Mike Strange: Kenny Hall makes sure all screws are tight against South Carolina

Tennessee forward Kenny Hall (20) shoots as South Carolina forward Carlton Geathers (45) and guard Damien Leonard (32) defend during the second half at Thompson-Boling Arena Tenn., Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012.  Tennessee won 69-57 over South Carolina.  (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer, copyright © 2012

Tennessee forward Kenny Hall (20) shoots as South Carolina forward Carlton Geathers (45) and guard Damien Leonard (32) defend during the second half at Thompson-Boling Arena Tenn., Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012. Tennessee won 69-57 over South Carolina. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Kenny Hall on UT win against South Carolina

The motivational ducks — or Gamecocks if you will — were lined up in a row for Kenny Hall on Wednesday night.

And in the latest in a series of bravo performances by one of Tennessee's complementary players, he bagged his limit.

Jarnell Stokes was nursing a sprained hand, leaving a void in Tennessee's interior for a date with South Carolina at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Hall, who had not started since SEC play began, coincidentally packaged a couple of impressive practices back to back.

"The last two or three days,'' said coach Cuonzo Martin, "we felt as a staff he had really been making strides.''

Then there was the Gamecock factor. The Vols were holders of a nine-game winning streak against lowly South Carolina.

"It most definitely matters to me,'' said Hall. "I really look into stuff like that.

"I'd never lost to those guys. I don't want to lose to them.''

So Hall went out and made sure he and Tennessee didn't.

He scored a modest four points in the Vols' 69-57 win and had nothing to do with UT's 10-of-20 barrage from the 3-point arc.

His solitary field goal barely climbed over the rim from point-blank range. He hit only twice in five tries at the free-throw stripe.

Two games ago, Renaldo Woolridge came out of nowhere to rain 3-pointers on Kentucky. Saturday, Jordan McRae did a number on Georgia.

Hall made his stand on the boards and at the defensive end. Less flashy, but every bit as effective.

Returned to the starting lineup in Stokes' spot, he hustled up 10 rebounds, his first double-figures board work since Austin Peay on Dec. 10.

He had three blocks and a steal, which we'll get to shortly.

"The thing about Kenny,'' said Martin, "is he's up and down from the standpoint of talking and communicating.''

That goes for practice as well as games.

"Coach says I need to tighten my screws up some times,'' Hall said.

So the last few days, he did. He was vocal in practice. He even got praise from Martin for being (mostly) neat and "clean-shaven.''

Clean-shaven? Yes. To hear Hall tell it, Martin is a critical judge of appearance.

But what about Skylar McBee's much-discussed moustache.

"I think (Martin) had the same moustache when he was in college so he actually likes it,'' said Hall. "To each his own.''

Anyhow, the Vols looked up to find themselves leading 49-34 in the second half. When they looked up a few minutes later they found their lead was a mere 58-55 with 4:07 to play.

Hall tacked on a free throw to make it a four-point game, then he went to work at the other end.

Tennessee desperately needed a stop. They got one when Hall collapsed on poor freshman Anthony Gill in a double team and ripped the ball away from him.

Trae Golden converted a three-point play for a 62-55 lead. Then Hall rebounded a Gamecock miss and Jeronne Maymon added another three-point play.

With the count 67-57, another stop would come in handy.

Hall blocked a Malik Cooke shot and when the Gamecocks came up with the rebound he rejected Damontre Harris' shot.

Then he let out a roar.

"He did a great job,'' said McBee. "It seemed like he was everywhere.

"I look for performances like that all the time. We know he can do it. That's the thing.''

South Carolina knows he can do it. Harris finished 1-of-7, Gill 0-of-6. Together, they didn't match Hall's 10 rebounds.

"I was just focused,'' said Hall. "That was just my thing, defend and rebound. I think I did a good job with that.

"My biggest problem all season is consistency. I've got to have the same mindset and stay focused and do what we've go to do to get ready for Florida.''

As the final seconds played out Wednesday night, you could hear a voice or two offering an appraisal from the stands.

Good job Kenny.

Way to go Kenny.

For this night at least, he had his screws tightened up just fine.

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 » 10

bspurlingcac#225603 writes:

Hall and all.

GOB!!!

samvol writes:

Hall played well, the question is, will it last......

johnlg00 writes:

in response to samvol:

Hall played well, the question is, will it last......

That's always been the question about him, but this is at least two games in a row in which he has made a positive difference. Maybe he is starting to "get it" now. Sure could use another strong performance from him at Florida.

pj_ladyvolnMI writes:

Great job, Kenny!! Now go stick it to the gators!!

CoverOrange writes:

Minds are slowly being bended by CCM. Golden, McRae, Hall.

Good writing Strange Mike. One of the few sports writers that knows the difference between "of" and "for."

pomp_and_circumstance writes:

Can anyone direct me to a data source to learn how many fouls were called in this game? Are there two refs in all of college BB who see charging and blocking fouls the same way?

richvol writes:

If Kenny had been in the weight room for the last three years you would be reading a lot of these types of stories about him.

Kenny...work hard in the weight room and gain some muscle this off season.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to richvol:

If Kenny had been in the weight room for the last three years you would be reading a lot of these types of stories about him.

Kenny...work hard in the weight room and gain some muscle this off season.

He may be a guy who just has the kind of metabolism and wiry build that never seems to put on weight no matter how strong he gets. I remember Buck Williams, former Maryland star who beat one of DeVoe's better teams in the NCAAs. He went on to about a 15-year career in the NBA, and I'll bet his weight didn't change more than 10 pounds from his freshman year in college until he retired--about 6'8", 220 pounds, give or take five. Just about Hall's size, in fact.

SewaneeVolFan writes:

Like everyone else, I'd certainly like to see Hall's performance continue to improve and develop consistency.

I know it's popular to play small ball in some situations. I know personnel and match ups frequently dictate that a coach can't play all his biggest guys. However, to me, basketball is most of all a big man's game, and I've love to have, when Coach judges the situation to be right, a front line of Hall, Stokes, and Maymon....

I believe they'd get some rebounds, draw some fouls, maybe score a few points. Perhaps they wouldn't be the UNC front line, but they could be pretty good.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to SewaneeVolFan:

Like everyone else, I'd certainly like to see Hall's performance continue to improve and develop consistency.

I know it's popular to play small ball in some situations. I know personnel and match ups frequently dictate that a coach can't play all his biggest guys. However, to me, basketball is most of all a big man's game, and I've love to have, when Coach judges the situation to be right, a front line of Hall, Stokes, and Maymon....

I believe they'd get some rebounds, draw some fouls, maybe score a few points. Perhaps they wouldn't be the UNC front line, but they could be pretty good.

"Small ball" seems to be the way the game is going these days. The days of the big, classic, back-to-the-basket "pivot man" are long gone. The wide free-throw lane, the 3-point shot, the shot clock, and the logic of future rules changes all work against success with "jumbo" front lines. I'm REALLY glad we will HAVE Maymon, Stokes, and Hall next year, but I don't see how any of them can be successful at small forward. UNC can get away with a 7', 6'-11", 6'8" front line because Barnes can run the floor, shoot from outside, and drive the basket; none of our big men can do all that.

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