Signature win: Defense pays off for Vols, 67-56

Lineup changes pay big dividends

Florida's Casey Prather attempts to steal the ball from Tennessee's Jeronne Maymon (34) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Photo by (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Florida's Casey Prather attempts to steal the ball from Tennessee's Jeronne Maymon (34) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Kenny Hall on his season-high against Florida

The rude awakening dealt out to a pair of Tennessee starters turned out to be an effective wake-up call for the Vols.

Cuonzo Martin shuffled the starting lineup for the first time this season, and the Vols responded with a convincing 67-56 men's basketball victory over 13th-ranked Florida in a rare Saturday morning tip at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The announced crowd of 17,689 recognized Martin's first win over a ranked opponent in his four-year head-coaching career with a standing ovation as the final seconds ticked off in their SEC opener.

"I don't think there have been too many times like that this year that we've played like that from a passion standpoint, playing for each other and defending the way we did,'' said Martin, who was 0-5 against Top 25 teams entering Saturday. "Once I make (lineup) moves, I make them. It's not for sound bites, not a scare tactic ... I didn't do this to shake somebody up.''

Whatever the intention, it had a desirable effect for Tennessee (8-7, 1-0 SEC), which was in need of a pick-me-up following Wednesday's 69-51 loss at rival Memphis.

UT junior center Kenny Hall reacted to his benching by scoring a season-high 13 points and pulling down five rebounds.

"Obviously I did pretty good coming off the bench; that might be my forte,'' said Hall, who watched senior Renaldo Woolridge start in his place, "It's whatever Coach wants, and whatever it takes.''

Sophomore guard Jordan McRae, unseated by freshman Josh Richardson, scored 10 points and

helped hold the Gators' leading scorer, Kenny Boynton, below his season average (19.5 points) as Florida fell to 12-4, 0-1.

"I definitely needed Coach to do what he did,'' said McRae, who sat out 12 minutes of the first half. "It definitely sent a message; it's a reality check. The whole time I was sitting over there, I was just thinking, 'when I get in, I'm not going to worry about scoring, I'm just going to guard my man.' "

Vols point guard Trae Golden scored 12 points and dished out seven assists, and power forward Jeronne Maymon had 12 points and seven rebounds, matching the numbers put up by Patric Young, Florida's projected first-round NBA draft pick.

Woolridge and Hall also played roles in stopping the chiseled 6-foot-9, 247-pound Young in isolated matchups in the paint, which was a large part of the gamble in Martin's game plan to throttle the nation's top 3-point shooting team (11.3 makes per game).

"It was a wake-up call, and it worked,'' Hall said when asked about being taken out of the starting lineup. "Patric Young is a monster down there, and we knew we had to match his physical toughness.''

While UT's bigs kept Young in check, the Vols stepped up their ball-screen defense on the perimeter. It resulted in the Gators shooting a season-low 35.7 percent from the floor and scoring a season-low 56 points.

Boynton and lanky forward Erik Murphy shared scoring honors for Florida with 13 points apiece.

When freshman Wes Washpun's only basket put the Vols up 30-29 with 1:15 left in the first half, few would have guessed UT would hold the lead for the remainder of the game.

The Vols were up 33-29 at the half on the strength of 10 points apiece from Maymon and Golden. But when Florida scored the first bucket of the second half, it appeared the Gators were on the comeback trail.

Instead, UT responded with a 9-3 run, going up 42-34 on Cam Tatum's drive with 17 minutes left.

Florida failed to draw closer than seven points the rest of the game, at one point going 8 minutes, 13 seconds, without a field goal. The Vols led by 16 when McRae scored with 1:51 remaining.

"I'm more disappointed with our defense than anything else in the game,'' said Florida coach Billy Donovan, whose Gators dropped to 0-4 in road games and allowed UT to shoot 51 percent from the floor. "Both teams played hard, but the difference was the defense.''

That had to be music to Martin's ears, as he has continued to emphasize a defense-first mentality.

"More than anything, I think that's a step we had to really sell them on, the importance of defending at a high level,'' Martin said. "Maybe you're missing shots, but you've still got to defend hard.''

Tennessee returns to action at 9 p.m. Thursday at No. 15 Mississippi State. The Bulldogs were 13-2 heading into their SEC opener at Arkansas (11-3) late Saturday night.

Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/mikegriffith32

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Comments » 66

utjunkie writes:

Big Win!

HtownVol writes:

I was te only one on the live blog with Mike this morning, so I was actually able to get some answers from him for a change.

He is OK, but seems to see a lot more of the good in the Vols than most.

Watching the game today it was crystal clear to me why UT won... EFFORT!!!

In the 1st 13 games of the season UT seemed content with just being out on the floor, today they were on the floor with a purpose. To win!

I absolutely loved the effort from UT todday. If UT still has hopes of making the tourney it is going to take that level of effort in every single game.

Vs Memphis it was clear that Memphis played to win while UT played not to lose. Today vs UF it was reversed.

Kenny Hall is too small and does not have a post up game but when he is focused on defense his offense will come.

The ball movement was better than it has been all season. And there was an effort made to get Maymon the ball.

I think UT does have the team to make a run at the tournament however they can not do it on talent, it will take more effort in every game than the opponent.

Whatever CCM said to the team before the game and at the half, I hope he can bottle that speech and use it over and over.

Please keep up the effort Vols!

RoadTrip writes:

This win was big on so many levels.

Caspian writes:

CCM signature win. Eat it trolls, psychos, and malcontents. *Now* what's your excuse?

Dougb-VFL writes:

I hope all the negative Vol fans payed attention to our effort today. Cuonzo is the man and alot of people are not used to a coach being patient and not yelling hysterically from the bench! Real sports fans know that building a winning team is NOT ever going to happen early on and our football fans will see that also when Derek Dooley wins 8 games as UT football coach next year . VFL

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I was impressed mostly with the team play. Go TEAM! Go Vols!!

Bigger_Al writes:

Woo Hoo! Good win. Maybe these guys will grow up and gel faster than we think.

VictorKruger writes:

I'm really happy to see Woolridge regularly contributing this season. My only concern from this game and the past couple is that Maymon seems to be slowly slipping into his free throw form of last year. The team is going to need those freebies to keep the SEC win streak going ;>). Go Vols!

thevoice writes:

in response to toddyboy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yep. And the ownership of Florida continues.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to HtownVol:

I was te only one on the live blog with Mike this morning, so I was actually able to get some answers from him for a change.

He is OK, but seems to see a lot more of the good in the Vols than most.

Watching the game today it was crystal clear to me why UT won... EFFORT!!!

In the 1st 13 games of the season UT seemed content with just being out on the floor, today they were on the floor with a purpose. To win!

I absolutely loved the effort from UT todday. If UT still has hopes of making the tourney it is going to take that level of effort in every single game.

Vs Memphis it was clear that Memphis played to win while UT played not to lose. Today vs UF it was reversed.

Kenny Hall is too small and does not have a post up game but when he is focused on defense his offense will come.

The ball movement was better than it has been all season. And there was an effort made to get Maymon the ball.

I think UT does have the team to make a run at the tournament however they can not do it on talent, it will take more effort in every game than the opponent.

Whatever CCM said to the team before the game and at the half, I hope he can bottle that speech and use it over and over.

Please keep up the effort Vols!

Good post overall, but I'm not sure I agree that the Vols have lacked effort all season. I think that they were uncertain a good part of the time, but as I have said earlier, there are subtleties to playing great TEAM man-to-man defense that the Vols didn't quite grasp before today. You will notice that there weren't any of those alley-oop dunks today, despite the fact that Florida most assuredly CAN execute that play. One reason, IMHO, was that the whole team rotated better on defense to cover that and the guards put on so much pressure outside that the Florida guards didn't have the time or vision to set it up.

To me, the fact that the Vols DON'T have the overall talent of some of their stronger opponents actually gives them a BETTER chance to succeed in the league, precisely because no one player has any reason to believe that he has to be a super-star for the team to win. None of them can overlook the fact that it took great effort and focus from everybody to win today. They will be more likely to hold each other accountable to the team and not sulking because somebody else got more shots or whatever.

