On Friday night, the Tennessee basketball team concluded its preseason with an 81-52 victory over the Tusculum Pioneers at Thompson-Boling Arena. (Note: This photo of our view is not the one from the previous game. I promise.)
Tusculum is a Division II school located in Greeneville, Tennessee. The Pioneers defeated No. 4 NAIA Division I Lee University 72-60 on November 1st in their previous preseason game and last season lost by only one point in an exhibition game at Vanderbilt, 80-79 on November 5th, 2007. This game would not be so close. (Read: Understatement.)
The Vols used a 36-0 run to mount a 40-2 lead and cruised to victory. With the score 40-2, the Vols were 16-of-21 from the floor while the Pioneers were just 1-of-15 with 14 turnovers. Tommy Klempin's layup with six minutes remaining in the half broke the drought. The biggest ovation of the night came on that bucket. It is never a good sign for you when the opponent's fans give you a sympathetic cheer.
The Vols led 49-12 at halftime. Tusculum shot just 15.8% from the field during the first half and 28.0% for the game.
In the second half, the Vols backed off of their press. In a postgame interview, Bruce Pearl explained that this was done as the team will be unable to press many opponents and the half-court game needed work. Clearly. This was evidenced as the Vols hit just five two-point baskets in the second half, down from 17 in the first half.
Tusculum opened the second half on a 12-4 run, climbing within 53-24 on a Kyle Moore four-point play. Tusculum outscored the Vols 13-3 over the final 3:32 and won the second half, 39-33.
Tennessee opens the regular season on Saturday, November 15th against Chattanooga at 7 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on SportSouth. The Mocs are the preseason favorite to win the North division of the Southern Conference this season. The Moccasins return three starters from last year’s squad, which fell to Tennessee in Chattanooga, 76-70, on December 4th, 2007.
- The Vols played without Ryan Childress (recovering from offseason knee surgery), J.P. Prince (shoulder injury), Josh Tabb (team academic suspension), Daniel West (test accreditation issue), and Brian Williams (knee tendinitis).Williams was a late scratch and even announced as the starter but sat out after his knee flared up during pregame warm-ups.
- Tennessee has already been bitten by injuries more this season than in the rest of Bruce Pearl’s three-season tenure. Pearl did not rule any of the injured players out of the season opener.
- Only two contributors to the Vols’ successful 2007-2008 season, Wayne Chism and Tyler Smith, played in the game. Even when the team is healthy, the Vols must replace 47 points of offense from last season.
- Both returning contributors had double-doubles. Chism had 13 points and 10 rebounds while Smith added 12 points and 11 rebounds. Smith did not score during the game’s first 13 minutes.
- Freshman Renaldo Wooldridge started in place of Williams. Woodlridge led the team with 15 points, ten of which came in the opening thirteen minutes of play. Woolridge shot 6-of-12, including 3-of-6 from 3-point range. His shooting range has been a personal point of emphasis.
- Despite the notable absences, a dozen Vols saw action.
- Freshman center Philip Jurick saw his first action of the season, checking in with 5:15 remaining in the first half. He missed the entire basket in his only shot attempt. He failed to score or get a rebound in his six minutes of action. In a postgame interview, Pearl reminded all involved to have “patience” with Jurick. (Read: Bigger understatement than this game was not close.)
- Junior college transfer Bobby Maze had six points and nine assists while attempting only five shots in 28 minutes. Unfortunately, the other Vols combined for only six assists.
- Walk-on point guard Michael Hubert played the other twelve minutes at the point and for the second consecutive game, did not turn the ball over. He also showed a solid jump shot, hitting one of three from three-point range and having another made three-pointer negated as Woolrigge was called for a charge before the shot. Hubert had previously failed to make Chattanooga’s taxi squad. What does that say about Tennessee's depth at point guard?
- The Vols second half collapse prevented the fans from getting a free chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A for the second game in a row. At one point, the student section chanted “Chicken sandwich” in hopes of energizing the team’s scoring efforts. Does anyone else suspect point shaving?
- With 3:32 left in the first half, Steven Pearl made his obligatory attempt at drawing the charge. He was called for a foul. The Vols really need to keep an attempted charge stat. Pearl may have already set a national record without being recognized. He certainly leads the nation in the highly competitive attempted charges per minute played category.
- The Pioneers out-rebounded the Vols 43-41. Yes, Tennessee was out-rebounded by a Division II squad.
- 6'3" junior Kyle Moore led all scorers with 23 points. Moore is a preseason first-team All-South Atlantic Conference selection. The guard from Gainesville, FL, had scored 35 points on seven three-pointers in the team’s first exhibition game and 30 points at Vanderbilt last season. Moore, however, had just five points in the first half on 1-of-8 shooting.
- Jimmy Boone, the Pioneer coach’s son, was the only other Pioneer in double figures, with 10.
- The game was marred by an exorbitant number of whistles (in additon to the disappointing Chick-fil-A snub). Tusculum was called for 24 fouls and the Troutman (Robert and Ryan) brothers accounted for nine fouls by themselves. I have not seen that much fouling in a game I did not participate in.
- Nineteen of the Vols’ 25 forced turnovers occurred during the first half. They scored 22 points off turnovers in the first half.
- The Vols shot only 45.5% from the field for the game and 30.8% from three.
- In the two exhibition games, the Vols are 30.0% from three, compared to 35.6% from three last season.
- Paid attendance was 20,421.