UK-Tennessee notes

Pearl accuses Vols of quitting

Two players escape his ire, including Hopson

jtipton@herald-leader.comFebruary 22, 2009 

Tennessee took two beatings on Saturday.

After Kentucky won the game 77-58, Coach Bruce Pearl took his players to the metaphorical woodshed.

"I'm not going to sugarcoat it," Pearl said in beginning his post-game remarks. "They completely outplayed us. They completely dominated us. I've never been so embarrassed with how I coached and how my team played. I apologize to the University of Tennessee fans."

Pearl essentially accused his players of quitting, an unpardonable sin in athletics.

"We didn't play with poise," he said. "We didn't play with passion. We had no purpose, and at times I thought we quit."

Pearl took responsibility for what he saw as a debacle.

The Tennessee coach noted how his earlier teams fed off the program's low profile. His current team fell in love with itself after recent success, which included the school's first outright Southeastern Conference championship since 1967 last season.

"We had too much success over the last couple years," he said. "It spoiled us."

Later, Pearl made two exceptions to what sounded like a blanket indictment.

One went to Tyler Smith, who made one of 11 shots and scored a season-low six points. In his two seasons for UT, Smith had scored fewer points only once: five points at Kentucky last season.

"Tyler was really ready to play," Pearl said. "Tyler did not quit. I felt like Tyler and Wayne (Chism) each had to make two or three threes for us to have a chance to win."

The two made one of 11 three-point shots.

Chism bristled when asked about his poor shooting. "I don't care about scoring crap," he said. "I worry about our defense."

Pearl also liked freshman Scotty Hopson's play. He scored a team-high 14.

"Scotty competed," Pearl said. "He certainly belonged out there. As he gets more physically strong, he's going to be special."

No hesitation

Unlike in some other games, players like Michael Porter and Darius Miller did not hesitate before shooting.

"I just made up my mind, if I was open, I was going to shoot it right away," Porter said. This had UK Coach Billy Gillispie's blessing. "I missed a couple early, Coach said keep shooting," Porter said.

Miller noted the need to support Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson.

"They've been carrying us the whole year,' he said. "I think it's about time for us to help them out."

Vols muscle Meeks?

Gillispie saluted Meeks' contributions even if UK's leading scorer did not shoot well (4-for-14 overall, 0-for-7 from three-point range).

"Jodie is really getting knocked around a lot," the UK coach said. "He never quits working. The amount of energy he spends, I've never seen anyone ever play harder."

Defense/rebounding

Except for offensive rebounding, Tennessee practically had no offense. Of the Vols' first 14 baskets, 11 came on putbacks or second-chance opportunities.

"Our defense today was great," said Gillispie, who noted assistant coach Glynn Cyprien's game plan. "Our guys really played well to the scouting report."

But after the initial shot went up, Tennessee did well. The Vols outscored UK 30-10 in second-chance points.

"We got dominated again in the paint," Gillispie said. "I was really mad at halftime when they had eight offensive rebounds. Then our guys let them have 15 in the second half. I guess what I said (at halftime) really didn't matter."

23 assists/28 baskets

Of UK's 28 baskets, 23 involved assists.

"That's a great number," Gillispie said. "We've never been a selfish team. I won't let them play if they're selfish. We don't have any guys with that problem."

South Carolina

As Tennessee fed off an earlier loss to Kentucky, so the Cats sounded primed to make amends for an earlier loss to South Carolina. UK plays the Gamecocks on Wednesday.

"We felt we let them get one that got away," Patrick Patterson said of South Carolina's 78-77 victory in Rupp Arena on Jan. 31. "We felt we owe them one."

Etc.

UK's other three-point shooters (besides Meeks) made seven of 10.

■ Tennessee had zero fast-break points.

■ The attendance of 24,394 was the fourth-best in Rupp Arena history.

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