UT practiced for less than 90 minutes as coach Bruce Pearl wanted to rest his players’ legs after their Saturday win at South Carolina, though a few stayed behind to get in some extra minutes.
“We didn’t really have a hard practice today. Basically, we just scouted Florida and reviewed want we wanted to do and set our game strategy,” sophomore Scotty Hopson said.
Saturday’s 63-55 win over the Gamecocks was another low-scoring affair for the Vols, but Hopson said that low score are all right for his team, provided it generates wins.
One thing the Vols are not comfortable with, however, is turnovers. The Vols had 19 of them, and assistant coach Jason Shay said that UT has to work to cut down on them.
“It’s just a matter of understanding your advantages, disadvantages,” he said. “It’s a fine line of then not forcing a pass or penetration. It’s a fine line, and against South Carolina we obviously rushed some things.”
With so many turnovers, many of which came in the first half, Tennessee picked up the slack by outrebounding South Carolina 40-30, seven of which came from recently reinstated post Brian Williams.
Pearl’s biggest concern with Williams going into the last two games was the junior center getting back into “game shape.” During his suspension, Williams had lost 10 pounds and maintained his endurance.
Before last week, Williams said that there is a vast difference between being conditioned and ready to play. Though he played 22 combined minutes against South Carolina and Georgia, closer to his season average of 14.7 minutes per game, Shay says that Williams still isn’t fully up to speed.
“I would say he’s a lot closer than he was, but he’s not totally there yet,” Shay said. “He did a good job of conditioning so it wasn’t going to be like he had a long layoff.”
Still, the Vols have been able to get rebounds without Williams, even though he is the team’s second-best rebounder with 4.6 per contest. In fact, UT averaged 1.3 more boards per game during Williams’ suspension.
To Tennessee, however, getting Williams back in the game is only a minor concern for a team poised to get an at-large berth in the tournament.
Shay said that at this point in the year, the coaches don’t have much more to teach the Vols other than execution in practice and smart basketball.
“The challenge is to maintain focus on what we’ve done,” Shay said. “At this point, we’ve already covered everything we’re going to see.”