Tennessee-Middle Tennessee Preview

Tennessee leads the SEC in numerous major offensive categories,

but that’s not enough for coach Bruce Pearl.

Pearl is looking for even more offense from his ninth-ranked

Volunteers on Friday night when they meet Middle Tennessee at the

Nashville Arena.

Tennessee (6-1) leads the conference in points (86.4), shooting

percentage (50.8) and 3-point shooting percentage (43.8). Pearl

believes that his club needs to play at an even faster tempo with

the grueling SEC schedule upcoming.

“It’s not been as up as I’d like,” Pearl said. “The one good

thing is we’ve been able to win games playing slower as well as

playing faster.”

The Volunteers have had plenty of time off since a 78-66 victory

over East Tennessee State on Dec. 2. Their coach believes they have

not been practicing as well since returning home after falling to

then-No. 6 Purdue on Nov. 23 in the championship of the Paradise

Jam in the Virgin Islands.

“I did feel like prior to going to the Virgin Islands we had

great practices, very intense practices, knowing what was ahead,”

Pearl said.

Pearl met with Tennessee’s four seniors before Monday’s

practice, instructing them to push their teammates to play hard and

fast, regardless of the quality of the opposition.

“Your senior season is important, it’s your last season, and we

all realize that,” senior point guard Bobby Maze said. “But coach

was making sure to remind us of that, that we need to lay

everything on the line. He let us know that we need to show that

leadership on and off the floor.”

The Volunteers have won seven straight over Middle Tennessee

(3-5), winning 76-66 last season. Tyler Smith led four Tennessee

players in double figures with 18 points and Maze added 12.

The Blue Raiders lost three players who started in that game,

but last season’s leading scorer Desmond Yates is back. Yates, who

missed the first seven games with a knee injury, scored 20 before

fouling out in his season debut Tuesday in an 83-71 home loss to

Belmont.

The 6-foot-7 Yates had eight points and five fouls in 19 minutes

last season against Tennessee – one of four games in which he

failed to score in double figures in 2008-09. Yates has fouled out

five times in his last eight games for Middle Tennessee, which

allowed Belmont to shoot 59.6 percent.

“You just can’t let a team come into your building and shoot 59

percent,” coach Kermit Davis said. “Their two freshman guards

dictated tempo and made plays when they had to.”

Middle Tennessee freshman James Gallman scored 18 in 22 minutes

off the bench Tuesday. Gallman is a Knoxville native who played

with the Volunteers’ Wayne Chism and Renaldo Woolridge in a 2009

summer league.

Tennessee is 6-1 all-time under Pearl at the Nashville Arena,

where the 2010 SEC tournament will be held.