Mike Strange: Vols dominate for only one half, but that's enough

Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin calls to his players in the second half against Presbyterian at Thompson-Boling Arena Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer, Knoxville News Sentinel

Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin calls to his players in the second half against Presbyterian at Thompson-Boling Arena Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

At halftime, Tennessee trotted to the locker room, a 43-13 lead on the scoreboard.

Hey, it was all good. Those recent nights of struggling to get to 40? Forget about it. Hitting the century mark wasn't out of the question against Presbyterian.

Presbyterian College, a fledgling Division I member, had already lost by 33 at Clemson, 45 at Wisconsin, and 29 at Creighton this season.

Nevertheless, UT coach Cuonzo Martin felt compelled to issue a warning.

"I told the guys at halftime, 'Let's not let the score be 75-60,' '' Martin said later.

It wasn't.

It was 78-62.

With apologies to Charles Dickens, for a Thompson-Boling Arena crowd announced at 14,495, it was the best of halves, it was the worst of halves.

The aggregate score is all that matters, which is good for UT because little Presbyterian won the second half, 49-35.

Let's not lose perspective. In a week that's seen Butler upset No. 1 Indiana, Jim Boeheim win his 900th game and the seven Catholic schools rip away from the jerry-rigged Big East Conference, Tennessee getting hosed by the Blue Hose in the second half won't be the national headline.

Still, it's worrisome. Martin

calls what happened "mental slippage" and he's seen it before.

"We've got to work on competing the whole 40 minutes,'' said junior D'Montre Edwards. "We did a tremendous job the first half. … Once we get 'em in the hole we've just got to keep 'em there.''

After shooting 23.1 percent the first half, the Blue Hose shot 64.3 percent the second half. They were 1-of-13 from 3-point range the first half, 7-of-10 the second.

"We got a lot of the same shots we got the first half,'' said Presbyterian coach Greg Nibert. "I'll look at the tapes, but I think we had some wide-open shots.''

Presbyterian point guard Eric Washington handled UT's defense fine, judging from his box score — 10 assists, one turnover. In fact the Blue Hose had just five turnovers on the night.

"Probably the fewest since I've been at Presbyterian,'' said Nibert, and this is his 24th year.

No one was more transformed than guard Khalid Mutakabbir. He was scoreless at the half, then went Jodie Meeks on the Vols, ripping in 18 points.

"We played horrible defense,'' said UT's Jarnell Stokes. "That's not how we play defense.

"It's a good thing our offense was going.''

Good point. Making baskets was never a serious issue for the Vols.

Five players hit double figures, including Edwards off the bench. UT shot a credible 40.9 percent from 3-point range and swished its first 11 free throws.

Presbyterian's Nibert, who's been on a fair tour of power-conference teams, was impressed.

"They're right up there with Creighton, Wisconsin, all those guys we've played,'' he said. "They've got size, they've got length and they've got toughness.''

But if they had all that for 40 minutes, it would be better.

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

© 2012 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 9

mocsandvolsfan writes:

C'mon!! 40 minute is a long, long time. Ask any teacher around 2:50p.m. or so(depending on the schedule). I mean after a little bit you just want it to be over. Ask the LVs what I mean...well no don't do that because they might hurt you.

Seriously this was over after 5 minutes. Same in the LVs' game. A good night and a bad night almost at the same time.

BTW why do we schedule LV's at the same time? Well it worked out as the UT game got a little boring the first half. I actually switched to the Kansas game for 30 secs. and they were whipping Richmond like we were Presb.. There were other games but I just went to a corner chair and turned my little light on and read.

I don't like that we let up but it's completely understandable considering our injury issues. Martin to me played too many starters for too many minutes. I guess I'm the one who is nervous. Maymon? Hall? McBee, they say. It was good to see him hit a few.

I'm not convinced Presby guys were that open first half like their coach said. Maybe. They DID miss a few though. Second half I guess we lost. But it only counts for 40 minutes one way or the other. So I guess we DID get 40 minutes out of them.hehe

Volunatic writes:

Are the women's teams at Presbyterian College called the Lady Blue Hose?

johnlg00 writes:

This team doesn't have to this point the killer instinct that puts a foot on the neck of a team when they are down. When things are clicking for them, they can play with anybody, but I know Martin is not happy with the way they let the Hose back up in the second half. He believes in playing with the same intensity every play, no matter the opponent or the score. Most college basketball players struggle with that concept, but the really good ones understand it and put it into practice on the court. This team in particular can't get into the habit of thinking they can turn it on and off whenever they wish.

Of course, all the substituting in the second half hurt their continuity a bit, too. I don't blame Martin for wanting to see what the guys who haven't played that much can do. I thought Edwards had a pretty good night, and a guy with his athleticism can be a big help down the road. I was amazed to see Skylar hit his first three 3-pointers after what we heard yesterday about his elbow injury. Maybe he was just concentrating more.

All in all, just another easy win against an outmanned out-of-conference team. At least the team showed a little carryover on offense from the last game, and that has to be a good sign. They've only got a couple more opportunities to goof off for long stretches and still win convincingly. I hope they don't develop any bad habits in the process.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

All that was gained from this game was a little practice playing against a weak zone..We know this team is solid on defense..Hose boys came out on fire in second half..Who cares..Another win and moving on

OrangePride writes:

A win is a win, allbeit not a much inspired win. Tennessee came out and proved they were the far superior team in the first half, then came out and totally mailed in the second half. The sparse crowd did little to ramp up any enthusiasm because the game was never really in any doubt. The only negative is that this "turn it on, turn it off" kind of play can really get you in trouble against SEC competition. When you get your opponent on the ropes, it is unwise to let him off. We just do not look very effective off the post...period. Everyone is waiting and hoping Maymon's return will change that; but that is IF AND WHEN Maymon returns. We are not an NCAA team at this point, but still a LOT of basketball to be played.

maciste54 writes:

in response to Volunatic:

Are the women's teams at Presbyterian College called the Lady Blue Hose?

Lol I certainly hope so !

murrayvol writes:

in response to johnlg00:

This team doesn't have to this point the killer instinct that puts a foot on the neck of a team when they are down. When things are clicking for them, they can play with anybody, but I know Martin is not happy with the way they let the Hose back up in the second half. He believes in playing with the same intensity every play, no matter the opponent or the score. Most college basketball players struggle with that concept, but the really good ones understand it and put it into practice on the court. This team in particular can't get into the habit of thinking they can turn it on and off whenever they wish.

Of course, all the substituting in the second half hurt their continuity a bit, too. I don't blame Martin for wanting to see what the guys who haven't played that much can do. I thought Edwards had a pretty good night, and a guy with his athleticism can be a big help down the road. I was amazed to see Skylar hit his first three 3-pointers after what we heard yesterday about his elbow injury. Maybe he was just concentrating more.

All in all, just another easy win against an outmanned out-of-conference team. At least the team showed a little carryover on offense from the last game, and that has to be a good sign. They've only got a couple more opportunities to goof off for long stretches and still win convincingly. I hope they don't develop any bad habits in the process.

On the other hand they do seem to have empathy for the opposing team.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to murrayvol:

On the other hand they do seem to have empathy for the opposing team.

Well, CCM DOES say that he values and nurtures good character in his players!

Basketvol writes:

Now why did you have to go and bring up Jodie Meeks? C'mon man!

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