Only one of Bruce Pearl's six Vol squads shot free throws better than the 2010-11 team. Don't believe it? Here are the numbers:
2005-06: Vols shot 70.1 percent
2006-07: Vols shot 65.3 percent
2007-08: Vols shot 65.9 percent
2008-09: Vols shot 67.6 percent
2009-10: Vols shot 67.1 percent
2010-11: Vols shot 68.4 percent
Except for the 2005-06 team, Tennessee's 2010-11 squad was Pearl's best from the foul line. So why all of the criticism? Perhaps it can be traced to the fact the Vols played so many close games in which free-throwing shooting down the stretch proved to be either the winning edge or the key to defeat.
Here's a recap:
Game 2: Leading 77-76 vs. Belmont, Tennessee goes 8 for 8 from the foul line over the final 34 seconds to win 85-76. Cameron Tatum, Trae Golden, Tobias Harris and Scotty Hopson hit two shots each during the finishing flourish.
Game 3: Leading 50-48 vs. Missouri State, Tennessee hits 10 of 12 foul shots in the final three minutes. Tobias Harris hits one of two with 2:42 left and two of two with 1:04 left. Trae Golden adds two foul shots at 0:38.7. Cameron Tatum hits two with 27.9 seconds left and one of two with 15.8, then Golden hits a pair with 7.2 seconds remaining to seal a 60-56 thriller.
Game 4: Leading 70-65 vs. Virginia Commonwealth in New York City with a minute to go, Tennessee makes just 3 of 6 foul shots down the stretch but still prevails 77-72.
Game 5: Leading 71-65 vs. Villanova in New York City, Melvin Goins hits four consecutive free throws, then Scotty Hopson hits one of two as the Vols pull away and win 68-68 in the NIT Season Tipoff finals.
Game 8: Leading 76-70 vs. Oakland, Steven Pearl misses the front end of a one-and-one with 6:45 left and Brian Williams misses both ends of a two-shot foul with 2:18 left. Williams makes one of two at 1:10 and one of two again at 0:26. With Tennessee going just 10-for-19 in the second half and 2-for-6 in the final 6:45, the visitors rally to win 89-82.
Game 9: Leading 48-47 vs. Charlotte, Melvin Goins misses the front end of a one-and-one with 19.5 seconds left. The 49ers score on their ensuing possession to win 49-48.
Game 10: Tied 56-all with 5:45 left vs. Southern Cal, Brian Williams misses three of four foul shots and Melvin Goins misses one of two as the Vols fall behind 65-60. They hit four of four foul shots in the final 1:59 but lose 65-64.
Game 11: Leading 57-54, Scotty Hopson hits five consecutive free throws in the final 3:50 to preserve a 66-65 defeat of Belmont.
Game 12: Leading UT Martin 62-60 inside the final minute, Tobias Harris hits four of four foul shots and Melvin Goins two of two as the Vols eke out a 68-62 victory.
Game 15: Trailing 57-53 at Arkansas, Tennessee misses three of six foul shots the rest of the way and loses 68-65.
Game 16: Trailing 59-53 vs. Florida, Tennessee makes its final seven foul shots over the final 7:27 but still suffers an 81-75 home-floor loss in overtime.
Game 17: Trailing 64-61 vs. Vanderbilt, Melvin Goins hits two free throws with 1:55 left and Tobias Harris two more with 2.7 seconds left to seal the Vols' 67-64 victory.
Game 23: Trailing Alabama 55-49, Trae Golden hit one of two free throws at 3:28, then Tobias Harris hit one of two at 1:27 to pull Tennessee within 55-53. Harris tied the game at 55-all on a five-footer with 42.5 seconds left but the Vols lost in overtime. Either of those two missed free throws would've won the game in regulation.
Game 25: Leading Florida 52-49, Scotty Hopson makes one of two free throws to pad the lead to 53-49 with 6:10 left. Florida surges ahead 57-55, then Cameron Tatum hits one of two foul shots with 2:29 left. With the Vols up 60-59, Tatum misses the front end of a one-and-one with 25.5 seconds left. Florida scores on its ensuing possession and wins 61-60.
Game 28: Tied 51-51 at Vanderbilt, Tennessee makes 11 of its last 12 free throws to win 60-51.
Game 29: Down 64-62 vs. Mississippi State, Brian Williams makes the tying basket but misses the foul shot on a potential three-point play. The Bulldogs go up 68-64 but Melvin Goins hits two free throws with 53.5 seconds left. Scotty Hopson has a chance to tie with 13 seconds left but misses the back end of a two-shot foul. MSU loses the rebound out of bounds, however, and Tobias Harris scores on the inbounds play to give Tennessee a 69-68 lead with 10 seconds left. State scores on a dunk with 3.4 seconds left to win 70-69.
Game 30: Leading 62-54 vs. South Carolina, Tennessee makes just 3 of 8 foul shots over the final 6:15 but hangs on to win 73-69.
Game 31: Tennessee makes 15 of 17 second-half free throws but still comes up short in a 64-58 home loss to Kentucky.
Game 32: Leading 70-68 vs. Arkansas with 33.8 seconds left in the SEC Tournament, Tobias Harris hits two clutch free throws. Melvin Goins misses the front end of a one-and-one with 18.5 seconds left but drains a pair with 2.7 seconds left to seal a 74-68 victory.
Game 33: Down 65-57 vs. Florida in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals, Tennessee makes 8 of 10 foul shots over the final 7:19 but still loses 85-74.