Pearl pans the Vols

Based on the recent comments of Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl, you'd think his Basketball Vols are 0-3 this season, instead of 3-0.

Basically, the head man is unhappy with the following:

- Offensive execution

- Unforced turnovers

- Inability to cause turnovers

- Fullcourt press

- Halfcourt offense

You're probably wondering: Is there anything Pearl is pleased with?

"Rebounding," he said, "would be the one area I think we're ahead defensively."

Although the Vols made some strides last Friday in Game 3 at Middle Tennessee, Pearl thought most of those strides were in the wrong direction.

"The problem and the challenge for me is that in some ways I felt like we stepped back at Middle," he said. "Our offensive execution was not good. We turned the ball over way too much against a team that really doesn't force a lot of turnovers.... We kinda gave the ball away a few times at Middle.

"Our press was really bad. We made very little happen with our press. That's not uncommon on the road but we need to work on that a great deal."

Pearl conceded that Tennessee took fewer hurried shots, then qualified by adding: "Unfortunately, we did turn the ball over too often trying to get a better look or not being very sharp in our execution."

Tennessee's offensive system consists of three stages: One, the fast break. Two, the secondary break. Three, the halfcourt attack. The Vols are terrific in Stage 1, pretty good in Stage 2, not so hot in Stage 3. Pearl hopes to see improvement in that area when his team participates in the Old Spice Classic this week at Orlando, Fla.

"One thing I'm not seeing enough of is running our fast break ... not there ... running our continuity (secondary break) ... not there ... pulling it out and running a play at the end of the clock," Pearl said. "We're not seeing that. We're either shooting it or turning it over before we get to that point. That's what we're going to have to see in Orlando. That would be the next step in this offense."

Tennessee is at its best when its fullcourt press is forcing turnovers. After forcing 24 in a 114-75 Game 1 blowout of Chattanooga and 18 more in a 91-64 Game 2 defeat of UT-Martin, Tennessee forced just nine in a 76-66 Game 3 win at Middle Tennessee.

"We turned a couple of teams over at home but this team is not forcing a lot of turnovers," Pearl noted. "Therefore, we're not creating a lot of transition (opportunities). Therefore, we're not taking advantage of some of the areas we're good at."

Tennessee should be a devastating defensive team. Its starting lineup measures 6-9, 6-7, 6-8, 6-7, 6-2, and there's not a lumbering ox in the bunch. Still, Pearl says the Vols are not as fleet afoot as he'd like.

"Part of it is length vs. quickness," he said. "A lot has been made of our length but we've got to get quicker and smarter in order to turn people over."

Against Middle Tennessee, the Vols actually committed more turnovers (16) than they forced (9). That has Pearl very concerned.

"We didn't turn 'em over in the press and we turned the ball over too often ourselves ... unforced," he said. "Our offensive execution left a lot to be desired. But we grounded out. I'm real proud of my kids. They faced some adversity.

"Tyler (Smith) was Tyler. Bobby (Maze) closed out (with clutch free throws) in the end. Scotty (Hopson) has his spurt. J.P. (Prince) had a good ball game overall. We did a lot of good things to win the basketball game. But we've got a long way to go."

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