HtownVol writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Good post overall, but I'm not sure I agree that the Vols have lacked effort all season. I think that they were uncertain a good part of the time, but as I have said earlier, there are subtleties to playing great TEAM man-to-man defense that the Vols didn't quite grasp before today. You will notice that there weren't any of those alley-oop dunks today, despite the fact that Florida most assuredly CAN execute that play. One reason, IMHO, was that the whole team rotated better on defense to cover that and the guards put on so much pressure outside that the Florida guards didn't have the time or vision to set it up.

To me, the fact that the Vols DON'T have the overall talent of some of their stronger opponents actually gives them a BETTER chance to succeed in the league, precisely because no one player has any reason to believe that he has to be a super-star for the team to win. None of them can overlook the fact that it took great effort and focus from everybody to win today. They will be more likely to hold each other accountable to the team and not sulking because somebody else got more shots or whatever.

Not to argue but Stokes may make your last statement wrong. I hope not. It was energy and effort that UT had today that they were missing

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Dougb-VFL:

I hope all the negative Vol fans payed attention to our effort today. Cuonzo is the man and alot of people are not used to a coach being patient and not yelling hysterically from the bench! Real sports fans know that building a winning team is NOT ever going to happen early on and our football fans will see that also when Derek Dooley wins 8 games as UT football coach next year . VFL

Actually, it seemed to me that CCM was a bit more involved on the bench than he has been so far. I saw more animation from him today than at almost any time this season. The team was clearly paying attention, too. I do think his generally calm demeanor has a good effect in keeping the guys calm and focused on the court, and when he DOES get animated, it means more because it IS so rare. He is generally trying to get the team to play well out of habit and not merely because they are emotionally fired up. Emotions come and go and can hurt as much as they help. A calm, professional, craftsman-like approach is more repeatable and reliable than the fiery, warrior-like approach.

wharfrat writes:

Chapeau!, CCM, Chapeau!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to HtownVol:

Not to argue but Stokes may make your last statement wrong. I hope not. It was energy and effort that UT had today that they were missing

Well, one good effect of today's game may turn out to be that Stokes can see that they don't NEED him for the team to play well against quality opponents. It also means that CCM can sit him with no qualms if he disrupts the team chemistry. I know there is some divergence of opinion on how well he will fit in, which is understandable since none of us has seen him in a Vol uniform. However, from what I have seen of the man, I'm pretty sure Martin wasn't abjectly begging him to come in and save the program. I'm pretty sure he told him, "This is what we are trying to do, and if you can go along with that, we will be happy to have you." Now, exactly how well adjusted to that reality Stokes really is will remain an open question for awhile yet, but I think especially after this game, Martin is dealing with him from a position of strength, and I expect Stokes to make a valuable contribution WITHOUT expecting to be THE MAN right off the bat. Of course I could be wrong, but we shall see.

bigorangesob writes:

Great game today, now maybe some of these so called fans will shut the f up about firing Coach Martin

wigmeister writes:

Hope they learned something and can repeat the effort every game for the rest of the season!

bigdisbig writes:

Its about time Cuonzo started coaching these guys. I've seen him sit with no expression in games they should have won. He FINALLY manned up and became a passionate coach today. Good win for the Vols. He is one ahead of Dooley already.

Dougb-VFL writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Actually, it seemed to me that CCM was a bit more involved on the bench than he has been so far. I saw more animation from him today than at almost any time this season. The team was clearly paying attention, too. I do think his generally calm demeanor has a good effect in keeping the guys calm and focused on the court, and when he DOES get animated, it means more because it IS so rare. He is generally trying to get the team to play well out of habit and not merely because they are emotionally fired up. Emotions come and go and can hurt as much as they help. A calm, professional, craftsman-like approach is more repeatable and reliable than the fiery, warrior-like approach.

I think he is always involved enough but you are correct about being more animated although it still pales in comparison to most coaches I have had. Great insight on your post,2 words for you- GO VOLS! VFL

meemaw writes:

What an absolutely wonderful TEAM effort! The change in lineup was a surprise AND a pleasant one. It worked. So glad to see some of the players who didn't get too much playing time last year make such a solid contribution. Keep it up Coach--GO VOLS!!!!!

Zalweed22 writes:

Extension!

walt23tn writes:

Great coaching! Great effort! Great win! Thank you!

clvolfan writes:

in response to utjunkie:

Big Win!

Ya-Hoo!

eduardo writes:

Awesome effort! Keep it up Men go to Starkvegas and get a W. Come back next Sat. and get ready for the cheaters from the North!

