What a great weekend to be a Tennessee Vol! We showed great improvement Friday night, the Lady Vols basketball whooped Louisville, the volleyball team won their home finale and those FootVols DOMINATED Ole Miss!!
Now that every one of our games counts in either the win column or the loss column, the outcomes do matter. However, our staff was much more pleased with the effort and purpose we showed throughout Friday night’s game. Some of the stats that our staff looked at, which we believe demonstrated this improvement, was the jump from 12 to 24 deflections (more alert and in the right spot off the ball), we held UTC to 7 offensive rebounds (effort) and only committed 11 turnovers (down from 25 vs. Indianapolis which showed greater purpose). All of that is great and I am glad we were able to improve. However, we were supposed to win that game. If we didn’t have the great week of practice we did and play with greater effort on Friday night after our loss to Indianapolis what would that have said about our character? We would be in for a long year. But to everyone’s credit (staff included) we responded.
With a mandatory day off Saturday, our team got back together Sunday for an autograph session with some local kids then film and practice. Prior to watching film on Belmont, Coach Pearl addressed the team by asking them, “What is our mindset? What have we learned so far this season?” These rhetorical questions got everyone thinking. Coach Pearl went on to explain what he believes our mindset needs to be in order to continue in the direction towards achieving our goals. First and foremost, we need to be focused every day on getting better. If we aren’t doing things that will help the team, we will come up short on achieving our goals. Coach went on to give helpful hints to the players on how to do that. One way is to always focus on the motto that Coach Pearl’s teams have played with for his entire career. “Defense and Rebounding Win Championships.” If our players focus on these two selfless components of the game they will be helping our team. The other focal point that coach discussed was giving greater effort. Effort on help defense, on the ball, in transition, in our play calls, in communicating, in practice AND in a game.
In our film session we then moved on to our next opponent Belmont. Coach Pearl discussed that one of the best things about coming to Tennessee is that we will always play against the best as we have consistently had one of the best schedules in the country. These next two games versus Belmont and then either Missouri State or Arkansas State is no exception. All of these teams will most likely be playing in the NCAA tournament at the end of the year. No disrespect to UTC but these opponents will be a major step up from what we have faced thus far.
Belmont returns to Knoxville after nearly beating us two years ago. Their discipline motion offense and ballscreen continuity has given us fits in the past because they will spread us out with their players’ ability to shoot the basketball and 2 really big posts. On Wednesday night, win or lose, we will face either Missouri State or Arkansas State who both have one of the most talented teams either school has ever had. Arkansas State brings in some great athletic guards who will challenge our ability to guard the basketball. Missouri State on the other hand is a very physical team. They will challenge us in the post and on the perimeter with their ability to shoot the basketball at all 5 positions.
Sorry I can’t give you more about our scouting reports for these next few games. You know staffs are always anal about every little thing regarding our game plans. Shoot, every time we practice in the arena we have managers go around the concourse to make sure we don’t have any spies, ha!
With all of that said, in the grand scheme of things it’s about US. Its about what WE do. How will we come to play? Will we focus on the effort and game plan Coach Pearl talked about in our team meeting? Or will we focus on our individual scoring output, if our man scores on us or the score on the scoreboard? After all, with his teaching, communicating and motivating, a coach can lead his team to a successful season but cannot lead a team to a championship season. Those type of seasons are accomplished when the leadership and commitment comes from within the players’ locker room. Sure, it is a coach’s job to put his players in positions to be successful. But ultimately it’s up to the players to execute the successful teachings of Coach Pearl and his staff. As a staff we can hold a player accountable to take care of their responsibilities, but if a player holds his teammate accountable, it is often times much more meaningful. Fulfilling your duties to the best of your ability builds trust that will be relied upon during intense moments on the floor. Nobody ever wants to let their teammate, friend or brother down. If our team continues to build upon this focused commitment as we did one day at a time last week, we will continue to drive towards achieving our goals.
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