Copy the Cocks?

The Tennessee Vols hope to be Cocky Wednesday night at Florida … not cocky, as in overconfident, but Cocky, as in similar to the South Carolina Gamecocks.

You see, Dave Odom's Cocks have handed the Gators (22-4) two of their four losses this season, including their only loss at the O'Connell Center in Gainesville. Since Odom apparently has found the blueprint for success against the Gators, UT coach Bruce Pearl is hoping to borrow it.

"I think you'd have to look at South Carolina," Pearl said. "What did South Carolina do that was of particular effectiveness against Florida to win twice like that? We're studying that match-up and trying to implement some things ourselves to try and capitalize on what Florida's strengths and weaknesses are."

Unfortunately for Tennessee, the Gamecock game plan for Florida may not work for the Vols. Essentially, South Carolina slowed the pace in its two meetings with the Gators, holding them to their two lowest scoring totals of the season in a 68-62 win at Columbia and a 71-67 win at Gainesville.

Tennessee relies on a fast pace, so the Vols are unlikely to suddenly shift from third gear to first gear this late in the season. Thus, UT's best hope of keeping Florida's high-scoring offense under control is not through tempo but through tenacity. The Vols MUST be more active defensively than they were in last Saturday's 92-79 loss at Alabama. The Tide shot 76 percent in the first half, and Tennessee never got back in the game.

"The key is to make stops, and our half-court defense hasn't been doing that," Pearl said. "All us coaches are involved in half-court defense, myself as much as the others. It's our greatest challenge."

Just as UT can't switch from an up-tempo to a deliberate offensive system this late in the season, the Vols can't change their defensive system at this point, either. Rather than play defense differently at Gainesville, they simply need to play defense better.

"We're going to try to do the things we do defensively because it's the best way to get stops," Pearl noted. "I don't think we executed those things very well at all against Alabama.

"We're not going to be able to change the roster – there's no free agency out there and nobody's going to be able to grow overnight – so we've just got to do a better job with our defense. We've got to keep the ball in the post and understand that Florida has a couple of guards that can really score in (Taurean) Green, (Corey) Brewer and (Lee) Humphrey."

South Carolina also used its quickness and athleticism to neutralize Florida's superior size in the two meetings between the schools. Tennessee is not as quick or as athletic as the Gamecocks unless JaJuan Smith and Stanley Asumnu are in the lineup. Asumnu had his worst game of the season in the earlier meeting with Florida, producing 1 point, 1 rebound and 3 turnovers in 12 disastrous minutes. He hasn't started since.


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