Pearl knows Vols face tough road ahead

Bruce Pearl led his team through a tough practice Monday afternoon, before loading the bus heading to Nashville. The Vols have tough back to back road games at Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Go "Inside" today's practice report to see how Pearl is preparing his team for the two big test.

The men's basketball team worked through a lengthy practice session in Thompson-Boling Arena Monday afternoon, just before loading on the team bus to head to Nashville for a Tuesday night match up with the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Waiting in Nashville is a team that aptly handled the Volunteers on their home court on January 27, disheveling the Big Orange en route to an 85-76 loss.

The Commodores treated Vols fans to a different show, dropping 85 points, the most scored by any opponent in Thompson-Boling Arena this season.

Vanderbilt guard Jermaine Beal had a 25-point performance in the win, tying the individual best this season on the team.

"He's such a leader on the floor for his basketball club," Tennessee guard Scotty Hopson said. "He's very talkative and he plays hard every night so we're just going to go out there and force him to get out of his game."

It was a performance that left many in orange scratching their heads.

The Vols have been dastardly on defense this season, ranking at 73rd in scoring defense, 56th in field goal defense, 28th in steals per game and fourth in turnover margin.

Despite the impressive defensive statistics, the Volunteers enter this match up with the mindset of defensive adjustments.

"I think you have to make some adjustments," head coach Bruce Pearl said. "You look at trends as to how they're playing and things that they're doing well, try to take those things away and make them find other ways to beat you."

Ever since losing to Vandy, the Vols' second consecutive conference loss at the time, the team has been slowly putting together a rejuvenation effort, which included a close home win over Florida and a tough road victory over LSU.

In those two games, Tennessee showed an alarming hesitancy in scoring early baskets, scoring only five points in the first 4:33 of the Florida game and six points in the first 6:26 against LSU.

Against South Carolina on Sunday, the Volunteers finally erupted, scoring 79 points, highlighted by senior center Wayne Chism's career-high 30-point performance."Defense and rebounding are keeping us in games," Pearl said. "The breakout offensively was the difference in the margin. We won a lot of close games and a lot of close low-scoring games. We talked about needing to shoot the ball better, we talked about valuing possessions, and we only turned it over six times, the combination of those things led to 79 points."

In Pearl's eyes, the offensive inconsistency is a result of different schemes meeting on the court, coupled with individual efforts on different nights.

"Different teams match up with you differently," Pearl said. "Wayne had an advantage against South Carolina that night. (Sam) Muldrow has blocked shots and played really well, but that night Wayne was better."

Undoubtedly, it will take an impressive outing from the Volunteers to shut down the scoring duo of Jermaine Beal and center A.J. Ogilvy, while adding their own offensive spice on the night.

For this Tennessee team, it's all a part of the grueling conference schedule that comes every February.

"The atmosphere playing at that gym, it's so different over there," Hopson said. "They're a competitive team, they always play hard and bring it every night, we're Tennessee and it's a rival game."


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