Losing skid proof Vols can’t get by on offense alone
Posted: Tuesday, December 13, 2011 7:01 pm
By BETH RUCKER
AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin hopes his players finally realize after three straight losses that they can’t count on their offense to bail them out of games.
“We’ve tried that, and it hasn’t worked. In order for us to be successful, we have to defend,” Martin said Monday.
Spotty defense down the stretch cost the Volunteers (3-5) a surprising loss on their home court Saturday to Austin Peay, which entered the game with only one win on the season. The Governors shot 72.7 percent against Tennessee in the second half en route to their come-from-behind 74-70 victory.
On Wednesday, the Vols travel to College of Charleston (7-1) to face a Cougars team that’s averaging 76 points per contest, is shooting 46.7 percent and has won all four of its home games.
“There’s nothing better than shutting up opposing teams with your preparation and your focus, and you do that by playing great defense,” Martin said.
With a new coach and a significantly new lineup this season, Tennessee was picked to finish 11th in the Southeastern Conference. The Vols have lost four of their last five, squandering some of the hope fans had in them after they played competitively in losses to Duke and Memphis at the Maui Invitational in November.
Part of their troubles can be pegged to having such a different lineup from last season. Senior guard Cameron Tatum is the only returning starter, and Martin brought with him several new scholarship players.
“We’re just all learning how to play together and at the same time deal with the experience of being out there on the court,” junior center Kenny Hall said. “As time goes along, the more we practice you start to get your teammates’ niches and what they like to do in situations.”
While learning what to expect from their teammates on the floor during games, the Vols also are trying to figure out who will step up to be Tennessee’s leaders.
Hall and junior forward Jeronne Maymon are starting to earn that right through the way they’re playing on both ends of the court. The pair combined for 30 points and 19 rebounds against Austin Peay, and with their help the Vols own a plus-4.1 rebounding margin against their opponents.
Martin said he wants the pair demanding the ball more often — especially with Maymon averaging 59.4 percent shooting and Hall hitting 54.1 percent of his shots. Hall said he’s willing to step up as a leader on the floor, but he recognizes that it’s not as easy as wanting to be a leader.
“You also have to look at yourself in the mirror first and be real with yourself and correct what you’re doing wrong,” the Stone Mountain, Ga., native said. “It starts off by leading by example, so I think before you can really check somebody else you’ve got to make sure you’ve got your own stuff straight, but at the same time you’ve got to be willing to let them know where they’re failing at and what mistakes they’re making.”
Hall, Maymon and the rest of the returning Vols have a good idea of what they’ll be up against in Charleston. The Cougars came to Knoxville last December and left with a 91-78 victory.
College of Charleston shot 57.1 percent in that game.
Published in The Messenger 12.13.11