Mike Strange: Virginia, Georgetown, it's one long struggle for Vols

Mike Strange
Tennessee forward Kenny Hall (20) looks to pass as Virginia center Mike Tobey, right, defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, in Charlottesville, Va. Virginia won the game 46-38. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Photo by Steve Helber

Tennessee forward Kenny Hall (20) looks to pass as Virginia center Mike Tobey, right, defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, in Charlottesville, Va. Virginia won the game 46-38. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — In reality, four days passed between games. But it seemed like one interminable 80-minute struggle for Tennessee's offensively challenged Vols, this misadventure into colonial America.

A 46-38 loss to Virginia on Wednesday night was a continuation of a 37-36 loss to Georgetown last Friday in Washington.

I tried to distinguish one from the other.

Georgetown thwarted the Vols with a smothering zone defense. Virginia thwarted the Vols man-to-man.

Georgetown is in the Big East Conference, Virginia the ACC.

Georgetown is located in the city where Thomas Jefferson sat as president of the United States.

Virginia is the campus Mr. Jefferson founded.

That's all I've got. UT coach Cuonzo Martin's more keenly trained eye saw one more difference.

"I thought we were stagnant at Georgetown,'' Martin said. "Tonight, I thought we had some pretty good looks that just didn't go down.''

Not much of anything is going down for Tennessee these days. Perhaps it's a good thing the fan base is preoccupied with a football coaching search. (Not much is going down there either.)

It seems more urgent to anguish over the inability to find a football savior than a basketball team that has scored a combined 74 points in two games.

The Vols have fallen short of 40 points three times in the shot-clock era (1985-86). Two of them were in the past week.

To be fair, both Georgetown and Virginia are grinders. Not many opponents are going to run up a score on either one of these guys.

"We keep trying,'' said coach Tony Bennett, "to define what Virginia basketball is going to look like.''

Are you beginning to doubt about what Tennessee basketball is going to look like?

Martin did a terrific job defining a new look in his first season — a patient, motion offense and never-give-an-inch defense.

It worked. Tennessee was a surprising 10-6 in the SEC. The Vols averaged 68.8 points a game.

Which is about 30 more than UT averaged on these two road games.

UT shot bricks at Georgetown but still would have won had it not been for unthinkable 3-of-11 free-throw shooting. Two free throws would have been the difference in a one-possession game.

This one was never a one-possession game. But it could have been, should have been.

"Your defense can hang in only so long when you're struggling to score.''

That was Bennett talking but it certainly applied to Tennessee, who squandered another commendable defensive effort Wednesday night.

Back to defining Tennessee basketball: surely it won't be a surrounded Jarnell Stokes attempting only three shots at Georgetown or five at Virginia.

The preferred definition was Stokes AND Jeronne Maymon as a double whammy in the paint. Maymon is on the shelf with a bum knee, his return date unknown.

"He's a guy that also demands a double,'' said Martin. "… so now Jarnell can float a little bit when he's posting up.

"Here's a guy who is sort of the quarterback on the defensive side and a point-forward on offense. You lose a guy of that caliber and obviously some adjustments have to be made.''

Obviously. The Vols just scored 36 points and followed it up with 38.

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

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Comments » 32

Southland writes:

sad pathetic display of basketball either someone fires up this offense or the basketball season is going to look like the football season. where is mayman?

born2ride writes:

Good grief. Why can't we hire decent coaches?

volthrunthru#658770 writes:

Remember when some of us last year were saying Martin was another Hamilton hire, in over his head, in major college ball?

Remember when most of the knee-jerk section made damned sure to accuse anybody who had a question about this guy---who is not very adept at selling his program---or had a question about what was a bad 1st year's recruiting class...and an other-wise lackluster class year 2, except for a lifelong UT fan who happens to be one of the top four players in the USA...

and remember when the kneejerk section accused folks who had questions of being disloyal to UT, or or being racists because of questions about his team's performance last year, as it bailed out in the NIT????????

