Battered on the boards
Wayne Chism

Posted Dec 22, 2009

Rebounds are considered a so-called "hustle stat," which suggests Tennessee was grossly outhustled by a Southern Cal team that outrebounded the Vols 43-21 in Saturday's 77-55 romp at Los Angeles.

Big Orange head coach Bruce Pearl thinks the lopsided backboard numbers were as much about positioning as hustling, however. By packing their defense in the lane, the Trojans were closer to the basket whenever a Vol shot came off the rim (which happened a lot).

"They put five white jerseys between five orange jerseys and the basket," Pearl said. "That's a little bit how we defended last year. We were one of the better rebounding teams in the league last year because we put jerseys between the basket and the other man."

The proximity of USC's players to the basket enabled the Trojans to rebound well but not defend the perimeter well. That didn't matter, though, because Tennessee made just 2 of 22 shots from 3-point range. As a result, the Trojans stayed in their tight little cluster around the basket while the Vols fired and fell back from beyond the arc.

"We didn't do anything to bring them out," Pearl said. "Why would you come out and allow us to get an orange jersey inside a white jersey, where maybe we can get a rebound?"

Although the Trojans' decision to crowd the basket was largely responsible for UT's backboard woes, the Vols contributed to their own demise by failing to crash the boards. Even when an errant 3-point try produced a long rebound there was no Vol in the vicinity to grab it.

"A lot of times when we shot those shots, four guys looked at the shot instead of going to rebound in case it missed," Pearl said. "I thought we stood around a lot. If the first shot didn't go that was the end of the offense.

"We sent four guys to the offensive boards with one guy back, and had no offensive rebounds in the first half."

Tennessee's inability to generate any semblance of a post game also hurt the Vols' rebounding stats.

"Inside shots lead to inside rebounds," Pearl noted. "The more you post and penetrate, the more people are going to be in the paint to rebound."

Even with the inside game neutralized, though, Pearl thought the Vols should've rebounded significantly better than they did.

As he put it: "We still could've come off the perimeter and made some runs at some balls."

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