Goins pushes pace, Maze

Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl signed junior college point guard Melvin Goins last spring hoping he'd do two things: Push the ball and push incumbent point guard Bobby Maze.

So far, so good.

Although Goins has not shot the ball well (40.9 percent from the floor, 28.6 from 3), he has done a good of running Tennessee's transition offense, ranking third on the team in assists (23). He has been even more of a factor on defense, leading the team in steals (11), despite averaging just 16 minutes per game. His solid play has forced Maze to step up his game, particularly on defense.

Goins' presence also gives UT valuable depth at the point. Last year Maze's only backup was Josh Tabb, a natural wing who was playing out of position at point guard. With Goins on the bench, Maze no longer has to worry that coming out due to fatigue or foul trouble will leave the Vols in a lurch. That has freed Maze to play with more energy and aggressiveness than he did a year ago.

"It's helped me a lot," Maze conceded. "Melvin has been a great addition to this team. He's pushing me every day in practice and I push him. He's made me a better player.

"Whether I'm playing 35 or 22 minutes, I think we're a better team with him than without him. He comes in with just as much intensity as I have. He's a good on-the-ball defender and I think he's a better shooter and scorer than he gets credit for."

Goins looks a little uncomfortable at times but Maze can relate. He also came to the Vols from junior college, so he understands the transition his backup is having to make.

"We came from the same situation; we came from junior colleges where we were the main guys on our team," Maze said. "Both of us averaged near 20 points per game and everything went through us. Now he's making the transition I had to do. You've got so many good players here, so everything's not necessarily going through you."

Goins sometimes launches a perimeter jump shot with 20 seconds left on the shot clock. That's not the shot Pearl wants, especially with talented guys like Wayne Chism and Tyler Smith deserving touches on the inside. Goins is gradually learning to look for Chism and Smith, instead of firing those jumpers early in the shot clock.

"I know it's been kind of a change for him because he's used to being that main guy, taking whatever shots he wanted," Maze said. "Now he's turning down shots to get better shots for others. I think he's doing a great job of making that transition and making us a better team."

Maze is doing a pretty good job, as well. Like Goins, he is struggling with his shooting (42.4 percent from the floor, 27.3 percent from 3) but is cranking out assists at a nice clip (29).

"I'm just taking what the defense is giving me," he said. "As the point guard on this team, realizing we've got so many good players, I just try to get everybody involved."

Maze is hitting a sizzling 92.3 percent (12 of 13) from the foul line. Despite the weaponry around him, he is averaging 8.5 points per game.

"I feel like I can score when I want to," he said. "Coach has got enough confidence in me that when the shot-clock goes down I'm usually the guy to make the decision to take the shot or make the right pass."

Since Maze and Goins excel at transition offense and fullcourt defense, Pearl is mulling the possibility of using them simultaneously. Maze likes the idea a lot.

"I think that would be a great advantage," he said. "Both of us can push the ball. I've worked a lot on my defense and he (Goins) can guard just about anybody. That's something we both look forward to. But until it happens it's just a mystery."

Tennessee needs Maze and Goins to be at their best tonight against Wyoming. That's because the Cowboys have one of the speediest point guards the Vols will face this season.

"Wyoming is going to be virtually impossible to press because of JayDee Luster," Pearl said. "He is the fastest, quickest point guard we have faced so far. He'll rival (South Carolina's) Devan Downey, as far as his speed, quickness and his ability to break pressure."


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