Mike Strange: At least for this week, 'it's a good Christmas to be a Vol'

Mike Strange

Kenny Hall talks about the win over ETSU and the signing of Jarnell Stokes

Trae Golden delivered time and again in the final minutes Friday night. A basket, an assist for a Kenny Hall dunk, two clutch free throws.

Then he delivered the surprising line to sum it all up:

"It's a good Christmas to be a Vol.''

That's a pronouncement hardly anyone expected to hear last week when Tennessee's basketball team limped out of Charleston, S.C., mired in a four-game losing streak, the stench of the Austin Peay debacle still clinging to their sneakers.

But what a week it's been. Three times the program has pulled one out in the end.

On the court, the Vols came back from the near-dead Tuesday night to beat UNC Asheville.

Friday night, they repeated the late heroics, rallying from a 59-51 deficit to defeat ETSU 66-63 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

And in between, coach Cuonzo Martin pulled a blue-chip Memphis rabbit out of his hat in the person of Jarnell Stokes.

UT wasn't supposed to win this recruiting battle in Martin's first year. Too much ground to make up. And in Memphis? You gotta be kidding.

But Martin made it up and an elite, 6-foot-8 forward will be joining the team after Christmas. Which qualifies an even bigger come-from-behind

win than either of his team's games this week.

"He's a good player,'' said junior guard Skylar McBee. "We're definitely happy to have him.''

"He's a physical dude,'' said Cam Tatum. "We already know that, so he'll be happy to get down there and bang a little bit.''

One of the guys he'll be banging with is junior center Kenny Hall, who nonetheless sounded welcoming.

"We're inviting him with open arms,'' said Hall. "He's not competition because he's my teammate.

"Practice, that's another story.''

The Vols could have blown the new feel-good vibe from Stokes' announcement by losing to ETSU, a likely middle-of-the-pack Atlantic Sun Conference outfit.

And that's exactly what they appeared intent on doing for much of the evening.

Starting tentatively at both ends of the court, Tennessee fell in a 14-4 hole, trailed 33-29 at the half, scrambled to a 44-41 lead then lost it.

Adam Sollazzo's basket put the Bucs up 59-51 with 5:36 to play. The odds of UT suddenly solving ETSU's zone defense seemed poor.

In short, just like Martin's odds of winning Stokes away from the likes of Memphis, Kentucky and Florida, among others.

Tennessee, however, was a picture of resilience all week.

So Friday night, instead of tarnishing any vibes, Golden and Hall made pivotal plays at both ends of the court and the Vols found a way.

After closing the gap to 59-58, they had to survive a five-shot ETSU possession in order for Golden to feed Hall for a dunk that put Tennessee up for good, 60-59, with 1:59 to play.

"You've just got to keep fighting,'' said Tatum. "Remember a couple of weeks ago when we were losing these games?

"I said that these games will help us down the road. What we did wrong, we won't do it again. Guys are maturing and involving and getting better as a unit.''

Golden scored nine of his 11 points after the 59-51 dilemma. The Vols toed the free-throw stripe and went 9-of-9 in the second half. Last but certainly not least, they reversed a trend by holding the Bucs to 38.7-percent shooting the second half.

And then they went home for a two-day holiday break with a smile on their faces.

"Ugly as some of 'em may be, a win's a win,'' said McBee. "We're looking at getting better.

"Hopefully, the wins will get prettier and we'll start racking 'em up.''

That, of course, remains to be seen. UT fans would be wise not to expect a 17-year-old arrival who hasn't played competitively since the summer AAU circuit to turn the season on its ear.

"He's physically strong and he works hard,'' said Martin of the newest Vol. "It's what he picks up and how fast he picks it up.''

For the moment, it should be enough to enjoy the break. Two ugly but resilient wins and an unlikely recruiting score make it, as Golden said, a good Christmas to be a Vol.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

Get Copyright Permissions © 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2011 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Related Stories

Comments » 39

born2ride writes:

All I want for Christmas are new coaches.

AllVol1 writes:

Coach Martin is not even halfway through his first season. Anyone calling for a new basketball coach is a hindrance to the Vols they claim to support. If we have not seen improvement by the end of next season, then we could talk about possible changes. Before that, it is nothing but the ramblings of fools.

By the same token, Derek Dooley has just finished his second season. I am not calling for a change, but I agree with anyone who says that his seat is quite warm and can turn hot early next season. That being said, I must add that I hope to see improvement. Another coaching change puts us that much further from regaining prominence in football. If next season shows anything less than significant improvement in all areas, then that may be our bitter pill to swallow. Still, I like Coach Dooley as a man and hope he may prove the doubters utterly wrong as a coach.

I like watching the scrap and hustle of Coach Martin's basketball team. Go Vols!

Mtnbiker writes:

B2R is a loser, but Merry Christmas anyway.

drum56 writes:

in response to born2ride:

All I want for Christmas are new coaches.

and you sir are an IDIOT!

Snapshot writes:

in response to born2ride:

All I want for Christmas are new coaches.

All your are going to get is a lump of coal.

decades_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to born2ride:

All I want for Christmas are new coaches.

