published Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Brian Williams steps up for UT

KNOXVILLE -- A week earlier, Brian Williams had a potential game-winning basket swatted away at the rim against Florida.

And even though the shot the Tennessee center made at the buzzer to beat Georgia on Tuesday night was tougher, Williams might not have had the confidence to make it even seven days ago.

"That's facing the facts," UT coach Bruce Pearl said Wednesday afternoon at his weekly news conference.

After the Vols (12-6, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) lost in overtime to Florida last week when Williams couldn't capitalize on a crunch-time opportunity, Pearl said his 6-foot-10, 272-pound senior lacked the same confidence offensively to convert baskets in those situations that he has in his rebounding and defense.

But Williams has responded in UT's last two games, with a big performance on the offensive glass and the game-sealing steal against Vanderbilt and the Vols' final four points against Georgia.

"You're our guy -- don't be afraid to fail," Pearl said. "Prepare to put yourself in those situations again. Don't be caught off guard if the ball winds up in your hands or if you find yourself on the foul line.

"In the second half against Vanderbilt and against Georgia, he got open on some angles for some passes and took the ball to the basket and finished. Did not hide from it. Brian worked at it, Brian was accountable and understood it and faced it.

"There's nothing wrong with having one shining moment. He may watch that play a thousand times before it's all said and done -- and he should. That play helped win us the game, and that's just special."

Williams is averaging eight points and seven rebounds since he was moved to a bench role in favor of John Fields three games ago.

"Starting John has been good because he brings some energy, lets us start defensively well [and] keeps Brian out of a little bit of foul trouble," Pearl said. "It [also] gives us somebody with maturity coming off the bench with the second unit. The blend has been really positive. It's obviously what we expected to see.

Final review

Pearl agreed with the officials not calling Williams for a foul on the game-winning play despite all the contact with Georgia's Chris Barnes.

"I think that gets called a foul on Brian Williams most of the time, but there were a couple of factors where I think I doesn't," Pearl said.

"I don't think it was a foul in this sense. Brian had two hands on the ball before he ever made contact with Barnes. He possesses the ball, then there's contact, whether it's Brian coming over the back or Barnes backing up on him."

Media scrutiny

Pearl's suspension has received plenty of attention from broadcasters during the four games that he's missed, and he's had to listen to what's said about him when he's watching the games on television.

"They have a job to do, and that's how I have to look at it," Pearl said. "These decisions have been made by people who have all the information. Sometimes people do say things without all the information. I usually make better decisions when I have more information, so sometimes it is puzzling when people make such strong statements when they don't have all the facts, but that's their job, so I try not to take it personally.

Pearl said he talked with Jay Williams, a former Duke star who called Tuesday's game on ESPNU.

"I think you've got to pay attentions to what's news and what's not," Pearl said. "I don't think at this point it's too new. I did talk to Jay Williams before the game, and Jay Williams made a point to tell me, 'I don't think there's anything new here. Let's focus on the kids.'

"That's one of the things I've tried to do by serving my suspensions quietly and letting the focus be on the floor."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrownTFP.

about Patrick Brown...

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 ...

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