Two points at crunch time?

Tennessee's point guards are playing so well in games this season that they may be playing in tandem at times.

Starter Bobby Maze has recorded 26 assists and just 11 turnovers. Backup Melvin Goins has been just as efficient, recording 23 assists and a mere 10 turnovers. Naturally, head coach Bruce Pearl would be happy to see the duo maintain such a high level of production.

"That would be great," he said.

Pearl is so pleased with the way Maze and Goins are taking care of the ball that he's toying with the idea of using them simultaneously at the end of games.

"I haven't finalized a team that will close out games," the coach said. "I would say there's a chance Bobby and Melvin could be on the floor at the same time to close out games - both for offensive and defensive purposes. That's something you haven't seen yet but it's certainly something that's a possibility."

Maze has earned his spot on the floor at crunch time by compiling a fine assist/turnover ratio and by hitting 12 of 13 free-throw attempts (92.3 percent).

Fellow senior Wayne Chism will be on the floor late because he is the Vols' best post defender and post scorer.

Yet another senior, Tyler Smith, will be in the late-game lineup because he is an All-American who contributes points, rebounds, assists, steals and leadership.

Another late-game spot likely will go to Cameron Tatum. He is leading the Vols in field-goal percentage (62.8), ranks second in 3-point percentage (52.6) and third in free-throw percentage (75.0). He's also a solid rebounder and defender.

The final cunch-time spot could go to Goins, to sophomore wing Scotty Hopson, to senior wing J.P. Prince or even to freshman wing Skylar McBee.

Goins has the assist/turnover ratio going for him, plus he's a superior on-the-ball defender. If you're using the fullcourt press to overcome a deficit, he's your man. His free-throw shooting (50 percent) is a problem, however.

Hopson leads the Vols in scoring (15.7 points per game) but also leads in turnovers (17) - seven more than any other player. Moreover, his defense is inconsistent and his free-throw shooting is below average (64.7 percent).

Prince is a cool head who excels at breaking down a defense and setting up his teammates. He's no threat from 3, however, and his free-throw shooting is shaky (58.3 percent).

McBee lacks size and experience but he's an all-out hustler who can drain the 3-pointer (42.9 percent) and make free throws (85.7 percent). He also has a surprisingly good ratio of assists (8) to turnovers (2) in limited action.

"I think three or four guys have got themselves solidly established for being out there at the end of the game," Pearl said. "There are two or three guys that are still to be determined whether they'll be out there at the end. Obviously, (you want) guys that can make free throws and guys that can defend."


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