Remember?

For the record: We told you so...

td writes:

There's only one solution to correct bad shooting, and that's individual practice -- attempting shot, after shot, after shot. Obviously, this team invests considerable effort in practice on defense. Consequently, the players absolutely must spend their own time perfecting the offense. If they're already doing that; then, they're not doing enough. Up the ante!

Myrsaad writes:

So we have a coach who prides himself on great defense and appears to have absolutely NO IDEA how to coach offense. I swear it feels like being a Vol fan is akin to inheriting a curse. Cuonzo, there is no rationalizing this. You should only say "We're terrible right now. I'm sorry, and I promise we'll get better."

BruisedOrange writes:

Can you imagine what the television people who have us under contract for games are doing right now?

Advertisers must be demanding that their ads run picture-in-picture during the "action."

TheFuj writes:

Just terrible.
Year 2 is starting like Dooley's year 2. Martin has to get the going. To many returning starters and players to be looking worse in year 2. (Even with Maymon out)

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

Where's Jordan's great leadership he promised?? This team is a joke, and unfortunately they are a reflection of their coach.

BobKesling_is_overpaid writes:

Anyone miss Bruce Pearl yet? I sure do. When is that show cause up? If I were Hart, I'd hire him right back when the cause is up and apologize for the administrations disloyalty. Btw, I haven't seen that voldoll skank on here talking about how great martin is. This guy can't coach. Buzz Peterson had more exciting teams.

SummittsCourt writes:

Well, look on the bright side, the football team can outscore the basketball team.

rumaso writes:

Two more years...

eb502us#225637 writes:

When you recruit guys who can't shoot even when wide open, this is the result. Sadly, I don't see it getting better anytime soon.

huntined#565710 writes:

I have posted on here many times you have to have a strong heart to be a VOL FAN..But the shape we are in now I don't know if even that is enough!!! But I still pull my ole ORANGE shirt and hat out and wear with pride even here in FLA.

SummittsCourt writes:

Thank God for the Lady Vols!!!!

D60 writes:

Clownzo just flat out can't coach.....UT continues to pay for Mike Hamilton's mistakes.....Jimmy Cheeks has to go too

HopeisNotaCourseofAction writes:

Yes, let's use the model we used for the BB coach hire to find the football coach since this is working out so well. We are now as irrlevant in BB as FB.

AD Fart, still pulling folks' fingers instead of pulling good coaches in here. Would recommend you start now getting your list together for a BB coach in a year or so, but as I watch your apparent ineptness in the FB search, I have no confidence in you or your ability to git er done.

KENVOL writes:

I guess we just have to face it UT has become the laughing stock of the college world.

BigBadVol writes:

in response to volthrunthru#658770:

Remember when some of us last year were saying Martin was another Hamilton hire, in over his head, in major college ball?

Remember when most of the knee-jerk section made damned sure to accuse anybody who had a question about this guy---who is not very adept at selling his program---or had a question about what was a bad 1st year's recruiting class...and an other-wise lackluster class year 2, except for a lifelong UT fan who happens to be one of the top four players in the USA...

and remember when the kneejerk section accused folks who had questions of being disloyal to UT, or or being racists because of questions about his team's performance last year, as it bailed out in the NIT????????

Remember?

For the record: We told you so...

Are you really that stupid? I know you are too dumb to answer the question.

tulelakevol writes:

Austin Peay loss to now, I see little improvement in the past year under Mr. Martin.

bebecerveza writes:

Wow, two bad games and the guy can't coach? Same people last year who were impressed with the job he did, now say he is an awful hire is ridiculous. I know everyone on here is jaded by the football team, but come on.

PS, If I were Martin I would reboot for 2013-14 and redshirt Maymon so you could have Stokes, Maymon and Hubbs out on the floor together.

