One-man power surge

With Tennessee clinging to a scant 27-26 lead Friday night at Middle Tennessee, the Vols desperately needed a power surge.

To the surprise of a packed house at Murfreesboro's Murphy Center, freshman Scotty Hopson provided the outlet.

First, he nailed an 18-footer from the left wing that padded the lead to 29-26. On Tennessee's next possession he backed up a step and drained a 3-pointer from the same location, boosting the bulge to 32-26. On the next trip upcourt he duplicated the feat, widening the gap to 35-26.

Hopson's 8-point spurt basically proved to be the difference in the game as Tennessee won by 10 (76-66).

Other than his mini-explosion, the heralded rookie attempted just two more shots – making one – to finish with 10 points. What he did during that 90-second first-half run, however, underscored that he has the ability to take over a game in a few dramatic moments.

"You can see that. It's there offensively," head coach Bruce Pearl said this week. "Scotty's real unselfish. He only took five shots in the game but he has that kind of ability. There's no question."

Hopson, a 6-7 wing, appears to be feeling his way along in his introduction to the collegiate level. After hitting 7 of 11 shots and scoring 17 points in his debut vs. Chattanooga, he attempted just five shots each in Game 2 vs. UT-Martin (making two) and in Game 3 vs. Middle Tennessee (making four).

Given the offensive capabilities Hopson displayed while earning All-America honors at University Heights Academy in Hopkinsville, Ky., Tennessee's coaches would like to see him pull the trigger a little more often.

"We'd like him to continue to be more aggressive – looking for his shot, getting the ball to the basket, rebounding the ball, playing defense ... just the whole thing," Pearl said.

Hopson's lack of aggressiveness is evident in the fact he averages just seven field-goal tries per game. It's even more evident in the fact he has shot just two free throws in three games. If he were using his agility and quickness to attack the rim, that figure would be a lot higher.

"That's being young and not being particularly physical," Pearl said. "It's something you'd obviously like to see him do more of. Getting him open looks he can score. He's good in transition but we have not gotten him the ball in transition as well as we'd like."

Perhaps the Vols can rectify that situation this week in the Old Spice Classic at Orlando, Fla. They play Siena Thursday at noon in Round 1, then face Wichita State or Georgetown Friday at either 10:30 a.m. or 1 p.m. in Round 2. The title round is scheduled Sunday.

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