Hot Hopson not enough

Hot Hopson not enough

Ever since he arrived at Tennessee as a heralded McDonald's All-American, he has struggled to meet lofty expectations. Even his harshest critic can't blame him for the Vols' 4-4 record over the past eight games, however.

Vol junior Scotty Hopson missed two of those games - a road win at Auburn and a home loss to Alabama - due to a sprained ankle. In the other six games he has played the way a McDonald's All-American is supposed to. He averaged 21 points per game and drained 55.4 percent (46 of 83) of his shots from the field, including 46.9 percent (15 of 32) from beyond the 3-point line.

Hopson was never better than in Saturday's game with Georgia, hitting 12 of 19 shots en route to 32 points.

"I get up for these OUTLIVE games," he said, referring to games promoting cancer research and screening. "It's a big event. Then the fact we're at home and playing against a guy like Travis Leslie, who is a great player ... I embrace the competition. I just wanted to come out and give my team the best chance at victory I possibly could."

Even with Hopson on fire versus the Bulldogs, though, the Vols suffered a disappointing 69-63 loss. An early 7-22 deficit proved costly, and Hopson shouldered some of the blame for the slow start.

"We took a bunch of bad shots early," he said, "and I took some of them."

After missing his first four field-goal tries, however, Hopson essentially took over the game. He sank 10 of his next 11 shots and 12 of his final 15 on his way to the career-high point total.

"I'd trade those 32 points for a win any day of the week,'' he said with a shrug. "It's devastating. This is one that slipped away, and it was (due to) a lack of focus. I looked up at the scoreboard, and it was 22-7, and I was like, ‘We've got to go.'"

The Vols really have to go now. With a 16-11 overall record and a 6-6 SEC record, they are no longer a lock to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

"It's definitely in the back our minds," Hopson conceded. "Everyone knows it's gut-check time. Everyone knows we might not possibly make the NCAA tournament.''

HOPSON IN UT'S LAST EIGHT GAMES

Jan. 26 vs. LSU: 9 of 14 FGs, 3 of 6 from 3, 22 points

Jan. 29 at Ole Miss: 6 of 12 FGs, 2 of 5 from 3, 16 points

Feb. 3 at Auburn: injured

Feb. 6 vs. Alabama: injured

Feb. 8 at Kentucky: 3 of 8 FGs, 2 of 3 from 3, 11 points

Feb. 12 at Florida: 9 of 14 FGs, 3 of 3 from 3, 22 points

Feb. 16 vs. S.Carolina: 7 of 16 FGs, 3 of 8 from 3, 23 points

Feb. 19 vs. Georgia: 12 of 19 FGs, 2 of 7 from 3, 32 points

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