Kentucky Review and Arkansas Preview

The Vols stumbled back into town after a loss to Florida earlier in the week. Rumblings of total destruction by a NBA caliber Kentucky team began to circulate. But No Coach Pearl pulled of a great work of Coaching and the Vols did the unthinkable in upsetting the # 2 Kentucky Wild Cats here in Knoxville. The arena was rocking and had been since the previous night when 450 students camped out to be first in line to the game. The Vols shocked the world on Saturday for the second time this season.

The Vols played Brilliantly on Saturday. Lots of people were worried after the loss earlier in the week and didn’t know what we would do to match up with the “Great Kentucky.” “I think our rotation is pretty much set, we’ve got a comfort level,” UT associate head coach Tony Jones said Sunday. “The players who served suspensions are all back and in the flow, Cam Tatum is nearly 100 percent from his ankle injury and Wayne Chism played a game without getting nicked up.We have the capability to play our best basketball here at the end of the season.” We have the pieces in place to make a very memorable run into the post season. Several people in the national media has said Tennessee could be a sleeper team that everyone overlooks until its to late.

As great and complete as the win on Saturday was the Vols did end up giving the crowd a scare after going up 19 early in the second half Kentucky roared  back to tie the game with 2 min left. “He thought we were panicking,” Prince said. “I told him, `Coach, we’re fine. I’m cool. Everything will be fine.’ I just told him to give us a chance. I always tell him, `I’ll give you everything I’ve got, Coach.” The pressure didn’t get to Prince. He went 4-of-4 down the stretch from the line and finished with a game-high 20 points. “You’ve got to make them in the clutch,” Prince said of his foul shooting. “You’ve got to man up. You’ve got to make plays. You knew they were going to come back eventually. I told (Pearl) this week, just ride us to death, let us play, put it on us because we can lead the way. Me and Wayne have been through the battles and been through a lot of wars. Let me and Wayne lead the way. We’ve been here a long time and seen everything. So just ride us through this last stretch.” Pearl did, and his seniors didn’t let him down. “I told the team, `How do you want this season to be remembered?'” Pearl said. “It’s not going to be a great year unless we beat Kentucky. If we beat Kentucky, we’ve got a chance to have a great year. When you’ve got seniors like Wayne, J.P. and Bobby, they take ownership in that.”

While we are extremely grateful that we have our senior leadership, we are very lucky that we have Melvin, Cameron, and Brian back on the team at this point. Cameron has been going off these past two games playing only 27 minutes, scoring 22 points, shooting 4/9 from 3 point range, hitting 6-7 FTs, grabbing 8 rebounds, passing for 2 assists, and committing 0 TOs. Goins scored 7 points and grabbed four rebounds in Saturdays win. One of the more memorable plays of the game was win Melvin drove the ball into the goal and got fouled for a 3 point play. Brian has grabbed 7 rebounds for each of the last 3 games and while he is not scoring very many points he is playing great defense. The three combined scored 18 points, grabbed 16 rebounds, and had four assists in the Kentucky game.

With Kentucky out of the way as a W in the books this team can now focus on seeding for the tourney. Win out and a 3 seed is all but assured with a possible two seeds if certain cards fall our way. Just because Tyler Smith is gone doesn’t mean this teams goal is anything less. They still want to get past the sweet 16 and will do so to conclude the greatest basketball season in Tennessee History for one of the greatest players Tennessee has ever seen, at least I can hope so.  But Pearl does admit that this team does have some things against it. “We’re not talented enough . . . to necessarily impose our will on the opponents,” Pearl said. “But we are smart enough and experienced enough to execute different game plans. When you have as many roster adjustments as we’ve had, I don’t think anyone gets complacent.”

