Mike Strange: Josh Richardson gets the message, delivers at both ends

Mike Strange
Tennessee guard Josh Richardson (1) shoots during the second half against Western Carolina at Thompson-Boling Arena Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee guard Josh Richardson (1) shoots during the second half against Western Carolina at Thompson-Boling Arena Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

The text signal buzzed on Josh Richardson's phone early Friday. He wasn't surprised to see the sender was Cuonzo Martin.

The message: Stay aggressive on offense. Pose a threat.

At halftime Friday night, coach Cuonzo Martin needed to send Richardson another reminder, perhaps shoot off a flare. At the break, Tennessee had only three field goals against Western Carolina.

Richardson's contribution was a couple of free throws. Not much of a threat.

"I always focus so much on defense, which I have to do,'' Richardson said later. "But teams can not even pay attention to me on offense. I know I have to become more aggressive.''

If ever there was an appropriate opportunity to do so, this was it. The upset alert was engaged at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The Vols were 3-of-21 from the field at halftime, yet led 22-18 thanks to frequent trips to the free-throw line.

"I thought we needed a little boost,'' Richardson said.

Richardson's boosts usually come on defense. The 6-foot-6 sophomore draws the tough perimeter assignments.

But this night his team needed a boost at the other end. Richardson delivered in a 66-52 victory.

He was 5-of-5 shooting in the second half, all in a critical 11-minute stretch.

His first drive made it 26-21, then he soared for a rebound basket to make it 30-27. He put UT in the lead for good, 39-38.

He converted an inbounds play for a 43-38 lead and, with 7:09, scored to make it 47-40.

So 12 points tied his career high.

"And that's good,'' said Martin. "He should have made his last free throws.''

Yes, those last missed free throws. There's always something.

"I thought he was good,'' Martin said. "I don't think he's at the level we need.''

And what level would that be?

"He has to be a defensive stopper,'' Martin said. "Right now he's a solid defender. He's not a stopper.

"Offensively, he has to continue to get better, make moves off the bounce and get to the basket going left and right.''

Richardson was in the room listening to Martin's assessment. He wasn't offended. He hears it all the time.

He was the most acclaimed of Martin's first UT recruiting class and, aside from special-circumstance addition Jarnell Stokes, has been the biggest contributor.

Thus, Martin will keep prodding to get Richardson to be the best, most complete player he can be.

"He knows I can take it,'' Richardson said. "I'm kind of a thick-skull. Stuff like that doesn't bother me.''

In the generous spirit of the holiday season, another text might be in order Friday night:

Well done.

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 » 13

manning_berry_special_player1614 writes:

build build build...great win tonight....one w at a time good fellas

kyvol98 writes:

I thought the inbounds play was indicative of what he needs to be doing on offense. He saw the baseline was open and went to the rim aggressively.
This was a weirdly officiated game. Looked like a mob scene under the basket and very few whistles. At least it was called consistently.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I've been to WCar. campus. It's beautiful country over there. But they didn't seem to enjoy their visit with UT. I thought Stokes was gonna have to defend himself. The refs for that part of it did ok. But actually players have been crawling all over Stokes since he got here. He's handled it very well considering.

Richardson surprised me last night. I was almost (not quite) yelling for coach to sit him. There was a short time there that I would rather see anybody from the bench playing. But I think he and others from the team just got determined to shake their pesky defense and play. I guess that was the ticket right there. Shake their defense.It would have been a bigger difference if we'd done that earlier. UT was longer stronger and faster than any player they had. Plus fortunately we can hit a few free throws when we have to.

johnlg00 writes:

Didn't get to see the game--wife and I went out for dinner and a movie--but it sounds like a partial reversion to the offensive futility of a couple of weeks ago. Pesky mid-majors like WCU seem to always give fits to the "big boys" even if they rarely pull off wins. Josh has shown occasional flashes of more ability and confidence on the offensive end this year, but clearly he needs to step up even more. Right now, this team only has what amounts to one and a half scorers, Golden and whoever else may happen to step up on a given night. Until somebody else on the perimeter, preferably McRae or Richardson, shows they can deliver on a consistent basis, opponents pay no penalty for going all-out to smother Stokes, the only other real Vol offensive threat. I will keep on saying that Jarnell would be more engaged and productive if he played out on the high post and handled the ball more.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

I've been to WCar. campus. It's beautiful country over there. But they didn't seem to enjoy their visit with UT. I thought Stokes was gonna have to defend himself. The refs for that part of it did ok. But actually players have been crawling all over Stokes since he got here. He's handled it very well considering.

Richardson surprised me last night. I was almost (not quite) yelling for coach to sit him. There was a short time there that I would rather see anybody from the bench playing. But I think he and others from the team just got determined to shake their pesky defense and play. I guess that was the ticket right there. Shake their defense.It would have been a bigger difference if we'd done that earlier. UT was longer stronger and faster than any player they had. Plus fortunately we can hit a few free throws when we have to.

