Mike Strange: Finally, Vols earn right to be happy travelers

Tennessee's Kenny Hall (20) goes over Florida's Casey Prather (24) for two points during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Gainesville, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012. Tennessee defeated Florida 75-70. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)

Photo by Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

Tennessee's Kenny Hall (20) goes over Florida's Casey Prather (24) for two points during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Gainesville, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012. Tennessee defeated Florida 75-70. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When you get a dumb technical foul and the home team swishes not one but two 3-pointers in the final 6 seconds, that usually means one thing:

It's going to be a long, grim trip home.

Saturday was a rare and glorious exception for Tennessee — a team that knows plenty about long, grim trips home.

Even Kenny Boynton's 3-point shot at the buzzer couldn't salvage a happy ending for the No. 8 Florida Gators. When the handshakes were done, the visiting Vols exited the O'Connell Center Court slapping high-fives with happy Tennessee fans who had made their way to the edge of the stands.

The Vols had put this one out of harm's way with time to spare. The final score showed 75-70, but it wasn't really that close.

"This," said coach Cuonzo Martin, "was probably the first game we won across the board.

"We won it on both ends of the floor."

The Vols won it on offense, executing their half-court game as well as they have all season. They shot 48 percent and outscored Florida in the paint 36-14.

"We took (only) 11 threes," said Martin, "which is impressive not to settle for those shots."

The Vols won it on defense. The Gators were

shooting in the 30s most of the first half and finished at 42.6 percent.

Leading 56-46 midway through the second half and the game very much in the balance, the Vols got stops on eight consecutive possessions to survive a scoring lull of their own.

"They defended us better than we defended them," said Florida coach Billy Donovan.

"We could never get down the lane against them and they got down the lane against us all the time."

Tennessee won it on the boards. The final rebounding count was 36-30. Florida didn't have a second-chance point until inside the final two minutes.

The Vols won it with patience. Trae Golden had seven assists but the assist of the game belonged to Jarnell Stokes.

Tennessee led 62-50 and took possession by rebounding a missed Gator 3-pointer with 3:20 to play.

The Vols ran the clock and passed and cut and then passed and cut some more. At last the ball found Stokes inside, but so did the Gator defense. Stokes deftly flipped a pass to a cutting Jeronne Maymon for a layup with 2 seconds on the shot clock and 2:46 on the game clock.

That was the dagger. The crowd of 12,249 suddenly decided it was time to think about getting a good seat at Red Lobster or Olive Garden.

Except for the scattering of UT fans. They stuck around to put the exclamation point on the end to Florida's 19-game home-court winning streak and Tennessee's first road win of the Martin Era.

Before leaving the court, Martin scooped up his daughter Addison in his arms. Road wins are so precious, but he said he saw this one coming.

Over the previous 48 hours he felt his team had finally reached a mental and physical plateau that would get the job done.

"At our place against Florida (in a 67-56 win on Jan. 7), I thought we did a lot of things well.

"But to come to a hostile environment like this against a great opponent, it's a great feeling for our guys to go home and get off that airplane with a W."

First, however, it's a great thing to get on that airplane with a W.

"Yeah," said junior Kenny Hall, "we get to go home with a big smile on our faces."

Which wasn't the case after Oakland and Charleston and Memphis, after Starkville and Athens, after Nashville and Lexington.

Those trips were what?

"Long," said Hall. "The feeling of losing seems to make the trip that much longer. And the nights that much harder to sleep.

"You're thinking there are so many things you could have done differently to change the outcome."

"Those trips," said Golden, "were filled with a lot of regret.

"At Mississippi State, turning the ball over. Georgia, we should have won that. Just so many regrets.

"Now we go home and know we carried this one out and got the victory. It feels great."

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 » 48

RashaadSalabeb writes:

Tough break Florida! How bout dem Vols!?

I like it. I love it! I want some more of it!

Orange Baby!

