Feeling rejected?

The Tennessee Vols are learning to live with rejection. They've had no choice. LSU rejected 13 shots last Saturday night and Memphis rejected 10 more Wednesday night.

As head coach Bruce Pearl noted: "We got the ball inside a lot but we got a lot of shots blocked."

This discouraging trend may continue Saturday night against No. 2 Florida. The 17-0 Gators average 6.7 blocked shots per game, ranking second in the SEC behind LSU (7.5 per game).

Since most of the shots UT had blocked by LSU and Memphis were taken close to the basket, let's assume half of them would've successful. That would've meant seven extra baskets – 14 additional points – in the 14-point loss to LSU. That would've meant five extra baskets – 10 additional points – in the nine-point loss to Memphis.

Clearly, a little more efficiency under the basket could've turned those two losses into two wins.

The Vols have been working hard to develop an inside game to take some pressure off of guards Chris Lofton and C.J. Watson. Still, there remains much work to be done, as the statistics clearly indicate.

Major Wingate, UT's 6-foot-10 center, was 2 of 6 from the floor against Oklahoma State and 3 of 8 against South Carolina. Backup Andre Patterson was 12 of 33 over the past four games. Dane Bradshaw was 2 of 7 against Lipscomb and 1 of 4 against Georgia. Stanley Asumnu was 1 of 4 against South Carolina and 5 of 16 Wednesday night at Memphis.

"If Stanley's going to take 16 shots he can't miss 11 of them," Vol coach Bruce Pearl noted on his post-game show. "How many of his shots weren't good shots, right around the basket? He's got to turn more of those down."

The 6-foot-5 Asumnu has the quickness to get to the basket and the leaping ability to shoot over taller players. Getting shots isn't a problem; MAKING them is. Moreover, he is sinking just 47 percent (17 of 36) from the foul line.

"He's not a great free-throw shooter," Pearl noted. "He makes 1 for 2 – he doesn't want to get fouled – so he kind of rushes things. As a coach, my job is to get him good looks. Lay-ups are good looks."

Asumnu must play more efficiently if the Vols are to challenge the tall and talented Gators. Wingate, Patterson and Bradshaw must play well, also. Otherwise, they could be living with rejection again on Saturday night.


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