There was a ton of banging going on in the post..WCU were pretty heavy handed with all the hacking they did on Stokes!!Stokes showed a lot of maturity by keeping his frustration and anger in check..Couldn't have blamed him if he threw a punch their way because they deserved it.. IMO Richardson was a big factor in this game.He played great on both sides of the ball and not sure we get the win had he not sparked the team

volfan2002 writes:

I think our game is getting the ball inside or driving for shots. Were just not great at outside jump shots. We have three guys that can take it to the basket Josh, Jordan, and Trae and they need to make that their game. Most of our offense this season will come from being aggressive taking it to the basket and getting fouled or making the basket.

Rookie2 writes:

If he could hone his mid-range pullup jumper and hit that shot more consistantly, Josh Richardson could be the key to more offensive production for this basketball team. He gets good looks when he drives across the paint and pulls up, just gotta knock it down more consistantly. I think he's got that shot. Just needs to develop more confidence in it.

On the other hand Stokes is pressing to much in my opinion. He's trying to force it against double and triple teams. Find the open man and pass out of it. When defenses see he's not hell bent on trying to force it and score everytime, it will make them less agressive on the double teams and free up more space for him to make a move when he does try to score with it. Gotta keep them honest.

tennlions writes:

JR is developing as a player. His scoring average is up 4 ppg in a larger role. This team is Maymon coming back from being in the top 2 or 3 in the SEC.

Basketvol writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

There was a ton of banging going on in the post..WCU were pretty heavy handed with all the hacking they did on Stokes!!Stokes showed a lot of maturity by keeping his frustration and anger in check..Couldn't have blamed him if he threw a punch their way because they deserved it.. IMO Richardson was a big factor in this game.He played great on both sides of the ball and not sure we get the win had he not sparked the team

I agree on Stokes. He is showing immense maturity this season as far as keeping his cool goes.

Great game for JR. I really liked seeing him score on the inbound play coming out of a timeout. It might be the only time that's happened this season. I can't remember any other time UT has scored in that situation, but I do remember several times where they have failed to score or turned the ball over.

SouthPaVol writes:

JR is my favorite player, and was last year as well. He doesn't force his shot, but can handle the ball, drive around a defender, and find the open man. Think he has becomes our third scoring threat off the dribble, along with Trae and McRae. I realize CCM is forcing the ball inside and trying to develop that side of our game before SEC play, but can't wait for these three to start hitting on all cylinders. Go Vols!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Rookie2:

If he could hone his mid-range pullup jumper and hit that shot more consistantly, Josh Richardson could be the key to more offensive production for this basketball team. He gets good looks when he drives across the paint and pulls up, just gotta knock it down more consistantly. I think he's got that shot. Just needs to develop more confidence in it.

On the other hand Stokes is pressing to much in my opinion. He's trying to force it against double and triple teams. Find the open man and pass out of it. When defenses see he's not hell bent on trying to force it and score everytime, it will make them less agressive on the double teams and free up more space for him to make a move when he does try to score with it. Gotta keep them honest.

Some good points here. Your point about Stokes pressing a bit goes back, IMHO, to the fact that he actually gets the ball in a position to do something with it so rarely that he feels he must try to make a move every time. Here's a thought: bring him out to the foul line, pass it to him, and then have the guards cut off of him for a hand-off to drive the basket; then he follows them in for the offensive rebound or for dump-off passes on his own cut to the rim. That's kind of "old-school", I know, and there are other ways to use him, but don't just keep him buried on the block. He does draw a lot of fouls in there, but as long as he is only shooting about 50% from the line, it almost amounts to a turnover. The more he handles the ball, the less he will feel pressured and the more opportunities the other guys will have. He can and will pass it, but get him out where he can see the whole floor.

I'm going out of town for the holidays to visit family in K'ville and am not registered for the site on any of the computers I might access. I hope to see a game while I am in town. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to the Big Orange Nation! GO VOLS!!!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Basketvol:

I agree on Stokes. He is showing immense maturity this season as far as keeping his cool goes.

Great game for JR. I really liked seeing him score on the inbound play coming out of a timeout. It might be the only time that's happened this season. I can't remember any other time UT has scored in that situation, but I do remember several times where they have failed to score or turned the ball over.

Great point about the out-of-bounds plays. I didn't see the game so I don't know what they did on the play you mentioned, but for the most part, it has seemed that all they try to do is get the ball in play and, as you said, they don't always succeed in that. When you think about how many timeouts there are and how often they are bringing the ball in after one, it is obvious that they have several opportunities to score baskets without having to pass it all around the court before someone lets one go. It is little things like that that show how far this team has to go to approach true elite status. Maybe the play you mentioned shows that they are starting to learn how to do that. We can hope!

brod writes:

with maymon out all of the rotation will have to step it up offensively. makenjuala, richardson, mcrae, all have some offensive potential. the long offensive droughts that cost them in a couple of the post season games last year are still happening. if stokes and hall are smothered down in the post then someone like richardson is going to have to knock down some shots so that the defense will spread the floor.

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