Donnie Tyndall and several Vols met with the media prior to Tennessee’s Tuesday afternoon practice. Here are some notes from today’s media availability and practice viewing.
Practice Open: After closing practice to the media last week, Tyndall opened Tuesday’s practice in its entirety to the media for viewing. The team watched film on No. 15 Butler, who they host Sunday at 2pm (TV: ESPNU), before taking the Pratt Pavilion floor.
Foul Improvement: The Vols ranked last in the nation in fouls (26.2 per game) headed into Saturday’s win over Kansas State. Tyndall started calling fouls in practice last week and the results speak for themselves – the Vols committed a season low 19 fouls against the Wildcats.
“It was huge,” Derek Reese said of UT’s improvement in the foul category. “We didn’t want to give up too many free throws. We were just fouling too much. Helping with that gets us better as a team. It gives us more opportunities to score and more possessions.”
The Vols continued to call fouls during Tuesday’s practice.
Dominic Woodson Out Again: Tennessee’s 6-10 power forward missed practice last week in order to focus on academics. He didn’t dress for UT’s game with Kansas State and did not participate in practice on Tuesday. “He finishes up finals I believe on Thursday. Then we’ll have a better feel for where everything stands at that time,” Tyndall said before practice.
Hubbs Limited: Robert Hubbs, fresh of his two best games of the year, participated in individual drills but was limited in team portions of practice due to a minor back injury. He’s not expected to miss Sunday’s game with Butler.
Bonds Update: Another week has passed without an update on the status of Braxton Bonds. Tyndall had hoped they’d sign a waiver supporting his immediate eligibility, like Memphis did with Dominic Woodson, but Liberty has been reticent to do so despite Bonds’ limited time on campus. At this point, it’s extremely unlikely that Bonds will be cleared this year.
Baulkman Still Healing: Junior guard Devon Baulkman missed some time earlier in the season with a shoulder injury and is still healing. “Devon is probably about 85-90% healthy,” Tyndall said. “I’d love for Devon to compete at that three spot. He’s a guy that will give us some scoring punch as he continues to improve at this level of play. It’s an adjustment. I always say for any junior college guy, by about January, you finally start turning the corner. He’s made some strides. He’s made some plays in each of the last couple of games.”
Baulkman wore a brace on his left shoulder during contact portions of practice but removed it during individual drills. He connected on multiple shots from three-point range during live 5-on-5 scrimmage portions of practice.
Starting Five: Kevin Punter, Josh Richardson, Detrick Mostella, Armani Moore and Willie Carmichael were the first five on the floor in 5-on-5 portions of practice. Jabari McGhee subbed for Punter and Mostella on occasion to give Tennessee a bigger lineup. Tyndall hasn’t been afraid to try different lineups this season. Tariq Owens started Saturday’s game at Kansas State – the Vols have used five different starting lineups in six games this season.
Punter’s Big Day: A former JUCO All-American, Kevin Punter ranks third on the team in scoring (9.2 points per game). He hit numerous shots from 3-point range in 5-on-5 portions of practice. Expect his scoring total to increase as the season progresses. He’s shooting just 18% from deep this season and he’s a much better shooter than that. Punter spent some time after practice working on his shot.
Looking Ahead to Butler: The Bulldogs are ranked 15th in the AP Poll and 19th in the Coaches Poll. Their lone loss of the year came against No. 16 Oklahoma. Butler defeated then-No. 5 North Carolina on November 26th and beat Georgetown two days later. They rank 10th nationally in defensive efficiency, 15th in 3-point defense and steal percentage and 88th in offensive efficiency according to KenPom.com.
“They’re well-coached,” Tyndall said of Butler. “Their system, their style of play, their experience kinda goes from year to year. They may be the same team with different names and faces…They’re disciplined. They’re much more physical than maybe you would think when you look at them. They beat great teams already and they certainly are a top-15 team for a reason.”