All I want for Christmas are the disappearance of ridiculously stupid fans and cockroach trolls. But Santa can't wrap this one up for me. In this country, even those with challenges and issues can speak their peace. And unfortunately, they cackle way too often.

NorthwestVol writes:

After reading a few of these I'm betting Scrooge was a Vol fan.

TommyJack writes:

^ I'm betting not 700 points of IQ displayed so far on this thread.

allvol32 writes:

in response to MerlOT_GoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I'm pretty sure that it does suck to be you but no - you are not a Vol.

AlpharettaVol writes:

in response to MerlOT_GoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

My early New Year's wish is for those with hate in their heart who post on this board find patience and support of our school in 2012. The University of Tennessee is more than its athletic programs and even though we are in a valley right now I am confident that with everyone's support we be back competing for championships in the near future.

voloffaith writes:

in response to MerlOT_GoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Hey Merl that futbol game was weeks ago not this week and you are OFF TOPIC so by by miss America pie go to the levee and stay and wait for it to fill up.......Wahhhhhhh Wahhhhhh life is hard and is allowed to throw us curves so grow from them and your misery will diminish unless like the Grinch ewe thrive in it......ANYWAY Merry CHRISTmas!!!!

I_Bleed_Orng writes:

Merry Christmas Vol fans. Peace, Love, and Hope to all this joyous season. Remember the true reason for the season.

For those who are continually negative, may God bring you encouragement and positivity in the new year.

GO VOLS!!

Sir_Spanky writes:

Trolls, clowns and the severely under-informed with nothing left in life but a keyboard and an internet connection = Romper Room.

TommyJack writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Same to you, Bear.

bamavol42 writes:

in response to born2ride:

All I want for Christmas are new coaches.

Get REAL!! Look at Nick Saban's 1st year. 5 straight losses and finished with a 50/50 season.

atributetoLombardiwasbanned writes:

in response to born2ride:

All I want for Christmas are new coaches.

Endeavor to persevere.

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

Sentimore+Stokes=great Christmas gifts for true Vol fans.

For those who have hate and contempt in your hearts, hope you find peace during this holiday season.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL MY FELLOW VOL FANS!!!

Smokey says he is hitting the eggnog early..

Bigger_Al writes:

Ho friggin' Ho. Good stuff, Mike. I agree that things are lookin' up. This team has a lot of growing to do, but they are coming through in the clutch and starting to get some W's. We were picked, what, 11th in the SEC preseason poll, so it's not as if we are stacked. Stokes can't be a savior this season, but getting him in early will be GREAT for next season.

FWBVol writes:

Win or lose it is always great to be a Tennessee Volunteer. Yes, sometimes are better than others and the last few years have been one of those lean periods. But I would still rather be a Tennessee fan than a fan of any other team in the nation.

Every program in the country goes through ups and downs. Some programs, such as the Duke or UNC basketball programs, seem to have less down periods than others, but we all go through cycles.

It is good to have young players such as Trae Golden who appreciate what it means to wear the Orange and want to be a part of our program.

The negative people on this site trying to pose as fans need to take a few minutes and think about all they have to be thankful for as we celebrate Christmas.

The fact that their biggest complaints seem to be about Derek Dooley and Cuonzo Martin should indicate to them they've had a pretty good year.

Merry Christmas everyone.

It is Great to be a Tennessee Vol.

DarkGable writes:

We get a 5* player from the M-Town. We win two back to back games and you experts are still complaining. None of you have checked Zo's background who has recruited several players in the NBA. Yet you Experts still complain. Some of you need to retire your white sheets with the holes, Cuonzo Martin is not going anywhere so get over yourself. Be born to ride on your couch (potato) expert.

DarkGable writes:

I would like to thank the inventor of the internet. Now people with half a brain who couldn't express their coaching knowledge and expertise in the past just need a login and password. Sad

BigVolFaninSC writes:

Thanks for the laughs from the true VOL fans on this site!...I needed it! And to the ugly trolls (and you KNOW who you are AND that you are truly ugly) that continue to spout their flapdoodle, you will need to elevate yourselves in order to EARN a lump of coal!
However, Merry Christmas to all!

volpreacher writes:

in response to FWBVol:

Win or lose it is always great to be a Tennessee Volunteer. Yes, sometimes are better than others and the last few years have been one of those lean periods. But I would still rather be a Tennessee fan than a fan of any other team in the nation.

Every program in the country goes through ups and downs. Some programs, such as the Duke or UNC basketball programs, seem to have less down periods than others, but we all go through cycles.

It is good to have young players such as Trae Golden who appreciate what it means to wear the Orange and want to be a part of our program.

The negative people on this site trying to pose as fans need to take a few minutes and think about all they have to be thankful for as we celebrate Christmas.

The fact that their biggest complaints seem to be about Derek Dooley and Cuonzo Martin should indicate to them they've had a pretty good year.

Merry Christmas everyone.

It is Great to be a Tennessee Vol.

Amen! I'll second that. Win or lose its always great to be a Vol! Merry Christmas everyone! Remember why we celebrate this season.