BigVolFaninSC writes:

McBee needs to change his name to McTHREE!!! Another SWEEP of the reptilians! Way to coach 'em up CCM!

decades_vol (Inactive) writes:

I'm not going to bash the Gators. They're a good team. Today they just got it handed to them by a team that was just flat-out better in all phases of the game. I thought Florida would be really hungry for this one (especially after the first UT game and the Rupp Rout), but Tennessee was the hungrier team and it showed on both ends of the floor. I was really impressed with Stokes, who, in a limited role with a hand injury, gave it up for the team. Just outstanding, all around, from the Coach and the players.

givehim6 writes:

This late summer when the UF troll come to UT's site talking there bull about how they own UT, let's remind them about how UT owns them in Bball for what 5 or so years now?

Fall_Creek_Vols writes:

in response to decades_vol:

I'm not going to bash the Gators. They're a good team. Today they just got it handed to them by a team that was just flat-out better in all phases of the game. I thought Florida would be really hungry for this one (especially after the first UT game and the Rupp Rout), but Tennessee was the hungrier team and it showed on both ends of the floor. I was really impressed with Stokes, who, in a limited role with a hand injury, gave it up for the team. Just outstanding, all around, from the Coach and the players.

Agree.

If this keeps up (and it has to in order for the following to happen)...come tourney time, they'll mention the embarrassing losses, but they'll also talk about games like this one. Then they'll talk about how this team has improved throughout the course of the season. Finally, they'll decide that this Tennessee team IS one of the 64 best and deserving of a trip to the post-season........IF........if we continue to play like we did today.

Wouldn't THAT be something? Especially for the "11th-place" team in the league. Cuonzo Martin for SEC Coach of the Year!

seaplane#216536 writes:

Thanks for the great win... a Florida Vol

iowavol writes:

Tied for 5th in the SEC - not bad. Big game coming up. Be grounded, enjoy the win for a day, get back to work, focus on catching the ball, handling the ball, passing the ball. We have cut the TO's way back, but still some silly ones yesterday.

TNORANGEDOGDAD writes:

in response to Bodeanvol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The "STACHE" is alive!

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

BodeaneNOTvol, Orange Pants etc where are you bwahahaha

TNORANGEDOGDAD writes:

in response to givehim6:

This late summer when the UF troll come to UT's site talking there bull about how they own UT, let's remind them about how UT owns them in Bball for what 5 or so years now?

We've swept them Gators last 3 out of 5 seasons.

jmaples54 writes:

you can see the confidence growing in the players, especially mcbee; his shooting was good, his ballhandling, defense, and toughness in the environment: strong. stokes still has a way to go, he looked unsure on his shots. tatum looked shaky but aside from one charge didn't do anything bad. woolridge-- shaky. washpun-- wash out his mouth, cuonzo. a step forward for hall, mcrae, richardson. now these guys know they can step play with anybody. leaders maymon and golden-- under control on both ends. yes fla was shorthanded, but no buts. it counts. shutting up the crowd-- priceless. ain't it great to be alive and to be in tennessee?

jmaples54 writes:

stokes is gonna hear it when the tape shows his dainty breakaway layup get swatted. time to thunder-dunk, jarnell!

richvol writes:

in response to jmaples54:

stokes is gonna hear it when the tape shows his dainty breakaway layup get swatted. time to thunder-dunk, jarnell!

You are right about that...Stokes needs to learn to use all that power he has and go up strong and slam the ball through the net.

SouthPaVol writes:

in response to iowavol:

Tied for 5th in the SEC - not bad. Big game coming up. Be grounded, enjoy the win for a day, get back to work, focus on catching the ball, handling the ball, passing the ball. We have cut the TO's way back, but still some silly ones yesterday.

Hawkeye, you are all about getting right back on task...I'm with you.

We played very well, but not perfect. If we want to win the SEC tourney, it will take a perfect effort to beat KY--and this year, that might not be quite enough.

