Foes 'zone in' on Vols

Basketball truth No. 1: The more you misfire from outside, the more zone defense you're likely to see.

The Tennessee Vols are misfiring a lot from outside these days, which is why they saw a lot of zone defense Saturday at Georgia and can expect to see a lot more Wednesday night against Vanderbilt.

The Big Orange made just 6 of 23 shots from 3-point range (26.1 percent) in their 71-69 overtime defeat of Ole Miss on Jan. 16. They made 3 of 10 trey tries (30 percent) in their 63-56 win at Alabama on Jan. 19. They made 3 of 16 from behind the arc (18.8 percent) in last Saturday's 78-63 loss at Georgia.

The three-game total is 12 of 49, which comes out to 24.5 percent. That's not going to be good enough to win against SEC competition most nights.

Tennessee's only dependable 3-point shooter the past three games was Scotty Hopson, who hit 6 of 13 for 46.2 percent. Josh Bone was 3 for 9, a half-decent 33.3 percent. The rest of the Vols were colder than an arctic winter. Wayne Chism was 2 for 7 (28.6 percent). Skylar McBee was 1 for 10 (10 percent). Renaldo Woolridge was 0 for 4 and Bobby Maze 0 for 6.

Over the past two games, Bama adn Georgia, Hopson was 6 of 11 from beyond the arc; the rest of the team 0 of 15.

"We're going to have to shoot it better as a team," head coach Bruce Pearl said, "and be able to mix in more outside scoring with some of the things we do inside."

Tennessee's inside game is a lot easier to shut down when the outside game is off target. With the Vols firing and falling back from long range Saturday in Athens, Georgia's 3-2 zone limited post Wayne Chism to just 3 of 10 from the field and a mere 6 points.

"I think part of the reason why people are playing a zone is that it's not as easy for me to play-call and get Wayne Chism touches on the inside," Pearl said. "That obviously has been effective."

Tennessee's problem against a zone is that the Vols tend to jack up 3-pointers rather than attacking the defense and trying to work the ball inside.

"There's more to being effective against a zone than shooting the ball well from outside," Pearl said. "But when you don't have anybody other than Scotty making a 3-ball the past two games, it would start there. That's a good place to start.

"As far as the penetration, spacing ... we lacked both against Georgia. We hadn't seen much 3-2 zone but we had plenty of good stuff in for it. We just didn't execute."

Maze, the starting point guard, is really struggling. He was deadly from 3 en route to averaging 35.7 points per game in the Rocky Top League last summer but is shooting just 19.1 percent from 3 this winter (9 of 47). Pearl believes Maze will snap out of his shooting doldrums someday, however.

"He is a much better shooter than that," the coach said. "When Bobby shoots the ball I still expect it to go in, even at 19 percent. It's not characteristic of how good a shooter he is.

"He's clearly in a slump. He's clearly thinking about it. I don't even want him to hesitate. He's getting good shots. He was 0 for 2 from 3 (vs. Georgia) and I thought there might've been a shot or two he turned down that he could've taken.

"He's got to shoot with more confidence. He's working on it; he's in the gym. Obviously, he's got to have a little more success; he's got to make a couple before he starts feeling better about it."

With the exception of Hopson, that last sentence could apply to anyone on the team.


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