Another lock-out at UT?

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and these are desperate times for the Tennessee Basketball Vols.

The times are so desperate, in fact, that head coach Bruce Pearl might borrow a page from Pat Summitt's disciplinary handbook and ban his team from the home locker room at Thompson-Boling Arena until it starts playing better. Summitt imposed just such a ban on her Lady Vol squad after a disappointing loss to an unranked Kentucky women's team last Thursday night.

With the Vols coming off an equally disappointing loss to an unranked Kentucky men's team last Saturday afternoon, you wonder if Pearl and his aides really might consider a locker room ban. The answer is yes.

"It's come up in conversation," said assistant coach Jason Shay, who filled in for Pearl at Monday's weekly media luncheon. "We're exhausting all (possible) solutions right now on how we can improve as a team.

"How do you do that? Is it all on the court? No, you've got to do some things off the court."

The Vols have played well in their recent home games but their last three road performances were abysmal. They were outhustled and outrebounded by an undersized and outmanned Tiger squad in a 78-77 loss at Auburn. They were grossly outplayed by a short-handed Ole Miss team in an 81-65 loss at Oxford last Wednesday, then dominated in all phases of play by a so-so Kentucky team in last Saturday's 77-58 loss at Lexington.

As a result, a team that was the odds-on favorite to win the SEC this season is 16-10 overall, 7-5 in league play and tied for fifth place in the conference behind LSU, Florida, Kentucky and South Carolina.

Given the lopsided road losses at Ole Miss and Kentucky, Tennessee may have to win three of its four remaining games just to get an NCAA Tournament bid. In other words, the Vols had better find some answers and get things turned around in a big, big hurry.

"We haven't come to a final conclusion on what those things (answers) are at this point," Shay said, "but we've got to change some things we're doing right now to improve our play on the court. We're still (examining) those possibilities."

Tennessee fans will tolerate losing. God knows, they grew accustomed to that during the Wade Houston, Kevin O'Neill and Buzz Peterson eras. Vol fans will not tolerate lack of discipline, lack of focus and lack of effort – three sins committed by the 2008-09 Vols in recent outings.

Shay admitted that the lack of passion last weekend at Rupp Arena was "a little surprising. You've got to come and play with your best effort every game, especially playing in that type of environment. Obviously, it's one of the toughest environments. Either you step up to the challenge and that motivates you, or you run and hide from it."

The Vols ran and hid Saturday. As a result, they soon may find themselves suiting up in unfamiliar surroundings – a la their female counterparts.

"I don't know what the motivational tactics are that we need to do to inspire each and every one of them," Shay said. "I think sometimes that's got to come from within. We'll continue to explore how we can reach each one of these guys to (make him) play up to his potential and compete for a championship in the SEC East."


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