Bored on the boards

Given the size and athleticism of Tennessee's inside players, the Vols should be a dominant team on the backboards. They aren't, and that has head coach Bruce Pearl concerned ... even in the wake of Tuesday's 124-49 blowout of UNC Asheville.

Tennessee dominated in every phase of play except rebounding, where the smaller and less athletic Bulldogs managed a 44-44 stalemate.

"Rebounding is an issue and it's got to be corrected or it's going to be a tremendous limiter for us," Pearl said. "We don't dominate anybody. We don't dominate the boards."

Making matters worse is the fact UNC Asheville grabbed a whopping 22 offensive rebounds. The fact the Bulldogs had an awful lot of missed shots to rebound - they shot just 23.9 percent from the field - contributed, though.

"They missed a lot of shots," Pearl conceded, "but we had 33 defensive rebounds and they had 22 offensive boards. Two out of three is not good enough. It's just not good enough."

Tennessee's best rebounder, 6-9, 245-pound senior post Wayne Chism, played just 13 minutes due to a mild ankle sprain. He was on the floor just five minutes in the second half, when UNC Asheville outrebounded the Vols 27-22.

Senior All-American Tyler Smith (6-7, 215) grabbed 4 rebounds in 22 minutes and junior reserve Brian Williams (6-10, 270) pulled down 3 in 13 minutes. Only freshman Kenny Hall (6-9, 220), with 5 rebounds in 14 minutes, was productive on the glass.

"Our inside guys have got to be more dominant rebounding the ball," Pearl said. "We've got to initiate contact. We've got to clear out the lane, we've got to stay lower, we've got to jump and get balls off the rim. Otherwise, we're going to be really challenged."

Tennessee outrebounded Austin Peay 33-26 in Game 1, so the lopsided nature of Game 2 probably contributed to the Vols' backboard indifference. That won't keep the Vols from hearing about their rebounding woes in the days to come, however.

"They're hearing from me now and they're going to continue hearing from me," Pearl said. "It's a real concern, particularly with the front-line guys. Our big guys have got to man up and rebound."


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