Stumbling starters

If you're a Tennessee basketball fan, you're probably wondering: "What was wrong with the Vols Tuesday night in Gainesville?"

Well, for starters it was ... the starters.

Check out these numbers:

- Wayne Chism 3 of 6 from the field, 7 points and 1 rebound

- Brian Williams 2 of 5 from the field, 4 points

- J.P. Prince 1 of 5 from the field, 3 points and 3 turnovers

- Melvin Goins 1 of 7 from the field, 2 points and zero assists

- Bobby Maze 4 of 10 from the field, 11 points and 5 assists

Vol starters went a combined 11 of 33 from the field (33.3 percent) and scored just 27 of Tennessee's 62 points in the 75-62 loss to Florida. Discounting Maze, who played reasonably well on offense, the other four starters were a combined 7 of 23 for 16 points.

If not for quality performances by reserve wings Scotty Hopson (8 of 15 field goals, 4 of 8 from 3, 20 points) and Cameron Tatum (3 of 7 field goals, 3 of 5 from 3, 13 points), the Vols might've lost by 30.

Chism, the reigning SEC Player of the Week, played just six first-half minutes and 15 total minutes due to foul trouble. His limited impact on the game was a crushing blow to Tennessee's chances.

"When Wayne was in foul trouble and wasn't scoring inside, we lost that inside power," head coach Bruce Pearl said on his post-game show. "So, who do you go to if it's not going to be Wayne? Brian Williams had two offensive rebound baskets. Kenny Hall's not ready. Steven Pearl's not a post-up guy.

"I know it's hard to expect Wayne to do it night in and night out but he's a double-double guy, and he had 7 points, 1 rebound and 5 fouls. You're just not going to win on the road when the SEC Player of the Week has one of those games. That's not being critical as much as it is a fact."

On a night when the other four starters needed to pick up the slack for Chism, they failed miserably. With the exception of Maze - who at least performed well offensively - the other starters were awful.

"Melvin Goins is 1 for 7, doesn't have an assist in 15 minutes," Pearl noted. "That's just not good play by the point guard. Melvin's showing you things at times but 'at times' means you're going to win some and you're going to lose some. That's not what championship teams are made of.

"We're not going to win when Melvin's 1 for 7. We're not going to win when J.P. is 1 for 5 with a dunk. J.P. just didn't do anything (even though) he played very well against Florida at Knoxville."

Tennessee (20-7 overall, 8-5 SEC) must get a great deal more from its starters if it is to give second-ranked Kentucky (26-1, 11-1) a decent game Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena. On a positive note, the starters can't provide a whole lot less than they did Tuesday at Gainesville.

"It was very, very disappointing," Pearl said. "Not that we got beat, but that we had so many guys struggle."

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