RockVegas writes:

in response to DarkGable:

We get a 5* player from the M-Town. We win two back to back games and you experts are still complaining. None of you have checked Zo's background who has recruited several players in the NBA. Yet you Experts still complain. Some of you need to retire your white sheets with the holes, Cuonzo Martin is not going anywhere so get over yourself. Be born to ride on your couch (potato) expert.

Everyone keeps saying that coach Zo will get the talent in,and I do believe he will.If we can win Memphis,and get some of those Chicago and St.Louis recruits we are really going to be in business.I still don't see why everybody is still down on coach Martin,he wasn't left with anymore than coach Dooley was,and to be honest I think he has less.He can relate to the players,plus he was a really good player himself.

chl1958 writes:

B2R and Whiney vine product,you are both Richard Heads!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to our Vol Athletes and to the True Vol Fans!

voloffaith writes:

in response to volpreacher:

Amen! I'll second that. Win or lose its always great to be a Vol! Merry Christmas everyone! Remember why we celebrate this season.

Don't hint about it....THE REASON FOR THE season is JESUS CHRIST!! Now nobody has to guess what to try and remember.....Merry CHRISTmas y'all!!!

GerryOP writes:

A Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

volpreacher writes:

in response to voloffaith:

Don't hint about it....THE REASON FOR THE season is JESUS CHRIST!! Now nobody has to guess what to try and remember.....Merry CHRISTmas y'all!!!

I should of went further. I was typing on my phone. Thanks for mentioning it. Merry Christmas to all!!!

DLuckySeven writes:

in response to born2ride:

All I want for Christmas are new coaches.

Dont forget that you want to sit in a hot tub with your gay boyfriend blowing bubbles in the water with your butt!!!! GET LOST!!!!!

slb#1351874 writes:

From a true orange blooded Vol trapped down here in Florida with these aggroant Lizards Merry Christmas and may 2012 be a better year for all. God we deserve it.

voloffaith writes:

in response to volpreacher:

I should of went further. I was typing on my phone. Thanks for mentioning it. Merry Christmas to all!!!

You didn't say it ,but if I was harsh please forgive. "Go tell it on the mountain over the hills and everywhere,go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born...."

johnlg00 writes:

in response to FWBVol:

Win or lose it is always great to be a Tennessee Volunteer. Yes, sometimes are better than others and the last few years have been one of those lean periods. But I would still rather be a Tennessee fan than a fan of any other team in the nation.

Every program in the country goes through ups and downs. Some programs, such as the Duke or UNC basketball programs, seem to have less down periods than others, but we all go through cycles.

It is good to have young players such as Trae Golden who appreciate what it means to wear the Orange and want to be a part of our program.

The negative people on this site trying to pose as fans need to take a few minutes and think about all they have to be thankful for as we celebrate Christmas.

The fact that their biggest complaints seem to be about Derek Dooley and Cuonzo Martin should indicate to them they've had a pretty good year.

Merry Christmas everyone.

It is Great to be a Tennessee Vol.

Amen, brother! I'm signing off for the holidays; although I will be in K'ville, I'm not registered for this site on my mom's computer and may have too much other stuff to do to be able to do more than "lurk" occasionally on here. I WILL be attending the Citadel game on Thursday. I'm about 6'2" and I will be wearing a light brown jacket and an orange cap with a white "power T"; if any of you see me, don't hesitate to speak. I'll try to be civil even to those with whom I have had disagreements, but I doubt I will see many of those at the game.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to the whole Big Orange Nation! To the trolls and naysayers, I wish them the gifts of wisdom, civility, and--especially to the latter--patience and positivity. Anyway, this is a season of hope, so I guess anything is possible.

It's ALWAYS GREAT TO BE A VOL!!!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Hmm? So far a few trolls but hey! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
SOME very nice and representative fans of the Vols have posted this article. I love it...
That said I may have to pull for UTC this year. Witchdoctor I feel your pain. It's just that my alma mater needs a win so bad against what should be a better team. It may be Shulman's last chance to win against UT at UTC? I don't know and still wish UTC and Shulman a Happy New Year too.
MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone! Ho HO HOOOO

newtonrail writes:

Stokes will be 18 before he plays,and I believe he will lift the whole team eventually. It will take some time practicing with new team, and finding his role.

atributetoLombardiwasbanned writes:

in response to MerlOT_GoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Suggest removal. Name calling is not acceptable.

pvtoe writes:

Things WILL get better.
Merry Christmas and Happy VOLidays!!!!

IBAVolFan writes:

in response to DarkGable:

I would like to thank the inventor of the internet. Now people with half a brain who couldn't express their coaching knowledge and expertise in the past just need a login and password. Sad

You can thank Al Gore. He said he invented the internet.

TKO writes:

in response to TommyJack:

^ I'm betting not 700 points of IQ displayed so far on this thread.

You are being generous

clarksvillevol writes:

This has to go down as one of the stupidest threads I have ever seen! Get real folks, support our guys on the court and football field. Support the coaches we have, if they fail, UT fails for a longtime. If you are indeed a fan, act like one, support your guys!

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features