Short of winning the tourney, we still might get to the Big Dance if we win out and have a good showing in the SEC tourney. Passes are getting more crisp, but we are still toward the bottom of the SEC in turnovers. Keep working hard, boys, and you make the NCAA tourney--and make this old Vol fan smile.

DougSharp writes:

To point out the few flaws in this game by the Vols players would be ridiculous on anyone's part. This is a great win for this team, this year. Way to go Vols!!!!!! This is the level of play I believe everyone that has been posting here all season has been waiting to see. Great game CCM!

eepwlg writes:

That is what a well coached, disciplined team plays like.

Mr_Brownstone writes:

in cuonzo we trust

johnlg00 writes:

in response to jmaples54:

stokes is gonna hear it when the tape shows his dainty breakaway layup get swatted. time to thunder-dunk, jarnell!

I know what you mean, but I've gotta cut him a little slack on that one. If you've got a sprained wrist, you don't necessarily want to risk hurting it again hitting the rim. Since the injury is on his shooting hand, I would rather he gets it completely healed so he can jam it down some other time when it really counts and maybe make a few jumpers and free-throws, too.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to SouthPaVol:

Hawkeye, you are all about getting right back on task...I'm with you.

We played very well, but not perfect. If we want to win the SEC tourney, it will take a perfect effort to beat KY--and this year, that might not be quite enough.

Short of winning the tourney, we still might get to the Big Dance if we win out and have a good showing in the SEC tourney. Passes are getting more crisp, but we are still toward the bottom of the SEC in turnovers. Keep working hard, boys, and you make the NCAA tourney--and make this old Vol fan smile.

The great thing about this win and most of the others recently is that it was accomplished by doing the right things at the right time in the right way, over and over and over. This was not a flash-in-the-pan; this is evidence of a system of play being fully internalized. The Vols may not shoot it that well every night, but now they seem to know how to get the shots they want without a lot of free-lancing and wasted motion. Those habits are likely to stay with them game in and game out. I guess they are as subject to occasional brain-farts as any other team, but now they seem a bit rarer and more self-correcting.

johnlg00 writes:

One more small gripe about the formatting on this site. The SEC Digital Network box seems to be just plopped down on top of the article, obscuring several lines of text. You are able to make room for your own videos without doing that, so why do it with the SEC Digital box?

DougSharp writes:

in response to johnlg00:

The great thing about this win and most of the others recently is that it was accomplished by doing the right things at the right time in the right way, over and over and over. This was not a flash-in-the-pan; this is evidence of a system of play being fully internalized. The Vols may not shoot it that well every night, but now they seem to know how to get the shots they want without a lot of free-lancing and wasted motion. Those habits are likely to stay with them game in and game out. I guess they are as subject to occasional brain-farts as any other team, but now they seem a bit rarer and more self-correcting.

Excellent point! Even as difficult as it may have been to see by many, I noticed (especially in the 1st half when they were still 100% focused) that the fundamential game plan was being followed every trip up and down the court on both sides of the court. This has taken a long time coming for coach Martin but I know he must finally be able to sleep a little better at night. Remembering the book Season on the Brink.....there was that point where coach Knight almost gave up on the notion that his team would ever get it, but half way through the Big Ten schedule it finally clicked......then the next year they really produced some good basketball.

Brac_Jack writes:

Great victory from a Vol living in Florida. It's fun to go to work......haha

Bigger_Al writes:

The Florida in-bred trolls will be back in force BECAUSE UT is becoming relevant this season.

How 'bout Cam Tatum? He quit jacking up 3's and forcing passes on offense. I think he only had 2 TO's tonight and no missed shots. Played good D and played well within the O.

hateNCloveTN writes:

in response to jmaples54:

stokes is gonna hear it when the tape shows his dainty breakaway layup get swatted. time to thunder-dunk, jarnell!

i would think in most circumstances he would have thunderdunked but with a bum wrist that might not have been the best option. Love the win and the way it was accomplished. More ball security will carry us a long way down the stretch. Gooooooo Vols!

