Frosh struggle with halfcourt D

Fullcourt basketball is more of a speed game; halfcourt basketball is more of a mind game. Thus, it's no surprise that Tennessee's youthful Volunteers proved much better at fullcourt than halfcourt basketball in their two preseason exhibitions.

In Exhibition No. 1 vs. LeMoyne-Owen, for instance, the Vols maintained a fast pace throughout and rolled to a 126-66 victory. They shot 69.6 percent from the field, including 80.6 percent in the first half, and limited the visitors to 36.1 percent.

In Exhibition No. 2 vs. Tusculum, however, Tennessee allowed the Pioneers to dicate the game's pace in the first half. Playing a deliberate, halfcourt game proved problematical for the youthful Vols, who shot just 34.9 percent in the first half while allowing Tusculum to shoot 52.4 during the same span.

Tennessee's younger players lack the patience needed to execute a halfcourt offense and lack the know-how to thrive in a halfcourt – or drop-back – defense. Still, they forced a bunch of turnovers and pulled away late to beat the Pioneers 100-57 in Game 2.

"We turned them over 36 times," head coach Bruce Pearl noted. "Our press was good. This has a chance to be a very good pressing team. It's going to have to be because you can see in the drop-back we've still got some challenge."

Tennessee fielded a veteran team last year, with a starting five that featured two seniors (C.J. Watson, Andre Patterson), two juniors (Dane Bradshaw, Major Wingate) and a sophomore (Chris Lofton).

"Last year we were a pretty good defensive team in the drop-back because we had some veterans who knew how to play," Pearl noted. "We just couldn't keep good teams off the boards."

Conversely, the 2006-07 team has a lot of maturing and learning to do. The starting lineup consists of one senior (Bradshaw), two juniors (Lofton, JaJuan Smith) and two freshmen. The top three reserves consist of two freshmen and a sophomore transfer (Anthony Passley).

"This team is not a very good drop-back defensive team because of its inexperience," Pearl said. "One of the hardest things to develop is the defensive end because good offenses expose you – spacing, screening, flares, backcuts, all of the different things. That's where we've been exposed the most ... our drop-back defense."


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