Distribute and defend

Few people are likely to mistake Tennessee point guards Bobby Maze and Melvin Goins for shooting guards these days. Neither one is shooting worth a flip through seven games.

Fortunately for the Big Orange, the two are offsetting their scoring woes by excelling at the two Ds - distributing and defending.

Consider:

In Wednesday night's 78-66 defeat of East Tennessee State Maze sank just 2 of 8 attempts, including 0 of 4 from beyond the 3-point arc. For the season he's shooting just 40 percent (20 of 50) from the field and 23.5 percent (4 of 17) from 3.

Goins was 2 of 3 from the field vs. ETSU but a paltry 2 of 6 from the foul line. His seven-game stat line shows him at 39.5 percent (15 of 38) from the field, 28.6 percent (4 of 14) from 3 and 50 percent (5 of 10) from the foul line.

Naturally, head coach Bruce Pearl would like better production from his lead guards. But he won't fuss too much if Maze and Goins continue to distribute and defend the way they did Wednesday night.

Maze finished with 5 assists and zero turnovers in 25 near-flawless minutes. He now has 26 assists and a mere 11 turnovers this season. Goins came off the bench vs. ETSU to contribute 4 assists and just 1 turnover in 15 relief minutes. His season line shows 23 assists and just 10 turnovers.

Getting 9 assists and 1 turnover from the point guard position will be good enough to win most nights.

"We attacked their pressure well," Pearl said. "They (ETSU guards) could've extended their defense more, gotten into us and tried to turn us over, but I think they were comfortable just trying to stay in range and hoping they could hit a couple. We were always able to keep them at bay, manage the game. We played solid."

Tennessee's point tandem also played solid defensively. As a result, ETSU finished with more turnovers (13) than assists (8).

"I thought the point guards played pretty good defense again," Pearl said.

The coach was pleased that Tennessee recorded assists on 22 of its 28 baskets. That suggests the Vols are unselfishly looking to make the extra pass to get a teammate an even better shot. Still, Pearl thinks his team may be a little too unselfish.

"One of the problems with that is not enough individual dribble penetration one-on-one," he said. "I think it's great to share the ball like that and make the extra pass into the post. But they (Bucs) scored 24 baskets on eight assists. That means 16 times they made a one-on-one play. We need a little bit more of that to help our offense. I thought we had some one-on-one plays; we just didn't finish."

True. Still, it's hard to be disappointed when your offense chalks up 22 assists and just 6 turnovers, as the Vols did Wednesday night.

"I think that's great," Maze said. "I think guys are really learning how to play together, to play unselfishly. There's been times in games when we could've had that many assists but we just missed layups.

"That's just guys focusing on the plays. We all have been victims of blowing easy baskets, easy layups or easy lobs - trying to make the fantastic play instead of the easy play."

If Bobby Maze and Melvin Goins continue to distribute as efficiently as they did Wednesday night, their teammates should be making lots of easy plays in the months ahead.

And even fewer people will mistake them for shooting guards.


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