Cuonzo Martin looks for stepped up defense against The Citadel

UT wing Cameron Tatum on the Vols' mindset

If it seems like first-year Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin says the same things, over and over, it's only because he's being honest about the Vols.

"We've got to see the team toughness improve,'' Martin said Tuesday. "You've got to take individual pride in how you guard.

"I know it sounds like the same thing, because it is. But we put the game films in, and we see the same things, different game.''

The Vols (5-6) play The Citadel (2-9) at Thompson-Boling Arena in the feature presentation tonight (TV: SportSouth, 7 p.m.).

Tennessee is looking for its first three-game win streak this season, while the Bulldogs have dropped seven straight.

UT sophomore Jordan McRae said the holiday break has come at a good time, allowing the players some rest as well as time to reflect on their shortfalls this season.

"We've had a chance to think about things over the break,'' McRae said. "We come back on a two-game win streak, and I think everyone is recharged and ready to go.''

In the case of senior wing Cameron Tatum, it's a matter of maintaining the level of play he showed in UT's two most recent wins, against UNC Asheville (Dec. 20, 72-68) and last Friday against East Tennessee State (66-63).

"We kind of squeaked them out,'' said Tatum, who was 7-of-10 shooting in the two wins while averaging 15 points in those contests. "You can't put a price on those wins. It was that good for our chemistry, and it got us excited about coming back from break for these games.''

Tatum said despite the Vols' modest overall record, the team's goal to play in a postseason tournament hasn't changed.

"We know we can play with anybody, and our goals haven't changed,'' Tatum said. "The film sessions show us that in the games we were losing, we were losing them ourselves, it was the things we were doing wrong.''

At 5-6, UT is off to the program's worst start since the 2001-02 season, when then-first-year coach Buzz Peterson started the season also 5-6 despite not facing any ranked opponents.

While the Vols are 2-6 in games decided by 10 points or less (three coming against Top 25 opponents), Peterson's UT team was 2-5 in games decided by 10 points through the same period.

Martin believes grinding out close games comes down to toughness as well as the ability to get defensive stops when games are on the line.

"The bottom line is we have to do a better job accepting challenges on defense,'' Martin said. "It's not very complicated; it's guarding your man one-on-one. We definitely have to get better on the perimeter.''

The Vols will be heavily favored to beat The Citadel, a member of the Southern Conference. The Bulldogs return just one starter from last season's team that finished 10-22.

The Bulldogs have relied heavily on junior center Mike Groselle, a 6-foot-8, 238-pounder who averages 15.8 points and 9.9 rebounds.

UT power forward Jeronne Maymon said he studied tape on The Citadel over his holiday break.

"Watching the breakdown over Christmas, you can see he's a hard worker and they'll do a variety of things with him,'' Maymon said. "I'm ready. I'm coming back with a different attitude to turn it up on offense and defense.''

Contrary to conventional tradition, it seems it's not too early for the Vols to make some new resolutions.

Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32

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Comments » 13

MothershipChip writes:

I am looking forward to the opportunity to go this game and cheer the Vols on in person!!!

Go Big Orange!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Lucky MothershioChip. Wish I could go. I'll be right here at the computeror or rather Sports South. GBO whoop the Dogs.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I'm typing seal sounds at 5"30 am "computeror or" lol That's also funny to me at 5:30 am.

Bubba_Knows writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

I'm typing seal sounds at 5"30 am "computeror or" lol That's also funny to me at 5:30 am.

Seal sounds? Just as long as it wasn't gas. That would not be funny for the rest of us.

volfan501 writes:

Looks like Cuonzo needs to take a look at this kid if he wants a shooter!!!!!

http://www.jacksonsun.com/article/201...

born2ride writes:

The Citadel is 2-9. Should be another tough challenge for the Vols.

GreerVol22 writes:

in response to born2ride:

The Citadel is 2-9. Should be another tough challenge for the Vols.

perhaps another come from behind, 15 points down kinda challenge...

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

In high school; coaches with high scoring guards didn't teach or press them to be good on defense.As long as they were putting up big numbers they didn't care..Tobias was a forward but a very slow and ineffective defender and Iam sure his HS coach could have cared less..McRae and Golden are now playing with the big boys and are behind on the learning curve!! On the positive side you may have noticed in the last game our defense did some switching off on high screens and offense around the perimeter arc;which is a very good especially when you have a guard with a hot hand or a team relying on 3 pointers..To Pearls credit he was a master of the switch off and nearly took us to the final 4 because of it.. Martins defense is for sure a work in progress..

TheRealDragonSlayer writes:

in response to born2ride:

The Citadel is 2-9. Should be another tough challenge for the Vols.

You are mistaking this for the 6th grade FCAT you had to take last year. Citadel will not be as challenging to the Vols as that test was for you.

wigmeister writes:

No D, no W. Big D and a wonderful win!

STLVOLS writes:

I have confidence in Cuonzo long term. As he gets more talent, the team will improve. I like his work ethic. I will repeat myself from previous posts in stating that there is a lot of basketball talent in STL area and MO in general that goes to other schools.

Sometimes I, as a Vol fan, realize that it is easy to get spoiled being a Vols fan and past Vols success. Give it time, Gentlemen.

With Cuonzo's St. Louis and MO ties, my opinion is that he will lure some of those kids to Knoxville. Living in MO, I followed his surprising MO State teams that gave Vols fits last year. Missoui fans up here were bashing new MO BB coach Frank Haith because he was a no name from Miami. He took returning talent from last year and commits for this year to have a MO BB team ranked 8th in USA.

Now "no name" Frank Haith is the toast of the MO tiger nation.

Haith walked into a situation of a lot of talent. Anyway, I will quit ramblin' and say that patience in Martin's situation is justified in my opinion. GBO

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

Will be interesting to see if we can see continued progress. IMO the keys are:
1. More consistent play from Maymon
2. Take it inside more often to Hall and Maymon
3. Better decision making from Trae.
4. Tatum to be a dependable three pt. threat.
5. No more ole (olay) defense from the guards!
If this is not a blow out win, we have major problems that will not go away with experience. Can't wait for Jarnell to suit up!!

STLVOLS writes:

in response to jhayes0926#638474:

Will be interesting to see if we can see continued progress. IMO the keys are:
1. More consistent play from Maymon
2. Take it inside more often to Hall and Maymon
3. Better decision making from Trae.
4. Tatum to be a dependable three pt. threat.
5. No more ole (olay) defense from the guards!
If this is not a blow out win, we have major problems that will not go away with experience. Can't wait for Jarnell to suit up!!

Good Post. I agree.

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