UT's trey trauma

The Tennessee Vols made just 2 of 22 shots from 3-point range in Saturday's 77-55 loss at Southern Cal, yet head coach Bruce Pearl didn't discourage them. Instead, he ENCOURAGED them.

Earlier today Pearl used a football analogy to explain his reasoning. Southern Cal's decision to crowd the lane and dare UT to shoot 3s, he said, was the hoops equivalent of a football team putting nine men in the box and daring the opponent to pass on every down.

The Vols took the dare on Saturday, firing up 3-pointers on seven of their first 10 possessions.

"Six of the seven were good shots," Pearl said. "But we didn't make any."

Perhaps you're wondering: Why didn't the Vols stop shooting 3s at this point and try another approach?

"It's like (a football team) putting nine in the box ... you've got to throw it," Pearl said. "Well, if you keep on throwing incomplete passes, they say, 'Why didn't you run the ball?' We didn't run the ball because they had nine in the box.

"If you complete a few passes - or you make a few shots - they no longer put nine in the box."

After a brief pause, Pearl added: "I guess I'm trying to equate things to a football standpoint so our fans can understand why we shot it so poorly and shot it so often."

The Vols finished the first half just 2 of 13 from 3, numbers which bolstered USC's confidence on defense and shattered UT's confidence on offense. Things got so bad in the second half that the Trojans showed the Vols' outside game no respect whatsoever.

"At one point their point guard stopped guarding our point guards on the perimeter," Pearl noted. "He just stayed in the paint. So Bobby (Maze) is thinking, 'Gosh, we've missed so many 3s that we should run offense.' But if your man's not guarding you, it's hard to run any kind of offense when he's sitting in the paint."

Tennessee isn't the first team USC coach Kevin O'Neill tried to shut down by packing his defense in close to the basket. But the Vols were the first team to prove so utterly futile at attacking from beyond the arc.

"Going into that game Southern Cal's 2-point field goal defense was 38 percent. Their 3-point field goal defense 39 percent," Pearl noted. "They actually do a better job defending from 2 than they do from 3."

Tennessee probably could've foiled USC's strategy earlier this season ... i.e. - back when the Vols were making 3-point shots. They made 63 of their first 145 attempts behind the arc, a sizzling 43.4-percent success rate that ranked among the national leaders.

In the past two games, however, the Vols were 4 of 20 vs. Wyoming and 2 of 22 vs. Southern Cal. That's a combined 6 of 42, which amounts to a frigid 14.3-percent clip. As a result, UT's 3-point percentage has plummeted from 43.4 to 36.9 in the past week.

Despite the recent cold spell, Pearl believes this year's team is much better from 3 than last year's squad that finished dead last among the 12 SEC teams at 31.5 percent.

"It's definitely a better 3-point shooting team," the coach said. "We have more guys that can shoot it, and shoot it with a better percentage."

Obviously, that wasn't apparent on Saturday.

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