DougSharp writes:

in response to DougSharp:

Excellent point! Even as difficult as it may have been to see by many, I noticed (especially in the 1st half when they were still 100% focused) that the fundamential game plan was being followed every trip up and down the court on both sides of the court. This has taken a long time coming for coach Martin but I know he must finally be able to sleep a little better at night. Remembering the book Season on the Brink.....there was that point where coach Knight almost gave up on the notion that his team would ever get it, but half way through the Big Ten schedule it finally clicked......then the next year they really produced some good basketball.

My comment had to do with the Kentucky game. Probably would have been good to include "Kentucky" in the opening paragraph.

wigmeister writes:

Great win. Players are buying in to CCM's style. They are playing better, and it shows. Just don't let this win go to your heads. Keep working hard and the rest will take care of itself. Still seem to lose a little focus in the second half of games. Have to go for the jugular all game long.

By the way, I like our orange much better than theirs!

Dougb-VFL writes:

in response to DougSharp:

To point out the few flaws in this game by the Vols players would be ridiculous on anyone's part. This is a great win for this team, this year. Way to go Vols!!!!!! This is the level of play I believe everyone that has been posting here all season has been waiting to see. Great game CCM!

AMEN , from one Doug to another! If anybody wants to pick apart any negative aspect of this game they should stop being a fan and try something else, all fans and players need to take a minute and enjoy beating the gators twice! I think this team will do well in any tourney with the effort they have showed recently.The SEC,NIT,or dare I say the NCAA? VFL

chuckfromwoodberry writes:

in response to johnlg00:

One more small gripe about the formatting on this site. The SEC Digital Network box seems to be just plopped down on top of the article, obscuring several lines of text. You are able to make room for your own videos without doing that, so why do it with the SEC Digital box?

What you said. +1

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

Don't want to put a jinx on the team, BUT, the NCAA tourney bid may hinge on the very last reg. season game against Vandy. That may be a very big game right before selection time. If we can go 5-1 the rest of the way, we have a legit chance at the big dance. Two weeks ago if someone said this, he would be banned off this site or totally ridiculed. Kind of like you guys that are writing off Dooley a year too soon. Dooley will lead us to 9-3 next season, by the way.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to wigmeister:

Great win. Players are buying in to CCM's style. They are playing better, and it shows. Just don't let this win go to your heads. Keep working hard and the rest will take care of itself. Still seem to lose a little focus in the second half of games. Have to go for the jugular all game long.

By the way, I like our orange much better than theirs!

It would have been nice if the final score had been more reflective of the Vols' complete dominance of the game. However, one thing you DON'T want to do when you are playing with a lead is send a good free-shooting team to the line to score with the clock stopped and allow them to set up pressure defense. We knew that Florida was a good three-point shooting team, which was why the Vols worked so hard to keep them covered on the arc most of the game. Continuing to do that late would have had our defenders up on them when Florida was GOING to be forcing them, possibly leading to three FTAs per trip. When you are up by double-digits late in the game, it is only smart to let them shoot those, especially since they hadn't made that many all day. As for the Florida players, they pretty much knew it was over, so they were relaxed when they shot them and they made a few.

johnlg00 writes:

PS: Think how much different the game would have been if Florida had been nailing all those threes early in the game. The Vols played tight to prevent that, and their inability to make anything out there threw them off their stride. If they had made the exact same number of threes, only they had made more of them early, the whole game would have been tight instead of just making the final score look better for them.

murrayvol writes:

in response to givehim6:

This late summer when the UF troll come to UT's site talking there bull about how they own UT, let's remind them about how UT owns them in Bball for what 5 or so years now?

This would be the 7th year....6 with Pearl and 1 with CCM.

