Monday, January 11, 2010

The Tennessee Volunteers...

You gotta love a coach who shows up to support the women's basketball program at his school looking just as crazy as one of the fans. Bruce Pearl is a maniac, and one hell of a coach. Yesterday's game was a testament to what his team can accomplish on any given night.

Knocking off the undefeated #1 team in the land is one thing. Doing it shorthanded is quite near impossible, but the Volunteers did it. They beat the University of Kansas, who up until yesterday ripped through the first half of the season, kicking all kinds of ass and looking like world beaters. The Tennessee game was supposed to be a cakewalk for them. But it wasn't.

Tennessee suffered the loss of four of their top eight scorers. Senior Tyler Smith was dismissed outright for (what else?) misdemeanor guns and drugs charges. The other three (Cameron Tatum, Melvin Goins and Brian Williams, who were arrested on January 1st. with Smith) have been suspended pending further investigation. That left them with six scholarship players and a couple of walk-ons. But they had the appropriately named Scotty Hopson leading the way with 17 points on 7-12 shooting and some spectacular dunks. Photos of Hopson are not from the Kansas game-

It wasn't just Hopson who stepped up. Let's give props to Booby Maze, who scored 16 points, grabbed 7 rebounds and dished out 8 assists. Renaldo Woolridge scored 14, but it was HOW and WHEN he scored that really made the difference. He hit 4 of 6 from 3-point land, and hit three in a row during a pivotal 14-2 Tennessee run. The fact that he hit those shots from the same exact spot on the court says something about Kansas coach Bill Self having his head completely up his ass. What was he thinking when he kept leaving this guy alone to chuck threes during such a critical phase of the game?

But the shot of the night belongs to my man Skylar McBee. What a name. You gotta love the circumstances of this-deep into the second half with the clock winding down, McBee's got the ball on the left side of the court and the play, for whatever reason just dies. So what does he do? Dribbles right, then awkwardly cuts back to the left side (at this point I thought he'd get called for traveling, that's how bad this move looked) and heaves a three-pointer with all the grace of a drunken retiree stumbling off the deck of a cruise ship into the deep blue sea.

And it was all net, baby. All net. So for all those one-and-done superstars like John Wall of Kentucky and the rest from years past, keep going. You aren't a part of what this is all about. College basketball is not about the guys who stay one year, finish only one semester of classes and then head to the NBA. College basketball is about walk-on Skylar McBee and the Tennessee Volunteers, who despite being undermanned and over-matched showed up to play a game everyone knew they were going to lose and won it. Fuckin' A. Here's to you coach Pearl and the rest of the crew at Tennessee. Thanks for a hell of a game.

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