Certain things bold well for a Post Season Run and those things are coming into play here for the Vols in the final week of the regular season:

  • Hopson is finally showing up and playing some basketball. In the past two games Scotty has scored 35 points and had 8 rebounds. Those points are coming from behind the arc and driving to the basket. With Hopson playing well if the Seniors stay on their high level of play we will be hard to beat.
  • Prince is hitting a 3 per game sometimes more and was clutch with his free throws on Saturday. The Vols shot 70% on Saturday from the charity stripe. If we can keep that number up things will be good.
  • Bobby Maze and Melvin Goins are scoring and finding ways to pass the ball for others. The point guard play has drastically improved recently and everyone knows PG play is vital to Tourney play.
  • The Vols defense has stepped up and needs to keep stepping up.
  • The Vols aren’t panicking. After a 4-0 start by Kentucky everyone wondered if we were in for another slow start. Nope a 20-0 run by the Vols gave us a huge lead and KY never led again even though they came back from 19 down in the 2nd half to tie game with 2 min left.

The Vols don’t have anyone averaging over 13 points per game but we do have 6 players who are averaging 7.2+ points per game. We also have only 3 players avg less then 10 min of court time so our team isn’t getting exhausted and we are playing as a team. The vols have the #15 rpi and the #16 sos and are projected as a 4 seed right now by

However a fear of the fans is this teams ability to win on the road. “You can tell on the road that some of our guys don’t step up,” senior forward Wayne Chism said. “But when we’re at home, we have different guys step up.” However Coach Bruce Pearl refuses to dismiss his team as road roadkill, though. “We’re a basketball team that went to Memphis and won,” he said. “We’re a basketball team that went to Alabama and won. We went to LSU and won. And we went to South Carolina and beat a South Carolina team that beat (Kentucky) and Florida at home. This is a team that doesn’t necessarily have to live here in the friendly confines of home.” But then again S. Carolina, LSU, Memphis, and Alabama all will have to win the conference tourney to make it the Big Dance but still I think I see coach Pearls point. We did lose to Top 10 Purdue on a neutral court by only one point and have greatly improved since then. Prince isn’t scared though and after Saturday that does provide some relief. “The courts are the same size, and the rims are the same size, and it’s still basketball,” Prince said. “If we can beat anybody here — and we know we can, obviously — then we can beat them anywhere else.”

“I think our team and our program was on display today,” said UT coach Bruce Pearl, who evened his slate at 3-3 against UK coach John Calipari. “There is not necessarily a better environment in college basketball than Thompson-Boling Arena — as good as any. We do not beat Kentucky — or Kansas — without 22,000 here. It just does not happen. It’s what makes this one of the best jobs in college basketball.”

Under Coach Bruce Pearl the Vols have gone 69-8 at home. Including 5-0 vs Top 6 teams. The Vols have beat more top ten five teams this year then any other since 76-77. That year under Ernie and Bernie the Vols posted a 4-0 record vs the Top 5 and went 22-6 (16-2) to reach the first round of the NCAA only to lose to Syracuse in OT in the opening round. The players say Pearl doesn’t coach any differently against the nation’s elite than he does against supposed patsies. He just looks different. “He be red (for big games),” UT’s Wayne Chism said. “He’s red in the game, after the game, before the game. In a regular SEC game, he’s not red at all.” Teammate Bobby Maze has noticed more than a change in color. “Yeah, he’s redder,” Maze said. “His nostrils flaring. Some games you can just tell.” Tennessee is the only team in America who can say they won against two # 1 seeds and played a third to with in a point.

Check out this link to see what Bruce said to the team after the win:

Most importantly though on Saturday the Volunteer faithful once again proved while we are the greatest fan base on the planet earth. The Vols rasied 130,00 dollars Saturday to provide free early detection screenings for people who may have cancer. This free screening will help to save lots of lives in here in East Tennessee.

Moses Abraham

  • Ht:6’10”
  • Wt:237 lbs
  • Class:2010 (Progressive Christian High School Temple Hills Maryland)

Moses is a Nigerian born Basketball star brought over by the same people who gave us Emanuel Negedu. Most of you know about Negedu’s heart problem and the only reason Moses came to visit was because of the support Negedu has seen from the Tennessee program since then. Moses was considered a heavy Georgetown lean until Saturday. Progressive Christian coach Joe Bonacore helped Abraham get to the U.S. and he accompanied him on this weekend’s unofficial visit to Knoxville.