Donovan is 16-16 vs the Vols in his career. UK is the only SEC team with a winning record against him.

murrayvol writes:

in response to johnlg00:

One more small gripe about the formatting on this site. The SEC Digital Network box seems to be just plopped down on top of the article, obscuring several lines of text. You are able to make room for your own videos without doing that, so why do it with the SEC Digital box?

Good point. And no way to get rid of it.

carbonzip writes:

You can see the coaching skills in the improved play of Golden, McCrae, McBee, and, especially Hall. They are playing Martin Ball. Maymon is Martin Ball and Stokes will come on strong.

givehim6 writes:

in response to Bodeanvol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Glad he is playing good now, wasn't that long ago he could do no right. The fans were wondering why he was on scholarship. I have always kindof liked him my only blood grandson how is 3 1/2 name is skyler.

OrangeAppeal writes:

Pearl & Martin are a combined 10-4 vs Florida.

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You're back on this site much sooner than I would have thought spouting your bs. 75-70 bwahahaha

OrangeAppeal writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

If you played basketball the way you yap on other team's websites, I'd wager you would be slammed into the stanchion by opposing players at least once per game.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

That's a good one. Yuguete ran down Stokes from behind and blocked the shot from behind, yet somehow Stokes pushed him into the stanchion. I'll bet you were a star physics student, too. Give it a rest, jerk. Take your beating like a man--a stretch, I know--and move on.

BUBBA-Deeeeee writes:

I am a VOL to the core,,, and I live not that far from uf .. I can smell the stinch now and then.... FTGTRDS GO VOLS Another thing is UF isnt a southern collage anymore .... It's a scool where all these Yankys dump there fat lazy kids.. and they try to fit in....

Dougb-VFL writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

florida athletics suck! Once Dooley turns the streak around in our favor this year UT will own them in all sports.You can say what you want about Stokes while sitting at your parent's house when they let you get online but I will bet that you would be quiet as a mouse around him or any VOL fans so that you would not get the taste slapped out your mouth boy! Muschump will be working with you stuffing envelopes at home real soon! VFL

FanNotSheep writes:

Great idea by John Pennington on his TV show today: Let UT and Arkansas play basketball in Memphis every year, maybe at the FedEx Forum. That way Pastner can quit crying about his little kittens having to play the big, bad Vols anymore and the Memphis high school kids can watch some SEC basketball.

Good for Arkansas as well, because Pastner apparently doesn't want to play them either, and we don't have to waste any more football Saturdays on Tiger High. Might even try to work out that deal with Missouri to save on travel.

FanNotSheep writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Not really arguing because I have never been there, but not sure fans calling their city a h3ll-hole will endear too many Memphis recruits to the Big Orange.

Vol43 writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

That's a fact. Went to watch the Tn. Titans (oilers then) play the steelers. Never go back to that scary h3ll hole.

TNORANGEDOGDAD writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Wah Wah candy a-- gators

givehim6 writes:

in response to slaw_way:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Saturday evening, yes after the game. I was in Pigeon Forge to celebrate my baby girls birthdate ( 26, and mom to my grand son of 3 1/2, but still my baby.) Any way, these young guy dress in UF stuff, me with my EB # 14 jersey on. All I could was shake my head, they were probly bunch of local punks.

decades_vol (Inactive) writes:

Poor Bodeane. It took him a long time to post something on this site. Sometime during the Beverly Hillbillies marathon, he heard that his Gators got roasted, so he had to say something. As usual, it was something that his namesake from the sixties might say. Go brush your four teeth, Jethro, so that your mommie can tuck you in. Yesterday's game was way too traumatic for you.

givehim6 writes:

in response to murrayvol:

This would be the 7th year....6 with Pearl and 1 with CCM.

Donovan is 16-16 vs the Vols in his career. UK is the only SEC team with a winning record against him.

Takes some of the sting out of the punches. It wouldbe funny if UT finlly won this year at FBall.

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