Vols ragged in hoop scrimmge

You know it's a bad scrimmage when the most intense person on the floor is the head coach.

That was the case Wednesday, as Tennessee's Basketball Vols held their final intra-squad scrimmage of the preseason at Thompson-Boling Arena. At one point Bruce Pearl threatened: "I'm going to play 12 guys 16 minutes a game because that's all you want to play hard."

When he met the media 20 minutes after the scrimmage ended, the head man still was a bit frustrated with the effort.

"Today was not a great scrimmage," he said. "We scrimmaged better last week. We practiced better yesterday. There's still a lot to learn. The intensity was OK but I just didn't think we played very well today."

Pearl is hoping to ratchet up the pace of play this season to exploit Tennessee's depth and wear down Tennessee's opponents. A fast pace only works, however, if the Vols play with focus and passion. That wasn't always the case on Wednesday.

"We have enough players," Pearl said. "Our strength is our depth but we're not all playing with the intensity level to take advantage of our depth. That's what we're trying to get to."

Pearl turned the coaching reins over to assistant coaches Tony Jones and Jason Shay during the scrimmage session.

"It's a fun thing for the assistant coaches to do," Pearl noted, "because this is the last chance they'll get to do it. Starting Friday, obviously, I've got to take over."

Friday, of course, is when Tennessee hosts North Alabama in its exhibition opener. Tipoff is set for 7:30.

The Vols will be looking for improvement offensively after struggling mightily in Wednesday's scrimmage. Unofficially, they shot around 35 percent from the floor and roughly 50 percent from the foul line.

The major bright spots were freshmen Kenny Hall and Skylar McBee.

Hall, a 6-9, 220-pounder with superior athleticism, blocked several shots and hit the backboards hard. McBee, a 6-2 walk-on, drained 4 of 4 shots - all from 3-point range - and added 4 steals.

"Skylar probably had a big impact on this scrimmage," Pearl said, "and I liked Kenny Hall's energy. I thought both of those freshmen brought some real good energy."

Wayne Chism sank 3 of 4 shots before suffering a groin injury that sidelined him for the last half of the workout. Cameron Tatum also made 3 of 4 shots. Bobby Maze was 3 of 9 and Scotty Hopson 3 of 10, including 2 of 6 from beyond the arc. Juco transfer Melvin Goins, just back from minor knee surgery, showed some rust - going 0 of 8 from the field. Goins was a real pest on defense, however, and could give Maze some competition for the No. 1 point guard job as he rounds into shape.

There was one humorous moment during the scrimmage. Hopson clapped his hands while Tatum was shooting a free throw, prompting Pearl to stop the scrimmage and explain that distracting a foul shooter is going to be a point of emphasis among NCAA officials this season. Pearl then turned to the players sitting on the bench at the opposite end of the floor and shouted, "Did you hear that? You can't do anything to disconcert the free-throw shooter."

Chism, the team clown, rolled his eyes and chirped, "Disconcert?"

Pearl laughed, shook his head, then chose another word.

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