TheFuj writes:

One of the biggest wins in last two years of the big 3 sports. Needed something positive.
Martin did look more into the game. Think team responded to it.
McBrick played only 4 minutes. He is just so inconsistent with his shot. If he ever gets more consistent it could really help the team. If the Mc's (Mcrae, McBee) can make 3-6 3's. it opens it up for Golden to drive and Maymon down low.
Maymon and free throws? Started season good, but something like 40% today.
Life is better with this win.

cloudodust writes:

A great win at TBA...This type of action must be duplicated on the road around the SEC to garner the fruit of excellence, but for tonight, How sweet it is. GBO...

TheRealDragonSlayer writes:

What I want to know is where is the senseless Borntoride? Where is the retarded Professional Handicapper? What happened, you useless trolls...cat got your tongue?

As we, the real fans, expected, Cuonzo Martin is going to be fine as the Vols coach, and our program is in very capable hands. The rest of the season is still going to have its ups and downs, but this game truly showed the direction that Coach Martin has set for the program, and it looks great.

Go Vols!

RockyTopVolFan writes:

Great game guys! Congratulations Coach Martin, team, and staff.
Nice win over the evil gators, keep it coming.
Good to feel better about our team and finally have positive news from campus, for a change. I really was not expecting this win based on prior performances. You have given us hope and a huge opening win.
Thanks, we all needed that.
1-O in SEC! YEAH!
GO VOLS!

DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho writes:

Would I trade a loss to App State for a win over Florida (even an unranked UF)...HELL YES!!

Great WIN!!! This team deserves it.

That said, it's still gonna be a year where this team has to find itself. They're going to beat teams like UF and then probably lose to Mary's Cosmetology University. That's fine. Cuonzo is gonna get his fair shake and if history is any indication...he'll make these Vols a team we can be proud of.

Go Vols!

Vol_USArmy_Soldier writes:

Maybe the football team can take a cue from the heart and effort of an outmatched BB team. Nice job guys.

GreerVol22 writes:

see guys... what a little hustle can do?

FanNotSheep writes:

The change in the team's and the coaching staff's demeanor from recent games was night and day. The atmosphere at TBA seemed to be much more animated (I did not get to go to this game) than other games. Maybe it's Florida, because when I've attended SEC games like Georgia and South Carolina the fans don't really "show up" like they do for the Gators and Kentucky – if you know what I mean. Could it be that simple? If the fans bring energy the team plays that much harder? I don't know what to expect to see the next game, but this was a different team than they have been all season, and better defensively by far.

volaholic45 writes:

Awesome win - pretty much wire to wire and in control the whole time.

First Stokes, now a nice, nice SEC win (against Florida doesn't hurt either) - gotta give CCM credit. See the little fist pump on his way down the good-game line? Glad to see him come out of that Lurch shell a little.

Great to have something positive happen (ain't it, Mr. Hart?).

CincyOhVol writes:

in response to Dougb-VFL:

I hope all the negative Vol fans payed attention to our effort today. Cuonzo is the man and alot of people are not used to a coach being patient and not yelling hysterically from the bench! Real sports fans know that building a winning team is NOT ever going to happen early on and our football fans will see that also when Derek Dooley wins 8 games as UT football coach next year . VFL

Comparing Coach Martin to Dooley is like comparing a Benz to a Pinto.

iowavol writes:

Well, color me wrong. Great game all around and looking very good on national tv. Great to see CCM get into it a little bit. If this team plays this kind of intensity and focus (Maymon lost his focus at the FT line) we could win a few more than we should.

snakeplissken writes:

in response to CincyOhVol:

Comparing Coach Martin to Dooley is like comparing a Benz to a Pinto.

You got that right! At least Martin has a signature win and he did it in his first year against a ranked Florida team. Dooley lost to the two worst Florida teams in the last three decades.

usnavyvolfan__times_free_press_can_shove_it writes:

in response to FanNotSheep:

The change in the team's and the coaching staff's demeanor from recent games was night and day. The atmosphere at TBA seemed to be much more animated (I did not get to go to this game) than other games. Maybe it's Florida, because when I've attended SEC games like Georgia and South Carolina the fans don't really "show up" like they do for the Gators and Kentucky – if you know what I mean. Could it be that simple? If the fans bring energy the team plays that much harder? I don't know what to expect to see the next game, but this was a different team than they have been all season, and better defensively by far.

