Pearl on point guards

Charlotte transfer Mike Gerrity hadn't played a basketball game in 21 months when he took the floor against Tennessee on Saturday, yet Southern Cal's senior point guard looked like the second coming of John Stockton against the Vols.

Gerrity made just one basket but proved to be the catalyst in guiding the Trojans to a 77-55 victory. He repeatedly drove past Vol point guards to draw fouls (he was 10 of 11 from the line) or set up teammates en route to a 12-point, 10-assist performance.

"We didn't keep him out of the lane," UT head coach Bruce Pearl conceded. "He was able to penetrate, particularly from the top in ball-screens. In transition, we just never got in front of him. Then, when we did get in front of him, we opened up the gate and let him turn the corner."

Gerrity's superior performance would seem to be an indictment of Vol point guards Bobby Maze (8 points, 0 assists) and Melvin Goins (10 points, 1 assist).

"Our point guards did not do a good job of containing him," Pearl conceded. "But we did not give them enough help off the ball-screen. Our wings didn't jump far enough away from their own men to get him to give it up to the perimeter. Instead, he got into the paint, where he either shot it, drew some help to take away the shot and gave up the backside rebound or drew enough help to open up the post.

"It was the same thing over and over again. It all started and ended with him turning corners and getting that deep. When you let anybody get that deep, good things are going to happen for you offensively."

Some Vol fans are ripping Maze and Goins for their inability to contain Gerrity. Pearl is not.

"I thought we worked hard defensively," the coach said. "I thought the kid made plays and we didn't adjust to his penetration. We were a step late there but I thought we worked hard."

Maze and Goins also are taking considerable heat for the total meltdown of Tennessee's halfcourt offense vs. USC. The Vols shot just 34.5 percent from the floor, 9.1 percent (2 of 22) from 3 and registered just 5 assists as a team - half as many as Gerrity recorded all by himself.

Pearl conceded that "Against that defense you'd have to give our halfcourt offense a failing grade," but said film review showed the Vols got "pretty good looks," adding: "I wouldn't put it on the point guards."

The problem, the coach said, was more team than positional and more mental than physical.

"There was a physical disruption and there was a mental disruption," he said. "I thought the mental disruption bothered us more than anything, in the sense that we became our own worst enemy. As we struggled and failed, it became worse.

"We somewhat defeated ourselves, and that's something you don't want from an experienced team. But this experienced team had the same challenge last year, and it wasn't until the end of the year that we were able to fix it. Your hope was that it wouldn't come back and rear its ugly head. But, when faced with some adversity, it did."

Tennessee was an awful halfcourt team in 2008-09 but appeared to be improved in that area through the first nine games of 2009-10. The newfound poise disappeared against USC, however.

"The issue is this: We love to score in transition," Pearl said. "We score well in transition. We scored 40 off Wyoming on turnovers. We turned SC over 20 times but they're just not going to give you transitions. You have to work harder offensively to get good looks, and we stood around offensively."

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