published Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Defensive letdown adds to Vols' woes

University of Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl sounded a little sad, a little depressed, a little mad, and very frustrated after the Vols' 91-78 loss to the College of Charleston on Friday.

He also sounded a lot like a coach in Chattanooga.

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach John Shulman gives a lesson on the merits of defending in college basketball games during every practice.

Shulman's point is that in order to win, a team must defend and rebound.

Pearl, who is in his sixth year at Tennessee, expressed same sentiments after his team was humbled by one of Shulman's upcoming Southern Conference opponents.

"The decisions, as far as personnel, the guys that can defend and move their feet will play," Pearl said after the Vols lost 91-78 to the College of Charleston. "The guys who can't, won't. It will come down to the guys who defend and rebound."

The Vols lagged in defending College of Charleston guards Andrew Goudelock and Donovan Monroe.

They combined to score 58 points and sank 10 of their 14 3-point attempts while dissecting the Vols' defense on Friday.

Charleston coach Bobby Cremins, who became a legend in the ACC and has the court named after him at Georgia Tech, noted that the Vols are in a sad situation.

"Obviously Tennessee is going through tough times right now," Cremins said. "They've got some problems. But I think they can overcome them.

"Bruce knows that we shot the eyes out of it and sometimes there's nothing you can do we made incredible shots."

And the possibility of Charleston repeating the feat on January 17th in McKenzie Arena has Shulman a little startled especially since his team lost by 20 points at UT in the first game of the season.

"Charleston is very good and Tennessee is in a funk right now," said Shulman who watched Friday's game on ESPN2. "But you don't beat Villanova and Pitt with a bad team. You don't luck into beating those teams.

"Tennessee is going through a rough spot in the season, but they can get this fixed. They're searching now."

Pearl gave his players the day off on Saturday to rest, lift weights and shoot in Thompson-Boling Arena if they wanted to. He needed time to review and analyze his team.

Shulman ran his team through a full practice on Saturday morning with an emphasis on defense and little look ahead to their game Monday at Austin Peay.

The Vols, who were ranked in the top-10 earlier this season, have plummeted out of the rankings. They lost respect after losses to Oakland, UNC-Charlotte, Southern Cal, and now Charleston while beating Belmont by one point and UT-Martin by six in another game the Vols could have easily lost.

"We're going to try and stay positive and we have to look at this game, learn from it, and put it behind us," said Scotty Hopson who led the Vols with 24 points on Friday. "It's a new year, hopefully we go in with different mindset, an aggressive mindset, to play our balls out and try on every possession."

It all boils down to defending — for both the Mocs and the Vols, who will face Memphis on Jan 5.

Pearl said pick-and-roll plays that start at the top of the key have given his defense fits. He said that Villanova and Pittsburgh set screens on the side of the lane which made defending them much easier.

That's about Xs and Os.

He said defense is about effort.

"Because we've not defended, we have not created offense out of our defense because we have not rebounded and ran," Pearl said. "When you do that, there's not as much pressure on your offense."

The Vols' problems still remain at the other end of the floor -- the side where they defend.

"Offensively and defensively, this team has struggled to make each other better," Pearl said. "We don't make each other better well enough."

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about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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