Quick fouls don't panic Pearl

Like most college basketball coaches, Tennessee's Bruce Pearl tends to remove starters from the lineup when they pick up two first-half fouls. He's just not a fanatic about it.

The Vol coach has a very simple explanation for his reluctance to adhere to a strict two-fouls-and-you're-out rule: He wants his guys playing aggressively – offensively, defensively and on the backboards. If they're worried about getting yanked because of two quick fouls, they're likely to lose some of that aggressiveness.

That's why Pearl allowed Tyler Smith to see limited action in the first half of Saturday night's game at Mississippi State ... even though he was saddled with two quick fouls.

Speaking on his post-game show, the coach explained his position this way: "There are times when I'll play a guy with two fouls in the first half for one reason and one reason only: I don't want my guys worrying that, 'If I pick up two, then I'm done for the half. Therefore, I'm not going to play defense. I'm not going to rebound. I'm going to stay out of foul trouble.'"

When a player adopts this mindset, Pearl says the result is inevitable: "Then you don't play."

Since pulling a player who has two quick fouls has become standard operating procedure in the college game, continuing to utilize a player in this situation invites second-guessing, especially if that player gets hit with Foul No. 3 before intermission. Pearl understands this but is not concerned about it.

"Every writer, every announcer would say, 'How could he be in there and pick up his third?' It's an easy slam on the coach," Pearl said. "The answer is because I don't want those kids worrying about two fouls in the first half."


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