'D' derailed

The Basketball Vols seemed to be developing into a pretty decent defensive team in late November. They limited Louisiana-Lafayette to 41.9 percent shooting, Eastern Kentucky to 44.2 and Murray State to 37.5 in Games 3, 4 and 5.

Since then, however, the competition has gotten better and Tennessee's defense has gotten shredded. Appalachian State shot 48.3 percent, Texas 48.1 and Oklahoma State 63.0 in Games 6, 7 and 8.

UT's defensive woes bottomed out in the second half vs. OSU, when the Vols allowed the Cowboys to shoot 70.8 percent (17 of 27) from the floor.

"My assistant coaches are in charge of defense," Vol head coach Bruce Pearl joked on his post-game show. "I've got the press and the offense, so I'm going to be on my guys pretty good. We're going to figure some things out."

The Vols need to "figure some things out" quickly, based on their recent statistics. Consider:

After allowing the first five foes to shoot just 44.3 percent from the floor, UT has allowed the last three to shoot 53.0 percent.

After allowing the first five foes to shoot just 36.6 percent from 3-point range, UT has allowed the last three to hit 44.6 percent.

After allowing the first five foes to score an average of just 67.5 points per game, UT has allowed the last three to average 82.7 ppg.

The one area of Tennessee's defensive play that has remained consistently strong this year is turnovers. The Vols forced 19 vs. Appy State, 22 vs. Texas and 21 vs. OSU.

Basically, Tennessee is playing great defense in backcourt, poor defense in frontcourt. The Vols are forcing a ton of turnovers as opponents attempt to get the ball up the floor. But, once foes cross midcourt, they are taking advantage of Tennessee's lack of size and athleticism.

The Big Orange was able to hide most of its defensive shortcomings in Game 7 at Texas but these were exposed and exploited in Game 8 vs. Oklahoma State.

"A lot of what we tried to do against Texas we tried to do against Oklahoma State," Pearl noted. "But they (Cowboys) were better at (handling) it. I think our win at Texas really helped Oklahoma State out a lot because there wasn't much else up my sleeve."

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