Tennessee turnovers

Fans who have been watching Tennessee's football team commit costly turnovers all fall must've experienced déjà vu during the first 20 minutes of last Thursday night's exhibition basketball opener.

Clearly struggling with new coach Bruce Pearl's up-tempo style, the Basketball Vols were guilty of 12 first-half turnovers. Senior point guard C.J. Watson scored a game-high 27 points but committed seven turnovers, five coming in the sloppily played first half.

"C.J. scored well but for the first time in the last few weeks he showed a little lack of understanding of what we want to do offensively," Pearl said. "C.J. had a few uncharacteristic turnovers. We didn't advance-pass the ball down the floor as much as I'd like."

Pearl wants the ball advanced as quickly as possible. Obviously, a player can pass the ball from Point A to Point B quicker than he can dribble it from Point A to Point B. But Watson wasn't doing much passing Thursday night.

"C.J. had the ball in his hands every time we brought the ball up the floor, rather than getting the ball up the floor via the pass to the wings," Pearl noted. "When you're playing seven guys, it's tough to pursue, defend, run the fast break and get as many minutes as they did. That's going to be a big challenge."

Tennessee's play improved dramatically in the second half. Watson committed just two turnovers after the break and the Vols committed just six as a team.

Like the offense, Tennessee's defense was a bit erratic in the exhibition opener. The Vols' fullcourt pressure gave up several breakaway layups but also forced 27 turnovers.

"I thought the kids showed great commitment to the pressure," Pearl said.

Whereas Tennessee's field-goal shooting was mediocre (37.7 percent), its free-throw shooting was magnificent (89.5). The Vols were especially tough in the clutch, hitting 14 of their last 15 attempts.

Pearl said he was very pleased with "the fact we got to the foul line and shot so well, in spite of only being able to play seven players."

Ultimately, the exhibition opener was about what you'd expect – a mistake-filled learning experience featuring a few glaring negatives and a few encouraging positives.

"We're pleased with the win," Pearl noted, "but we've got a lot of work to do."

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