Walk don't run

The formula for beating Tennessee's basketball team is no secret: Bruce Pearl's Vols scored fewer than 70 points six times in 2008-09, and their record in those games was 1-5.

That does not bode well for the Big Orange heading into Saturday's 4:30 EST tipoff against a Southern Cal team whose entire philosophy is built around keeping the pace slow and the score low.

"USC is going to be one of the more patient teams we play," Pearl said. "They'll play great, tough, physical defense. It'll be a low-scoring contest and obviously in a difficult environment."

Does that mean Tennessee's 8-1 record and No. 9 national ranking are in peril? Maybe not. The 2009-10 Vols seem more efficient when forced to play a slow tempo than their 2008-09 predecessors.

Tennessee beat DePaul 57-53, even though the Blue Demons took the air out of the ball. Tennessee also beat two in-state programs that tried to slow the pace - East Tennessee State (86-69) and Middle Tennessee (78-66).

"Coach has been instilling in us that a lot of teams are going to try to run the shot clock down and that we're going to have to stay solid," sophomore wing Cameron Tatum said. "In order for us to be a great defensive team like we're capable of being, we've got to stay solid, whether it's early in the shot clock or late in the shot clock.

"We're going to face teams from all over the country, so we need to know how to play different styles and be successful."

Senior post Wayne Chism echoed those sentiments, noting: "We've played teams like that before. DePaul was a team that likes to run the shot clock down. MTSU did the same thing. We're used to that. We just have to continue to play good defense for 35 seconds."

Playing good defense for even 15 seconds was a problem for the Big Orange last year. This year's team appears much more diligent on the defensive end, however. The Vols limited Wyoming to 37.8 percent shooting, including 19 percent from 3, in Tuesday night's 77-58 victory.

"Cam (Tatum) did a great job defensively," Chism said. "J.P. (Prince) finally was taking charges. Brian (Williams) did a good job on the inside. You can see a lot of things have changed on this team that we didn't have last year."

Indeed. Tennessee is showing much more patience on offense and much more energy on defense. That helped considerably against previous slow-down teams, and should help in Saturday's game at Southern Cal.

"Playing fast and playing slow is not that different," Chism said. "Some teams are going to try to slow us down. They'll play their game and we'll play ours."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories