Crews cleared to play

After missing a month of action because of an enlarged heart, Tennessee power forward Duke Crews will be back in the rotation for the Vols on Saturday against Georgia.

Vols coach Bruce Pearl said he planned to play Duke Crews if Crews made it through Thursday's practice.

``I'll try to play him 10 to 15 minutes,'' Pearl said.

That means somebody has to come out of the rotation. That somebody figures to be freshman Brian Williams or junior Ryan Childress.

``I'm not going to say who that is,'' Pearl said. ``I don't even know who it is. But we've got to get Duke back into the rotation.''

Based on production, Childress might be the odd man out. Neither Childress nor Williams has scored much in recent games, but Williams has been better on defense and on the boards.

You might also prefer Williams because he is younger and has a greater upside. Building minutes now should make him that much better next season.

While Childress showed remarkable improvement from his freshman to sophomore season – going from 1.2 points to 5.6 points – his scoring, rebounding and shooting accuracy are down from a year ago. He has gone from 5.6 points to 3.8, from 46 percent shooting to 38 percent and from 37.5 percent 3-point shooting to 21.4.

Williams is averaging 3.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and is shooting 65 percent from the field.

Meanwhile, Pearl wants to get the sour taste of losing at Kentucky out of his mouth. Pearl blamed himself for not getting the ball inside more and said he had too many plays in the playbook, causing the team to be confused in the half-court set.

``I don't think defense cost us,'' Pearl said. ``I think it was offensive execution and not getting the ball to the post.''

Pearl said one reason the Vols go through scoring droughts is much of the offense is predicated on turning over opponents and running the break after rebounds. UT didn't turn over Kentucky but 12 times – the Wildcats had averaged 17 – and got outrebounded by nine. That caused the Vols to have more half-court possessions.

The Vols seemed to either fire up a 3-pointer too quickly or stand around and let the shot-clock run down.

Tennessee (16-2) must improve in several areas to beat Georgia (12-5) which is without two key players – Takais Brown and Mike Mercer – but still has some talented players. Guards Sundiata Gaines and Billy Humphrey are All-SEC caliber and freshman center Jeremy Price has averaged 11 points since being inserted into the starting lineup last month.

``They're good; I like their team,'' Pearl said of the Bulldogs.

Under Pearl, UT is 4-0 against Georgia, but each win has been a struggle. The most rewarding might have come last season in Knoxville. The Vols were 1-3 a year ago without an injured Chris Lofton. The one win was over Georgia.

``How in the world did we win that game with the roster we had?'' Pearl said. ``It was one of the best wins of the year.''

Pearl said if he could pick one geographical area to recruit in the last few years, it would be Atlanta. He said he's trying to establish a greater presence in that hot-bed of talent.


Several Kentucky players said they were motivated by what they thought was a disrespectful act by the Vols.

Kentucky's Ramel Bradley and Perry Stevenson said UT players were trash-talking with Wildcat fans and wearing earrings during warm-ups. Players aren't allowed to wear jewelry during games.

``You're supposed to show some kind of class,'' Bradley was quoted as saying.

Pearl said he wasn't aware of his players wearing earrings during warm-ups or taunting Wildcat fans. But he doesn't want that to happen in the future. ``

One of the problems I had when I arrived was we were scared (of some teams) and I just didn't think we believed,'' Pearl said. ``I want the other players to think, `What are those guys so confident about.'

``There is a fine line between being confident and cocky.''

Pearl said sometimes players who wear earrings forget to take them out during pregame warmups. He doesn't want that to happen again.

``If it's gonna give someone the wrong impression,'' Pearl said. ``I don't want to give the wrong impression.''


Pearl might have provided the best insight yet as to why Lofton has struggled with his shooting this season.

Lofton was a 44 percent 3-point shooter entering the season. Before the Kentucky game, he was hitting 34 percent.

``I don't want Chris taking bad shots,'' Pearl said. ``The first two years, a bad shot by Chris Lofton was a good shot for Tennessee.''

That's no longer the case, not with guys like JaJuan Smith, Ramar Smith, Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism as other options.

``Chris needs to work to get open because I don't want him to take bad shots,'' Pearl said.

But what defines a bad shot for Lofton? He's known as the best contested shooter in the nation. So if he's guarded from 22 feet and fires – like has in the past – is that a bad shot?

Maybe Lofton is unsure what a bad shot is.

``The higher percentage play is to put the ball in Tyler Smith's hands and let him drive,'' Pearl said. ``He can finish, he can pass and if he misses, he has a chance to get an offensive rebound.''

Pearl said he doesn't think Lofton draws many fouls because ``word is out Chris will fall down in a 3-point shot or driving to the basket.''

Pearl thinks there is a way Lofton can correct the fouling issue.

``If Chris took offense to being fouled, if Chris took offense like I do, if Chris threw the defender in the third row of the stands, maybe he'd get more calls,'' Pearl said.

FREE THROWS: Pearl thinks signees Philip Jurich and Renaldo Woolridge have a great upside. ``Seventy-five to 100 players out of high school could be better their first year (in college) but those two are great prospects,'' Pearl said. … Pearl was glad to see C.J. Watson sign with the Golden State Warriors to give UT a player in the NBA. ``Trust me when I say that's used heavily against us in recruiting,'' Pearl said. … Pearl said he can't always explain UT's free throw shooting. ``How do you explain Ramar Smith going 0-for-12 in one game and shooting almost 80 percent since? How do you explain Wayne Chism hitting 38 percent and making five of six at Kentucky?''

Inside Tennessee Top Stories