published Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Spirited Vols ready for UT-Martin visit

By Mike Griffith, Correspondent

The University of Tennessee's men's basketball opponent tonight is UT Martin. But the game doesn't figure to be any more intense than the Vols' scrimmages Tuesday afternoon.

Bodies were flying, players crashed to the floor and words were exchanged as the frustrated UT team looked to bounce back after being bounced out of the polls for the first time in two seasons.

If the fireworks at Tuesday's practice were any indication, the Skyhawks could be coming into a hornet's nest.

"It got real intense today, but things didn't really get too out of hand,'' senior Melvin Goins said. "I think it could be good for us.''

Senior combo guard Josh Bone, available to play for the first time since injuring his wrist in the Nov. 3 exhibition opener, said he understood the intensity of Tuesday's practice.

"Everybody is a little frustrated and competitive right now,'' Bone said. "We've been struggling these past few games.''

UT coach Bruce Pearl has been around long enough that he anticipated some of what happened.

"You definitely saw this coming,'' Pearl said. "If it can cleanse us, fine.

"But let's make sure Tennessee Martin is the opponent.''

Center Brian Williams said no one should make too much of the aggression the Vols showed during Tuesday.

"Every team has battles in the confines of the court,'' Williams said. "We need that mentality and fire to pump us up. I wish we could go at it some more, but we've got the game (today).''

Pearl said his impression was that the starters were fired up after the backups played them tough during a scrimmage.

"The bench got the best of the starters in a big way, and the starters didn't handle it well,'' Pearl said. "It was a bad practice from my perspective, but if that's how they (players) feel, and we see the results, fine.''

Pearl said there could be a change in the starting lineup as a result of freshman Tobias Harris missing the past two practices because of travel delays.

Harris, who is from New York, has been snowed in and wasn't able to get a return flight until 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.

His original flight was set to return at 6:30 a.m. Monday.

"It's no fault of Tobias','' Pearl said. "We'll just have to see if we can get him ready.''

Pearl declined to name a starter, as he wants to see how Harris looks in the game-day shootaround. Other Vols who play power forward include Steven Pearl, Jeronne Maymon and Kenny Hall.

The Vols' 10-man rotation also might change as backup shooting guard Skylar McBee has missed the past two practices with the flu.

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