1vavolfan writes:

What's troubling is all of the players who score were recruited by Pearl, other than Stokes. This year's recruiting class is terrible, none of them should be playing D1 basketball, next year we have Hubbs and 2 more 3 star guys. Moore, Edwards, and Chievous should be out the door at the end of the season like Washpun last season.

westknoxrepub writes:

Now now, don't go questioning Coach Martin or you'll get labeled a racist. Remember, losses to Austin Peay and 2nd round NIT exits are GOOD seasons. . .or at least that's what we've been told. Bring Bruce Back.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Martin has done an average job coaching this team..Coming out of a timeout Pearl always had a can't miss play called but Martin seems to play into the defenses hands..Considering all the zone defenses we faced last year Martin had no clue how to deal with GTown but Texas didn't have an answer either in their loss. Gtown and VA gift wrapped these games for us but all we got in the stretch were TO's and bricks..Basically the answer is to make your shots with all these open looks..To be honest Kennesaw's defense is just as good as VA's but the difference is we shot 29% against the very same defense..Put the ball in the basket and go home a winner..Simple as That!!!

HighlandVol writes:

in response to huntined#565710:

I have posted on here many times you have to have a strong heart to be a VOL FAN..But the shape we are in now I don't know if even that is enough!!! But I still pull my ole ORANGE shirt and hat out and wear with pride even here in FLA.

A strong heart and at this point a strong stomach.

johnlg00 writes:

One thing I have noticed about this team is that too many of them are swaying and gliding on their shots. For example, the Harris kid for UVA last night was being chased all over the court by Vol defenders, but when he broke free, he threw a hard stop and went straight up into his shot, which usually hit the bottom of the net. McBee in particular has not been doing that. He tries to get his shot off too fast and doesn't go straight up on it, gliding in or out or side to side. McRae does the same thing.

That tendency to glide around the court also leads to all the moving screens the Vols are getting called for lately. To set a proper screen, you dart to a specific spot on the court and FREEZE. You can't sway your shoulders or hips; you must become a statue.

There are certain spots on the floor that must be occupied nearly all the time, but the players must rotate among them, using sharp, decisive cuts. At each of those spots, the player must be ready to do certain things. Most of those things, whether shooting, passing, or driving, can best be accomplished from a stationary position. Only then can you put on a convincing fake, spot an open man for a pass, or shoot in balance and in rhythm. By making these looping cuts, you are avoiding the defense, not dictating to it. When you catch the ball in scoring position, you must be ready to do something with it. The players and coaches must reevaluate the way the players move on the court as well as how they determine where they are moving TO.

mloaks#222092 writes:

UT fans are idiots.
fired a fine coach.
buyouts kill chances for an expensive one.
critisize hoops coach when ya loose a few, missing best player.
face it, we are mid-level now for past blunders.
and who wants to coach here with the 'fans' we have?!?

UTVolWarrior98 writes:

FIRE CUONZO MARTIN!!!!

HONOR THY VOLS...CHERISH THEM...

MR_VOL writes:

Pitiful play!

I did not agree with the Martin hire, and I am even more convinced today.

Last season, I gathered a little confidence in Martin but lost all after the MTSU game. I have coached recreational [youth] basketball and even I know when an opposing team’s player has four [4] fouls you go after him. One of two things is going to happen, (1) you get the fifth [5th] foul and the player sits down, or (2) you get an easy shot. With two [2] MTSU inside players having four [4] fouls with over seven [7] minutes left in the game, Martin did not attack the inside---shameful.

I will give Martin credit as he does know [and coach] defense and it appears he can recruit.

For Martin to be successful, I feel he needs to make a coaching change and bring in an offense-minded coach as it is blatantly obvious Martin knows NOTHING about offense. With Martin’s defense, and another coach calling the offense, I believe UT would be a hard team to beat. With that said, I do not believe Martin’s ego will allow him to “share” the team with another coach as it is clearly apparent Martin wants to control both ends of the court, which will ultimately cause his dismissal.

Sometimes, it is better to have a “partner” and get fifty [50%] percent of the credit than receive one [100%] percent of the blame!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to MR_VOL:

Pitiful play!

