"I said before the Vanderbilt game (last Tuesday) that we needed more productivity at the 2 (shooting guard)," Pearl said today. "And we still do. Bobby and Melvin both played well."
The coach toyed with the idea of playing his point guards in tandem back in December. The plan was scrapped, however, when Goins was suspended for four games in early January. With Goins back and providing a real spark lately, Pearl is looking to get him more minutes.
"Melvin is playing well since he came back, with great consistency," the coach said. "So I do think there's a chance of getting Bobby a rotation at the 2. But it won't come from Skylar's minutes. Skyler has still earned his spot."
Though best known for his shooting range, walk-on Skylar McBee has gained Pearl's respect with his heart and hustle. The 6-foot-3 freshman recorded 6 rebounds in the loss at UK and generally provides a lift with his energy and enthusiasm.
Tennessee keeps a plus-minus chart on each player that shows whether the Vols outscored their foe or were outscored while that player was on the floor. McBee proved to be a real plus Saturday at Rupp Arena.
"In the first half against Kentucky on the plus-minus chart, I think Skylar led us with plus-9," Pearl said. "He had four rebounds at half, six for the game, and did a lot of little things that don't show up on the stat sheet."
If Maze's minutes at the 2 don't come from McBee's allotment, they'll have to come from first-team shooting guard Scotty Hopson. The 6-foot-7 former High School All-American leads the Vols in 3-point shooting (39.2 percent) and ranks second in scoring (13.0 points per game) but doesn't always impact games as much as he should.
"If Bobby and Melvin are both going to play well, compete, step up and play tough on the road, then 40 minutes is not enough for them," Pearl said. "So the minutes have got to come at the 2. I'm not taking Skylar out of the regular rotation. Therefor, Scotty's minutes could drop some."
The coach said J.P. Prince, the starting small forward, also might sacrifice a few minutes per game in order to get Maze and Goins on the floor simultaneously.
Utilizing the two point guards in tandem should bolster Tennessee's defense. Despite standing just 5-feet-10, Goins is the team's best on-the-ball defender. The 6-foot-3 Maze also can be a solid defender when he's focused. The fact guards John Wall and Eric Bledsoe combined to score 23 of UK's final 25 points Saturday in Lexington should not be viewed as an indictment of UT's guards, Pearl said.
"I think most of the scoring by Kentucky's guards was not when we were in man-to-man," the coach noted. "They (points) came against the zone, so you can't necessarily blame the guards for the fact Kentucky's guards scored."
Still, Pearl says both point guards "can do better defensively ... Bobby from a consistent effort standpoint. When Bobby is really focused and concentrating, he can play. Melvin (must be) smart about his ball pressure. Sometimes he pressures the ball too much, and that creates driving opportunities for the opponent."
Given that Tennessee already has suffered double-digit SEC road losses at Georgia, Vanderbilt and Kentucky, Pearl thinks the mental toughness a Maze-Goins tandem would bring to the lineup could be helpful.
"I like the way they both compete and I like the way they have courage," he said. "I don't think either one of them is afraid."
So, what would be the down side to using Maze and Goins at once?
"I think the only down side would be: Where do the minutes come from?" Pearl said. "If Bobby gets a rotation each half at the 2 (shooting guard), then the minutes will come from Scotty and J.P. Instead of playing 32 or 33 minutes, maybe they'll play 29. Then there's a rotation each half for Bobby at the 2. But they (Maze's minutes at the 2) won't come from Skylar."