Vols do Tennessee Waltz in Italy
SAN MARINO — If not for a few new developments, the only thing Tennessee basketball would have gotten from the third game of its Italian tour would've been the view.
Playing in the tiny enclave of San Marino, nestled beautifully into a diving slope along the northeastern side of the Apennine Mountains, the Vols' brutal 126-44 beating of BC Zeta Golubovci on Sunday didn't match the serene surroundings.
Nonetheless, UT improved to 3-0 in its overseas exhibitions.
The game began with two question marks parked on coach Cuonzo Martin's bench.
Back on Friday, the night of Tennessee's second game in Italy, Kenny Hall came to a sobering realization as the minutes rattled off the clock.
He'd been benched.
Hall is no stranger to Martin's doghouse and he found himself curled up in it once again. Last season he was suspended indefinitely in February for conduct detrimental to the team.
After keeping the senior forward on the pine Friday, Martin hastily said, "Kenny Hall has to play harder."
Early in Sunday's first quarter, Martin called Hall's name. He hopped off the bench and out of the doghouse.
"(Martin) used (Friday) as an example to show that I don't need to be too comfortable or complacent with where I'm at right now," Hall said after scoring 11 points in the Vols win over Zeta Golubovci, a professional team from the Montenegro B League. "I need to play harder, be more vocal and be more of a leader."
Asked if he's regained the trust lost amid last year's suspension, Hall responded, "I'm still on the building block when it comes to that. It's nothing personal. He's really doing it for me at the end of the day. That's how I look at it. Nothing more, nothing less."
Hall checked into the game alongside, Jeronne Maymon, a fellow question mark. The Vols' lead
ing returning scorer hadn't played in either of UT's first two wins in Italy.
It was thought he was being held out as a result of offseason meniscus surgery. In fact, he sprained an ankle in a pickup game last week and was given extra time to heal.
Maymon played sparingly Sunday, but stepping on the court was a leap in the right direction. It was his first live action in months.
"I was more anxious than anything — seeing how I was going to respond and how I was going to play," said Maymon, who converted only one field goal, but moved well and appeared comfortable. "I haven't played against any contact in a while. I felt good out there. I've got fresh legs."
After carrying a 69-25 lead into halftime, the Vols asked for a running clock. Zeta Golubovci was happy to oblige.
Quinton Chievous led Tennessee with a game-high 22 points and eight rebounds.
Yemi Makanjuola scored 17 points, while Jordan McRae chipped in 16 to go with four assists and three steals. Armani Moore added 14.
Martin, an unwavering believer in man-to-man defense, used the second half to work on UT's zone defense. Subdued on the sideline throughout the Italian tour, he hollered directions on every possession.
"They did a solid job for us not spending a lot of time on it," Martin said. "I thought they did a better job than I anticipated or expected."
After starting the game with a lineup of Chievous, Moore, D'Montre Edwards, Skylar McBee and Makanjuola, his third different starting lineup of the trip, Martin used a variety of five-man rotations.
He sent five-in, five-out, on each substitution, like a hockey coach, rarely playing the same combination.
Brandon Lopez pulled down eight rebounds and dished out a team-high six assists.
After going scoreless in the first half, McBee hit three 3-pointers and scored 11 after halftime.
The final game of the Vols' trip comes Tuesday in Como against Amici del Campetto at 8 p.m. local time, 2 p.m. ET.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/BFQuinn