|No. 4 Tennessee takes advantage of offensive balance, depth|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 13 March 2008 12:08|
No. 4 Tennessee heads into SEC and NCAA tournament time with one of the most balanced offenses and deepest benches in the country - and coach Bruce Pearl plans to keep taking advantage of it.
``I think that often times at this time of the year, people talk about shortening their bench in tournament time ... it's getting to the point that you're one and done,'' Pearl said. ``I just have never believed in that philosophy.''
He'll get a chance to test his theory when the Vols (28-3) face South Carolina in the SEC quarterfinals on Friday.
The Vols handed the Gamecocks their two worst losses of the season, thanks to Tennessee's depth. The Vols bench scored 28 points in an 80-56 win and 35 points in the 89-56 win to close the season.
Tennessee is averaging 82.5 points per game, but top scorer Chris Lofton and his 16 points a game rank only 10th among SEC players.
Two others average double-digit scoring: JaJuan Smith with 14.2 points a game and Tyler Smith 13.3.
Tennessee also boasts no one in the top 30 SEC players averaging the most minutes played. No Vol player is averaging more than 30 minutes in a game and 12 players average 10 minutes or more.
And the Vols obviously do a good job of spreading the ball around: They are sixth in the nation with 18.1 assists per game, leading the SEC.
Pearl said he's worked hard to develop the depth that helped propel Tennessee to its first outright SEC regular season championship in 41 years.
He said he puts reserves into the game with clearly defined roles and some limitations with the idea of ``getting their feet wet.''
``Everybody's got guys sitting on their bench and some of them were pretty highly recruited kids, but for whatever reason they don't get in with any kind of consistent basis,'' he said. ``Brian Williams? He's going to get 10 minutes. Duke Crews is going to get his minutes.''
Pearl credits Williams, a reserve center, and Crews, a reserve forward, with helping the Vols withstand foul trouble in the paint this season.
Guard J.P. Prince has come off the bench to average 8.5 points for the Vols, earning him the SEC's sixth man of the year award.
And the Vols on the bench know just how important that role is.
``Coach Pearl always says our first five may not be the best first five in the country, but our 10 can play with any team in the country,'' Crews said.