Bruce Pearl looking to speed up Tennessee's play
Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl is ready to speed up the Vols' play again
Pearl slowed things down last season because of the team's inexperience
Now he wants his seasoned team to be more agressive and high-scoring
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl is ready to speed things up again.
Known for his up-tempo offense and pressure defense, Pearl slowed down the Volunteers' game last season to accommodate their youth and inexperience.
"We've got to get back into that form of play," he said at Wednesday's annual media day. "We just lost a little bit of our aggression."
Despite being slower, the Vols still finished first in scoring in the Southeastern Conference for the 2008-09 season, though their average dropped to 78.4 points per game compared to 81.8 during the previous team.
Tennessee's roster last season included five true freshmen, a redshirt freshman and a junior college transfer. The Vols lost no starters from last year's squad but added two freshmen and a junior college transfer in forward Kenny Hall, guard Skylar McBee and point guard Melvin Goins.
As the players prepare to begin regular season practices, they're spending less time on learning the basics. They also don't have to worry so much about bonding as teammates.
"This team has been together off the court for an entire season," Pearl said. "We're closer. We get along better. We understand each other better. We tolerate each others' differences. We forgive each other for our failings.
Things are definitely moving faster as Tennessee looks to it's Nov. 13 opening date against Austin Peay, senior forward Wayne Chism said.
"Everybody's learning a lot faster," he said. "Last year we had to learn differently because we had a young group last year. We've all learned to listen to coach and learned about what kind of style he wants us to play. So now we're all together and it's time to move forward."
Goins, who transferred to Tennessee from Mt. San Jacinto College in California and will compete with Bobby Maze for playing time, said the style suits him, even though he hasn't played up-tempo since high school.
"I love that. I'm a smaller guard so I feel like I have an advantage on bigger guards with my speed and my quickness," the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Goins said.
After being picked to win the Southeastern Conference in the preseason, the Vols finished the season with just a share of the East Division title and lost in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
To improve on that and beat teams like Kansas, Memphis, Southern California and the usual SEC foes, Pearl knows his signature speed is necessary.
He also wants his players to work at forcing more turnovers. In his first three seasons at Tennessee, the Vols have been among the top teams in the SEC in steals. In the 2007-08 season, the Vols averaged 9.3 steals per game, but that average dropped to 6.6 last season.
"Was that a function of how we played and that we pressed? Yeah, somewhat. I can put them in positions, but they've got to make plays," Pearl said.
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