I did not agree with the Martin hire, and I am even more convinced today.

Last season, I gathered a little confidence in Martin but lost all after the MTSU game. I have coached recreational [youth] basketball and even I know when an opposing team’s player has four [4] fouls you go after him. One of two things is going to happen, (1) you get the fifth [5th] foul and the player sits down, or (2) you get an easy shot. With two [2] MTSU inside players having four [4] fouls with over seven [7] minutes left in the game, Martin did not attack the inside---shameful.

I will give Martin credit as he does know [and coach] defense and it appears he can recruit.

For Martin to be successful, I feel he needs to make a coaching change and bring in an offense-minded coach as it is blatantly obvious Martin knows NOTHING about offense. With Martin’s defense, and another coach calling the offense, I believe UT would be a hard team to beat. With that said, I do not believe Martin’s ego will allow him to “share” the team with another coach as it is clearly apparent Martin wants to control both ends of the court, which will ultimately cause his dismissal.

Sometimes, it is better to have a “partner” and get fifty [50%] percent of the credit than receive one [100%] percent of the blame!

I might not have put it quite so harshly, but your basic point has merit. In general, if what you are doing isn't working, you have to try something ELSE. If you don't know what that "something else" IS, ask somebody. All of these coaches know other coaches, and there is a vast body of literature and tape covering every conceivable aspect of offensive basketball. If the Vols don't make a few strategic tweaks on the offense in the next few weeks, the players will start to lose confidence in themselves, their teammates, and the coaches. When that happens, the effort on defense and the boards will decline, and the whole season will go down the drain. I haven't seen enough evidence to conclude yet that CCM's pride is the problem, but there is no question in my mind that there needs to be a little rethinking on the team's approach to offense. I have made a few suggestions along those lines, not that there is any compelling reason for the coaches to listen to me, but I am not nearly ready to show Martin the door.

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to johnlg00:

One thing I have noticed about this team is that too many of them are swaying and gliding on their shots. For example, the Harris kid for UVA last night was being chased all over the court by Vol defenders, but when he broke free, he threw a hard stop and went straight up into his shot, which usually hit the bottom of the net. McBee in particular has not been doing that. He tries to get his shot off too fast and doesn't go straight up on it, gliding in or out or side to side. McRae does the same thing.

That tendency to glide around the court also leads to all the moving screens the Vols are getting called for lately. To set a proper screen, you dart to a specific spot on the court and FREEZE. You can't sway your shoulders or hips; you must become a statue.

There are certain spots on the floor that must be occupied nearly all the time, but the players must rotate among them, using sharp, decisive cuts. At each of those spots, the player must be ready to do certain things. Most of those things, whether shooting, passing, or driving, can best be accomplished from a stationary position. Only then can you put on a convincing fake, spot an open man for a pass, or shoot in balance and in rhythm. By making these looping cuts, you are avoiding the defense, not dictating to it. When you catch the ball in scoring position, you must be ready to do something with it. The players and coaches must reevaluate the way the players move on the court as well as how they determine where they are moving TO.

John,

Excellent break down on the technical aspect of the game. Makes a lot of sense.

Bottom line is also...........these guys are focusing more on defense and each guy apparently is looking for the others to score.........which of course they are not doing.

It just seems obvious they are not really good ball handlers and certainly, can't shoot the ball. How nice it would be to have sure shots such as Craft and that point guard from Indiana.

The one opportunity Tennessee did have to at least be in the lead, albeit for a short moment, was the shot by Stokes to tie the game, and he was fouled.

Of course................he missed the free throw and the rest is ....history.

Colliervol writes:

I'll bet Coach Martin is happy about the delay on the football coaching situation. It has taken a lot of the attention off of two atrocious performances by the basketball team. Talk about the gang that couldn't shoot straight. Here's hoping that Maymon gets back soon but I'm starting to doubt it.

trl_x writes:

The Vols haven't been able to shoot the ball since Lofton and JuJuan left.

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