UT's hot start burns Tusculum

Tennessee's Tyler Smith went nearly 13 minutes before scoring in Friday night's exhibition finale against Tusculum but his teammates managed to muddle by without him.

When Smith finally tallied on a three-play point at the 7:09 mark, his bucket increased the Vol lead to 40-2.

That's right … forty to two. Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl mercifully called off the dogs (i.e. – the fullcourt pressure) and settled for an 82-51 triumph.

Basically, this was a case of a Div. I team with length, quickness and athleticism manhandling a Div. II team that had none of the above.

"We took Tusculum out of the things they like to do," Pearl noted.

Basically, what Tusculum likes to do is get the ball to hot-shooting Kyle Moore, who hung 30 points on Vanderbilt last season. The Vols rattled him in the first half Friday night, however, limiting him to 1-of-8 shooting and 5 points.

"We was in every passing lane," 6-9 Vol center Wayne Chism said. "We made it tough for Moore to come off them screens and shoot. We had four or five different persons on him. I went off a couple of screens on him. Everybody was playing him."

Moore finished with a game-high 23 points but made just 5 of 18 shots.

"I thought we played with great energy and passion in the first half," Pearl noted, adding that "The pace was up, and it looked like Tennessee basketball."

Actually, what it looked like was a shark feeding frenzy. Tennessee's length, quickness and hustle so disoriented the Pioneers that they made just 1 of their first 15 field-goal tries. By the time they scored their second bucket they were down 40-4 with 5:58 left to intermission.

Tennessee forced a mind-boggling 19 turnovers en route to a 49-12 bulge at the break. The Vols stopped pressing in the second half, though, and struggled with both their half-court offense and half-court defense. Clearly, a deliberate pace does not favor Tennessee, which was outscored 39-33 over the final 20 minutes.

Pearl admitted that his team lost its focus a bit after building the commanding lead, noting: "Human nature says you're going to play the score a little bit."

In addition to losing its focus, Tennessee lost its patience in the second half. After hitting 14 of their first 19 shots (73.7 percent) en route to the big early lead, the Vols sank just 16 of 47 (34.0) thereafter.

"The first half we had 17 two-point baskets, and that's really good," Pearl noted. "The second half we only had five."

That was because the Vols went 3-ball crazy once they built the 40-2 lead. They wound up launching 26 shots from beyond the arc, making just eight.

"I'm still letting them go, still letting them try to find their way offensively," Pearl said. "We'll learn a great deal from watching the tape."

One thing he'll learn – if he doesn't already realize it – is that freshman Renaldo Woolridge can shoot the rock. The 6-8 rookie hit 6 of 12 shots – 3 of 6 beyond the arc – en route to a team-high 15 points in his first career start.

Pearl said that getting double-doubles from Smith (12 points, 11 rebounds) and Chism (13 points, 10 rebounds) was "extremely positive." Scotty Hopson (11 points) and Cameron Tatum (10) also were productive.

Point guard Bobby Maze, a first-year juco transfer, contributed 9 assists in a performance Pearl described as "terrific … but we need more than just Bobby distributing the basketball."

Brian Williams, UT's 6-10 sophomore post, aggravated a recent knee injury during pre-game warm-ups and watched from the bench, along with senior Ryan Childress (injury), juniors J.P. Prince (injury) and Josh Tabb (academics), plus freshman Daniel West (Clearinghouse issue).

Pearl said it is "possible" Prince and/or Tabb will be back in uniform in time for the regular-season opener next Saturday vs. visiting Chattanooga.

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