Hangin' with the Vols on the side of the road in Italy
Bus breakdown doesn't breakdown Vols game
ROME — Tennessee was finally ready to kick off its 2012 Italian Tour on Wednesday afternoon.
Hazard lights were not in the gameplan.
There they flashed, though, at the corner of Where Are We and I Don't Know, in the northern section of Rome where the Tiber snakes west.
The Vols' team bus, a double-decker filled to the brim with players, coaches, managers and an entourage of family and athletic department personnel, sat KO'd.
Forty-five minutes remained until the scheduled start of UT's meeting with All Star Italy.
"The bus overheated and now we're out here standing on the street asking people for rides," junior guard Jordan McRae joked.
It was, after all, a laughing matter. A second bus eventually arrived and scooped the group up.
Five minutes later, Tennessee walked into Arena Altero Felici five minutes before for the 7:30 pm tip-off. An hour so after that, the Vols left with a comfortable 83-32 victory.
Tutto è bene quello che finisce bene.
All's well that ends well.
"It was just a crazy day," junior
point guard Trae Golden said. "Once it got to 7:20 p.m. I didn't think we were going to play anymore. I'm just thankful we got in the gym so we could play."
All Star Italy didn't exactly pose a test. The Vols built a 17-7 early advantage and never looked back. The lead stretched to 39-17 by halftime and 64-24 by the end of the third quarter.
Sophomore Jarnell Stokes led the way for UT, scoring 11 of his game-high 15 points in the first half.
"I thought we did all right for not really exercising or practicing for the last four days," Stokes said. "I know I had to catch my wind out there, but as a team, we defended well and rebounded. There weren't any big flaws you could take away from tonight."
Golden, playing with a thick wrap on his left knee following offseason meniscus surgery, finished with 13 points and four assists.
Jeronne Maymon, who also had offseason knee surgery, sat out Wednesday. Martin said the senior forward is "fine to play" but "you just want to know he's 100 percent." Maymon is Tennessee's leading returning scorer.
Freshmen Armani Moore, using the Vols' trip abroad as an audition for the role of Golden's backup point guard, looked comfortable steering Martin's motion offense. The newcomer added six points, four rebounds and two assists.
"I still have to work on playing off ball screens and my full-court defense, but tonight was good," Moore said. "Once I get my defensive game down, my offense will come."
Junior guard D'Montre Edwards, a junior college transfer also making his Vols debut, added five points and pulled down eight rebounds.
Sophomore guard Josh Richardson chipped in 12 points, while McRae and redshirt freshman Quinton Chievous each added eight.
Neither senior forward Dwight Miller (knee) nor freshman guard Derek Reese (torn right labrum) saw any action.
The Vols will travel by bus to Florence today. Whether it makes it there is anyone's guess. Game two of the tour comes Friday against Montenegro Selezione following a sightseeing trip to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
On Sunday in San Marino, UT will face Atletas Kaunas (Lithuania), which used 16 3-pointers to beat Georgia in Venice on Wednesday.
The Vols will worry about that on Sunday, though. Florence awaits. More sights to be seen.
Hazard lights still aren't on the gameplan.
"More than anything, I'm just pleased with how the guys responded today," Martin said. "They showed character. They played hard."
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/BFQuinn