The team filed in to the locker room, some mumbling thoughts to themselves, others trying to pick up a devastated teammate with words of encouragement while others were in complete silence. With our own looks of frustration and disappointment, the staff stood outside the locker room for several minutes after the game discussing what just occurred, or didn’t occur throughout the previous 40 minutes. Each coach evaluated the final stat sheet, replayed aspects of the game plan in their heads and then many of us gave input to Coach Pearl. Once he had heard all our staff had to say for the time being, Coach Pearl walked into the locker room and headed straight to the dry erase board, as he does after every loss, to write down his main thoughts and keys to the loss for the team to see. This time he wrote:


Out rebounded: 15 Offensives Rebounds, 17 Defensive Rebounds  

7 Assists/ 14 Turnovers     

Some guys played well….we need more from more 

Where do we go from here???

When looking at a stat sheet there are a few toughness statistics that often demonstrate who did the little things necessary to win the basketball game. Kentucky won all of those. Out scoring us in the paint, shooting TONS more free throws and dominating us on the boards all statistically demonstrated to us they were tougher. We made more field goals and had more three pointers then Kentucky but got outscored by 14 points at the free throw line. We took the ball away from contact. They didn’t. They initiated contact. We didn’t. Most notably, you aren’t going to win many basketball games in which you give up 15 offensive rebounds when you only have 17 defensive rebounds. A lot of these offensive rebounds were given because we lost out on another toughness stat: 50/50 balls.

Despite our lapses in focus and struggles to score we had our chances to win that basketball game. We once again showed part of our character by battling back and cutting the deficit to 5 points because of our defensive effort in holding them with out a field goal the final 6+ minutes of the first half. But unfortunately, once again we shot our selves in the foot with lack of focus. This time the huge momentum shifter was giving up offensive rebounds on free throw checkouts. With panic settling in amongst their players and the air beginning to come out of Rupp, those plays were devastating and completely changed the complexion of the game. In addition, during that run we just had too many turnovers that resulted in easy baskets at the other end. 14 turnovers and only 7 assists is not acceptable.

Three of our toughest guys, were three of our top performers but it wasn’t enough because their two toughest guys, Harrellson and Liggins dominated while the rest of their line up played solid. As Coach discussed with the team, some of our guys played well, but we need more from more of our guys CONSISTENTLY. He discussed in-depth how he understands some of the tough situations we are all facing.  He understands its tough for a guy to one night get a lot of shots and score 15 points but the next night get the same looks. He understands it’s tough to have Scotty in the line up one night, but not have him in the line up the next. He understands that it’s tough to have Tony coaching this basketball team one night but then him the next. But, neither what he nor anybody on our staff gets is anybody’s focus being on those distractions– those excuses. As we have said over and over again, and Coach Pearl reiterated last night, the only things we can focus on are those that will benefit our team. In life you are going to face adversity daily. You are going to have to make adjustments. But those adjustments are easier to make if you only focus on the things that you can control.

Coach Pearl ended his post game speech discussing where we go from here and his demand was simple and his measuring stick was in place. How much better are we going to get from now until the last game of the regular season when we play Kentucky at home on March 6th? He then laid his blueprint to what we believe is the most efficient way to improve during these next 3 weeks; Work hard, accept your roll, trust your teammates, go to your strengths and play hard. If we bought into that the second we left that locker room, we will see improvement. If not, inconsistency rather than toughness will become the identity of this team and just the thought of that makes me sick.



About Mark Pancratz's Blog

A native of Schaumburg, Ill., Mark Pancratz played Division I basketball at UW-Milwaukee, earning his degree in marketing and finance. He joined Tennessee's staff in 2006 as a graduate assistant, earning his master's degree in sports management later that year. Serving as a G.A., director of video scouting and assistant to the head coach, Pancratz was an integral part of Tennessee's six-consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. At 26, Pancratz boasts an impressive 18 games of NCAA Tournament experience as a player and/or administrative staff member. He is a member of the Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame and voted one of the 100 Legends of Illinois High School Basketball. Pancratz resides in Knoxville and is married to the former Brooke Waddell.
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2 Responses to Blueprint

  1. Chad says:

    Mark why is this team so hard to motivate?We have all seen the potential they possess but,have only used in two games (Pitt/Nova) this entire season.This team just does not seem to function as a team on a consistent basis or do anything consistently for that matter.

    They have “athleticism” to spare at most positions but,often play like they are in slow motion or “lost”.They also seem to expect their opponents to just “roll over” because they are outmatched in talent but,any of the losses to this point have been to teams that have made up for talent with effort and heart.UK is the only team they have played and lost to so far that had the same level of talent but,with little to no experience or “veteran” players.

    This team plays the farthest away from Tennessee basketball “identity” under Coach Bruce Pearl of any during his tenure.Does this team “outwork their opponents ” or “do they give their all for Tennessee”?They have twice this season and represented this program with everything it takes to be a successful basketball “TEAM” and program.Those two wins reflected the countless hours of training and devotion to a common goal and most of all it showed “heart” and “desire”.I will never be upset if this team loses a game and has given it everything they had to give.

    This is not meant to “belittle” this team it is just a few questions and reflections from a devoted Tennessee basketball fan.I have been disabled/handicapped with Multiple Sclerosis since November 22,2004 and it bothers me greatly for this team to “play down to their opponents” or just not play with “heart and desire”.I would have given anything in this world to be able to work and be “normal” but,I try my best everyday to do what I can for my wife and sons and just cannot imagine letting something like a disease determine my outcome in life.I hope this team decides to determine their own outcome by playing with “heart” because I would put “heart” against “talent” any day of the week.

  2. Count Dooley says:

    1) The offense is stagnant due to the lack of movement without the ball and the lack of crisp passing. Tobias has 9 turnovers in 2 games, is he rooming with Hopson or something? Too much holding the ball in one place.
    2) Why does the staff not install some plays that involve double or triple screens for Hopson and other to get open jumpers?
    3) Bruce should have written “practice foul shots” on the board. That continues to cost this team in close games like the AL game. We can complain about the refs all we want, doesn’t matter if you get calls if you brick it from the line.
    4) This team would look a lot better with Craft and Selby. When you are less talented, doing the little things become more important. This group of guys does not do those things consistently enough.
    5) Beat Ukay March 6!

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