Pairing the points

In his ongoing effort to produce more points, Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl decided to start two points.

The strategy worked well enough Wednesday night to help the Vols post a 69-60 defeat of Georgia at Thompson-Boling Arena. Bobby Maze, who started the first 24 games at the point guard position, was joined in the opening lineup by backup point guard Melvin Goins.

Goins didn't exactly shine in his first start - making just 1 of 7 shots and finishing with 5 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 turnover and 2 steals in 19 minutes. Still, his presence on the floor seemed to help Maze, who was able to focus more on his scoring. Splitting time between the point and the off guard spots, he made 5 of 10 shots - including his only 3-point try - en route to 13 points.

"It was great working with Melvin," Maze said. "I can push the basketball; he can push the basketball. Being out there on the wing, able to spot up and hunt my shot a little bit, was a different look. But I enjoyed it, and I hope we stay with that lineup."

Freed of having to bring the ball upcourt on every possession, Maze was able to expend more energy working for shots. He was especially effective driving to the basket in transition. Being a former shooting guard, he relished the opportunity to relinquish some of the ball-handling chores.

"It helps a lot," he said. "Nowadays a lot of point guards play off the ball - Tyreke Evans when he was at Memphis, John Wall and Eric Bledsoe (Kentucky) done it, and Sherron Collins (Kansas).

"I think it makes you harder to guard. Guys can't just see me coming down and passing the ball across the key or coming off the ball screen. Now I'm coming off down screens, so it makes me harder to guard. It makes me more of an offensive weapon, also."

Pairing Maze and Goins also puts Tennessee's two best perimeter defenders on the floor at once. Although a zone defense helped, Maze and Goins combined Wednesday night to limit Georgia's Travis Leslie to 4 points. Leslie hit 8 of 11 shots and scored 19 points in the Dawgs' Jan. 23 win at Athens.

"It was a team effort," Maze said. "Leslie had a terrific game (last time) against us, so we knew he was a big part of the team. We knew we couldn't let Trey Thompson AND him get off."

Maze and Goins were especially effective in the game's final nine minutes. With Tennessee down by a point, Maze nailed a 3-pointer with 8:17 left to ignite a 20-10 finishing kick that turned a 49-50 deficit into a 69-60 win.

"I thought Melvin and Bobby played well," Pearl said. "They closed it out a little bit. Bobby hit a big 3 at the 2 (position) late in the game.

"I think Melvin and Bobby playing together, particularly late in the game, was positive."

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