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
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
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 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
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
Tennessee is 6-1 all-time under Pearl at the Nashville Arena,
where the 2010 SEC tournament will be held.