Before arriving the news sentinel was told: “Moses wants to see how the people in the area are so fanatical about their basketball,” said Boncore, who Abraham has lived with since arriving in the United States in November. “Tennessee always seems to get the crowd support and people who care about the athletes.”

After the visit they were told: “Moses just said it was perfect, a perfect visit,” Bonacore said of Abraham’s impression. “The fans, the environment, everything was just so much more than what we expected. We were both very interested in seeing what kind of support the program had and we were just blown away. It was beyond anything else we’ve seen. We’ve still got a few trips to make before he makes a decision but Moses told me on the way home that Tennessee was going to be tough to beat. They’re probably on top right now.”

Moses does have close highschool friend who is going to the Hoyas though so it will still be tough to get him away from there but the fans did their part in helping on Saturday and Tennessee is in great postion to steal this prospect from the Home town Hoyas. Moses posts a 40 inch veritcal leap and a 7’3″ wingspan. He will be invaluable down low next year with Chism gone and Williams a senior. Moses was given four stars just based off film because he has only been here for 4 months. The new rankings will be released at end of all states post seasons and Moses appears to be a top four star or crack into the 5 stars. Definitely a Top 50 player. Tennessee has 3 top 55 players now for the #4 class by Rivals adding Moses could bump us up to # 2 behind Memphis.

He has received offers from Georgetown, Maryland, Florida, Arizona State and Miami after averaging 16 points, 15 rebounds and eight blocked shots per game this past high school season. “Moses likes the way Tennessee plays, and what they expect from their big man,” Boncore said. “They aren’t just standing still; they aren’t one dimensional. They have to pop out, put the ball on the court, and that system develops players for the next level.”

Camp Pearl

We arrived at the Arena at 6:40 pm Friday night to wait in line till 7 when the barricade would be moved.

After running down the ramp we made it to the 89-91 people in line spot only to wait for another 2 1/2 hours.

The line circled around the corner of the building as about 350 people showed up before the doors opened.

The team showed up to give away prizes and to tell us how thankful they were for us showing up to this. You can see Moses standing behind Maze and Woolridge. He was blown away that there was this many people here. They showed Coach Carter after  the team left and then we tried to sleep on the concrete floor.

We got kicked out at 6 and had to be back in line by 8 as a benefit of spending the night there. The students showed up early for the game and it was great getting to go in one of the first 100 and get 5th row seats. Totally worth the wait from 6:40 p.m. to 12 noon the next day.

Arkansas Game

Arkansas needs this win badly. Even with this win and a win this weekend they still prob have to make it to Sunday in the championship if not win it all to make it the Big Dance. Bruce however isn’t ready to write this team off.

“Arkansas is a team that won five straight SEC games this season,” said Pearl, who’s 3-2 against the Razorbacks. “They’re second in the West, we’re third in the East, and as far as I’m concerned they’re ahead of us. We’re not going to overlook them; I do know they have been a tough matchup for us.” Arkansas was the first team to beat Pearl in Thompson-Boling Arena, snapping a streak of 16 home victories. Two years ago, the Razorbacks shocked the then-No. 4-ranked Vols in the semifinals of the SEC tournament in Atlanta, costing them a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Pearl said he’s counting on the UT fanbase not overlooking Arkansas, either. “I know what our fans are thinking, because we just beat Kentucky,” Pearl said. “But I’m telling you, we need to bring the energy again, and we’ll need our fans’ help.” So if your going to the game cheer loud and cheer proud. And if your debating going please go and make the arena an intense atmosphere that continues to help the Vols win.


About Steven Harris

Steven Harris is a fifth year senior at the University of Tennessee. Majoring in sports journalism, this blog provides an outlet for Harris to share his thoughts on the state of the University of Tennessee's athletic department''s Volunteer teams. View all posts by Steven Harris

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