer baskets and taking fewer shots this season than he did a year ago. But that isn't the reason the Vols are 8-6, coming off a 25-point homefloor loss to Vanderbilt and apparently headed for a losing season.

Tennessee basketball player Brandon Crump is scoring fewer baskets and taking fewer shots this season than he did a year ago. But that isn't the reason the Vols are 8-6, coming off a 25-point homefloor loss to Vanderbilt and apparently headed for a losing season.

Head coach Buzz Peterson isn't worried about Crump's baskets or even his shot attempts. He's worried about the the decline of the 6-10 seniors ''touches.'' Here's why:

With the exception of Xavier, all of Tennessee's opponents have double-teamed Crump whenever he gets the ball. Obviously, they'd prefer the Vols' shots originate 20 feet from the basket, not five feet from it. The result: Fewer shot attempts and fewer baskets for Crump. Still, the Vols could exploit this situation if they would play smart basketball.

By getting the ball inside to Crump, Tennessee forces the defense to put two men on him. That means one of UT's players is unguarded. If Crump can find this man and hit him with a quick pass, the Vols have a wide-open shot. It's called ''inside-out basketball,'' and it works. Vanderbilt used it to hit a school-record 18 shots from 3-point range last Saturday against the Vols.

Unfortunately, Tennessee's perimeter players aren't comitted to getting the ball to Crump. Seeing him double-teamed early in a game, they tend to stop feeding him the ball. Realizing he isn't getting the ball very often, Crump tends to stop working to get open. The towering Texan took his first shot of the Vanderbilt game 17 minutes after the opening tip. It was his only field goal try of the first half, and he missed it, concluding the first 20 minutes with ZERO points. He finished the game 3 of 5 from the field, getting one of those shots by stepping out beyond the 3-point arc.

Peterson would love to see Crump taking 15 shots per game, instead of 5, but he'll settle for seeing the Vol big man getting more touches. That means more aggressiveness from Crump and more dedication to getting him the ball from the perimeter players.

''The ball's got to go through him; our offense has got to roll through him,'' Peterson said. ''He's got to be able to get a hand on it ... to make a decision on what he wants to do (shoot or pass). He's very productive once he gets his hand on it.''

Indeed. Crump is hitting 61.1 percent of his field goal tries. He just isn't getting many opportunities to shoot. Even without shooting, though, he can help Tennessee score by getting open, drawing the inevitable double-team, then kicking the ball out to a teammate for a wide-open jump shot.

Watching tapes of 2003-04 games involving the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves, Peterson found their opponents using the same type of smothering tactics on Kevin Garnett that Vol foes are using on Crump. Rather than stop getting the ball to Garnett, the Timberwolves merely used him as a decoy.

''Even when he wasn't shooting the ball, I can't tell you how many times Kevin Garnett touched the ball somehow in their offense,'' Peterson said. ''That's the same kind of makeup we've got to have. We've got to make sure Brandon touches the ball somehow. Even if he doesn't get the shot, he may get the ASSIST.

''If we go through him -- go inside-out -- that's what we've got to have. We've got to go through him.''


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