KNOXVILLE — Among the many inconsistencies plaguing the University of Tennessee men's basketball team, the Volunteers' defense on high ball-screens nears the top of the list.
After a step forward in that department in a win over Memphis last Wednesday, UT took a step back in Saturday's loss at Arkansas.
"I thought we had fixed some of that middle ball-screen stuff against Memphis," UT coach Bruce Pearl said after Sunday's practice. "We went back to not hedging it properly, and I just thought while we were the aggressor against Memphis, I thought Arkansas was the aggressor there."
Arkansas shot 50 percent against the Vols (10-5, 0-1 SEC) and scored half of its 68 points in the paint. Nine of the Razorbacks' 13 second-half field goals came on layups and dunks. Guard Julysses Nobles dished out eight assists mostly thanks to his ability to use screens near the 3-point line to penetrate into the lane.
"It just wasn't how we're supposed to [defend] it," Pearl said. "In a ball-screen, you've got an offensive player with the ball and an offensive player that's setting the screen. You have two offensive players in that neighborhood.
"You've got to put two defensive players that are willing to guard that screen. We did not engage fully with two defenders. Once we do that, we'll go a better job guarding [it]."
"We got a little confused out there on how to guard ball screens," freshman forward Tobias Harris said. "Just a lack of effort, lack of help, and just one of things we need to work on. I pretty much know what we need to do, and our guards know what we need to do."
UT must fix the problem if it wants to beat Florida's guard tandem of Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton on Tuesday night. Walker and Boynton average 27 points and six assists per game between them.
"It's something we addressed in film [Sunday]," Pearl said, "And something we'll drill heavily [today]."
Pearl said his absence made the Arkansas loss harder for him to take.
"You felt pretty helpless during the course of the game," he said. "The hardest thing for me was I couldn't be there to fix whatever it was that needed to be fixed and I couldn't do my job. I thought the coaches did an excellent job. They called a great game, and I think some of things ailing us prior to that game continued to rear some of their ugly heads."
Center John Fields worked with the starters at Sunday's practice. The 6-foot-9 Fields, who averages 3.7 points and 3.9 rebounds in 13 minutes per game and leads UT in blocked shots, hasn't started a game this year.
He scored eight points with six rebounds and two blocks in 17 minutes off the bench against Arkansas, while Brian Williams has started all but one game at center this season.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...