Nov. 27, 2009
BY DREW EDWARDS
Four games in one week can tire out any basketball team.
Playing three of those games on the road doesn't help much, either.
But don't blame Tennessee's slow start in an 86-69 victory Friday night over College of Charleston on their trip to the Virgin Islands. Or on too much Thanksgiving turkey.
"I absolutely wore us out," UT coach Bruce Pearl said. "We did not have a lot of energy tonight because of the number of games that we played and how hard we've been practicing. I think it will serve us well in the long run, and I think it was a factor tonight in our play."
Tennessee (5-1) certainly didn't play poorly against College of Charleston (1-3). The Vols shot 56 percent from the field. They connected on 45 percent of their shots from 3-point range. And they out-rebounded Charleston (albeit a smaller Charleston team) 44-24.
But their legs - and their energy - wasn't quite there after playing three games in four days in the Paradise Jam and some intense practice since returning.
"It's been tough," said Brian Williams, who finished with 11 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes. "We played about four games in six days, including practice. It's been tough. But that's the way to bounce back from a loss is with a win. We did that."
A marathon practice Thursday didn't help matters, either, Pearl said.
"I can't tell you how hard we practiced yesterday," he said. "It's the hardest I've ever practiced the day before a game. If we'd have lost the game tonight, I'd have blamed myself. I'm blaming myself now. It went three hours. Part of the reason why it went three hours, we couldn't and wouldn't do the things we needed to do to get out of practice."
Ironically enough, Pearl was toughest on Scotty Hopson during Thursday's workout.
"Interestingly, Scotty did not practice very hard yesterday," Pearl said. "Interestingly, I was on Scotty yesterday harder than I've been on him in two years. I even talked at halftime about the fact one of the reasons why Scotty had such a great first half was because he didn't practice yesterday. He was fresher than anybody."
The sophomore responded to lead the Vols with 21 points, 17 of which came in the first half. More than that, though, Hopson was active on defense and the glass. He had six rebounds, a block and two steals in one his better all-around outings.
"The thing we started off this season is making plays defensively and offensively," Hopson said. "Making teams turn the ball over, that's the reason why we win most games anyway. I just want to keep doing that and keep getting better at it."
Pearl has said for weeks that Tatum deserved to start for the Vols, and he wanted to ease the pressure on Prince by letting him come off the bench.
"I tried to just get J.P. to relax a little bit and stop pressing," Pearl said. "I've told you I've had six starters from like the first week of practice. Cam deserved to be a starter. I thought J.P. played better tonight."
Warm Welcome: Tennessee fans gave two warm ovations to Knoxville native Tony White, Jr.
The Cougars guard's father is former Vol star Tony White, a member of the UT's All-Century Team. Fans cheered both father and son Friday night, but Tony Jr. wasn't quite sure how fans might respond.
"My mom said they might boo me," White joked afterward. "I'm they applauded me. That was nice. I liked that."
White finished with 12 points and six assists in a team-high 38 minutes.