Cocks still can't solve UT

The second time around.

You wondered how opponent's would adjust to Tennessee's unorthodox style the second time around.

You wondered how they would deal with Bruce Pearl's press, Chris Lofton's 3-pointers and Dane Bradshaw's out-of-position play at power forward.

The second time around, South Carolina didn't find a way to break the code.

The Vols beat the Gamecocks by 16 points in Thompson-Boling Arena, less than a month after beating them by seven in Columbia, S.C. South Carolina led at home by 15 before the Vols stormed back behind a barrage of threes for the win. This time, USC led by seven in the first half before the Vols hit their stride, reeling off 10 consecutive points and never trailing thereafter.

South Carolina did throw a difference defense at Tennessee, which worked for much of the first half. Gamecocks coach Dave Odom went with a matchup 3-2 zone. Sometimes they'd switch, sometimes they wouldn't. It confused Tennessee.

Several times, the Vols fired desperation shots to beat the shot clock. And Lofton started 1-for-8 from the field.

Pearl said he didn't do a good job of calling plays in the first half. But as he got a bead on what South Carolina was doing defensively, Pearl got the Vols into the right sets and the players responded.

Lofton bombed in four threes, including two in a row that took the wind out of the Gamecocks' sails. Andre Patterson roamed the baseline for 13 points and his 12 rebounds game him a third straight double-double. Stanley Asumnu chimed in with 10 points coming off the bench. And C.J. Watson played his usual steady game – 11 points, five rebounds, three assists, no turnovers.

South Carolina committed just 11 turnovers, the lowest total by a Tennessee opponent. The previous low: 12 by South Carolina. The Gamecocks, Pearl said, are tough to press because of point guard Tre Kelly.

A positive for the Vols was outrebounding South Carolina 43-30. The Gamecocks won the battle of the boards in Columbia, 31-30.

An area of concern down the road for UT will be how teams play Bradshaw, the 6-4 power forward, and Lofton. Bradshaw seems more effective when an opponent puts a 6-8 player on him instead of a 6-4 or 6-5 guard. Lofton has trouble with a rangy 6-4 to 6-8 wing player on him, but not many teams have done that. Florida made a mistake by not putting 6-8 Corey brewer on Lofton. You can bet Brewer will shadow Lofton when the teams meet in Gainesville.

Some time on Monday, the Vols will learn they have moved up several spots in the AP and coaches' polls. They were 20th in AP, 19th in the USA Today ballot. They should be about 16 or 17 in each, as several teams directly ahead of Tennessee lost.

Tennessee's next two homes games are against first-time opponents. Vanderbilt (12-5, 3-3 SEC) has more talent than the Vols but is coming off a 23-point loss at Florida and is still trying to find its way at point guard – a huge concern against UT's press. The Commodores are led by Shon Foster, Derrick Byars, Julian Terrell, DeMarre Carroll and Mario Moore, and they have a win at Rupp Arena under their belt. Foster is averaging 16.2 points and Terrell 7.8 rebounds.

The Vols will then host Ole Miss, which started 3-0 in the SEC but has lost three in a row in league play.

If Tennessee holds serve at home this week, the Vols will be 7-1 in SEC play and 16-3 overall. They will be ranked in the Top 15. And they will be a cinch to get an NCAA Tournament bid.

Not bad for a rebuilding season.

GRADES IMPACT PLAYING TIME

Pearl determines players' playing time not just by how they grade on film, but how they grade in the class room.

Pearl said that players that aren't living up to expectations academically lose their starting job or some minutes.

He said if a player has one unexcused class absence, he runs – a lot -- at 6 a.m. If he has two unexcused absences, the whole team runs.

TWO VOLS' STOCK ON RISE

Former Tennessee Vols Parys Haralson (defensive end) and Jesse Mahelona (defensive tackle) helped their stock during practice at the recent Senior Bowl, according to agent Chad Speck of Allegiant Management.

``Parys had a good week,'' Speck said. ``He surprised scouts with his quickness. But he had trouble when he was engaged by a blocker.''

``Jesse was by far the quickest defensive tackle at the Senior Bowl. He disrupted plays. But sometimes he got his head down and found himself on the ground. Scouts didn't like that.''

Speck said offensive linemen Cody Douglas and Albert Toeaina did OK. Douglas didn't use his hands enough. Toeaina didn't bend his knees and had trouble in space against quick pass rushers.

Speck thinks Mahelona will be the first Vol taken, either late first round or early second round.


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