Futility from 3

The best present Tennessee's basketball players could've gotten this Christmas might be their shooting strokes back. Several Vols clearly lost them the past two weeks.

When you compare the 3-point numbers Bruce Pearl's team compiled for Games 1-8 to the numbers for Games 9-11, the difference is dramatic. As a team Tennessee hit 43.2 percent (63 of 146) in the first eight games, compared to 16.2 percent (11 of 68) in the past three games.

The skid started with a 4-of-20 outing vs. Wyoming, bottomed out with a 2-of-22 performance at Southern Cal, then continued with a 5-of-26 showing vs. lowly North Carolina A&T.

The individual numbers are even more astounding. Each of the team's top seven 3-point launchers shot better in Games 1-8 than he did in Games 9-11.

Here are those individual numbers:

Scotty Hopson's first eight games: 19-37 (51.4 percent)

Hopson's last three games: 0-3, 1-3, 0-4 ... 1-10 (10.0 percent)

Cameron Tatum's first eight games: 11-20 (55.0 percent)

Tatum's last three games: 1-3, 1-2, 0-5 ... 2-10 (20.0 percent)

Skylar McBee's first eight games: 9-23 (39.1 percent)

McBee's last three games: 0-3, 0-1, 3-6 ... 3-10 (30.0 percent)

Bobby Maze's first eight games: 6-22 (27.3 percent)

Maze's last three games: 1-3, 0-3, 0-4 ... 1-10 (10.0 percent)

Wayne Chism's first eight games: 7-15 (46.7 percent)

Chism's last three games: 1-4, 1-7, 1-2 ... 3-13 (23.1 percent)

Melvin Goins' first eight games: 4-14 (28.6 percent)

Goins' last three games: 1-1, 0-3, 0-0 ... 1-4 (25.0 percent)

Renaldo Woolridge's first eight games: 3-7 (42.8 percent)

Woolridge's last three games: 0-2, 0-1, 1-3 ... 1-6 (16.7 percent)

How could a team that shot so well from the perimeter in Games 1-8 suddenly resemble a convention of brick-layers?

"I think it's a mental thing," McBee said. "We're working to overcome that. We all have to be mentally strong."

Obviously, confidence is huge. When the Vols were shooting the lights out in Games 1-8, they were connecting early from 3, then maintaining their success for 40 minutes. Lately, though, they've been missing early and seemingly saying, 'Uh-oh, here we go again.'"

"Coach Pearl says your first shot, if you miss it, doesn't affect your second shot at all," McBee noted. "That's all a mind thing. You can't think about that. You've just got to trust in the shot you put up, trust in the work you've done and be confident in shooting the ball."

Anyone who has ever shot a basketball, however, knows that making your first attempt makes the second one easier, just as missing the first one makes the second one tougher.

"It's definitely a confidence-booster when you come out and hit your first shot," McBee conceded. "It kind of boosts your confidence. You're ready to shoot that next one as soon as you hit the first one."

With Memphis (Thursday), Charlotte (Jan. 6) and top-ranked Kansas (Jan. 10) coming up, the Vols' 3-point gunners need to get their confidence boosted in a big hurry.

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