Hopefully they'll rock the house for the mildcats next Saturday!!

FanNotSheep writes:

in response to CincyOhVol:

Comparing Coach Martin to Dooley is like comparing a Benz to a Pinto.

The only way you could compare the two at all would be if Martin only had 8 scholarship players on this team (his first) because that's about where the football team was last year with 60 scholarship players.

Why can't people just enjoy winning a basketball game without trashing the football coach? Besides, there are still lots of basketball games to be won or lost before anyone is named Coach of the Year.

orangeJACKET writes:

hey dooley. that's how you get a meaningful win.

BolivrBob writes:

Great win. Not sure we can continue with this kind of effort. On paper, right now, we shouldn't beat anybody. When does Stokes get to suit up the first time? Anxious, now, to see how we play on the road against a very good State team.

BolivrBob writes:

in response to thevoice:

Yep. And the ownership of Florida continues.

They swept us 3 games last year

CoverOrange writes:

Have to wonder who did the scheduling. Playing MSU in Starkville at 9 eastern meaning the team doesn't get back to Knoxville until the wee hours on Friday and I assume still go to class that day. Then wake up early Saturday to play Kentucky at noon. Bad planning to accommodate ESPN.

GOJO writes:

in response to FanNotSheep:

The only way you could compare the two at all would be if Martin only had 8 scholarship players on this team (his first) because that's about where the football team was last year with 60 scholarship players.

Why can't people just enjoy winning a basketball game without trashing the football coach? Besides, there are still lots of basketball games to be won or lost before anyone is named Coach of the Year.

********************

FanNotSheep, You got that right. True fans accent the positive & eliminate their negative remarks about others.

69grad writes:

Congrats to Coach Martin and the team. One game does not make a season, but it may be a peek into the future.
VFL

Dougb-VFL writes:

in response to snakeplissken:

You got that right! At least Martin has a signature win and he did it in his first year against a ranked Florida team. Dooley lost to the two worst Florida teams in the last three decades.

I agree with the fact that Cuonzo got a signature win before Dooley but let us not forget that we were robbed against LSU last year along with North Carolina and either of those would have been "signature wins". I read most of your posts and what is up with your personal vendetta with DD? I support all UT sports and Cuonzo deserves a huge congrats especially from this gator hater! VFL

VictorKruger writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Have to wonder who did the scheduling. Playing MSU in Starkville at 9 eastern meaning the team doesn't get back to Knoxville until the wee hours on Friday and I assume still go to class that day. Then wake up early Saturday to play Kentucky at noon. Bad planning to accommodate ESPN.

Good question - Bruce Pearl was all about maximizing TV exposure, so it would not surprise me if it were him. Then again, the SEC makes up the conference schedule, but I don't think they dictate the games times and TV coverage. Does anyone know?

TrouserCough writes:

Great job CCM!

Remember Kentucky 'll. "We are better than 22 months ago" Derek Dooley

HtownVol writes:

in response to GOJO:

********************

FanNotSheep, You got that right. True fans accent the positive & eliminate their negative remarks about others.

I enjoy this site much more when UT fans are not afraid to talk about every aspect of UT sports (negative and posotive). I ttry to mix it as much as I can.

FanNotSheeps comment was not a valid one. He saysto compare Dooley and Martin would only be comprable if CDD had 60 scholarships.

Do you all understand that? SIXTY! It takes 22 starters to make a team. Sixty would leave almost 3 deep at every position. However this example is not relavant.

I understand Dooleys 1st season. Not many can blame him with so many Freshmen being starters.

Year "one" was the season that I can not give Dooley much slack for. Injuries happen but losing Hunter should not have killed the team like it did.

The Offensive Line (IMO) regressed this season by far. Tauren Poole was not good at all. The OL had a lot to do with that but he was a magnet to a pile of Big Uglys, with no vision.

When Bray went out Mathew should have been a capable QB, he wasnt.

I can not agree with the "depth " excuse. I understand it but it only goes so far. UT had a 4 star recruit at every position on Offense (at times) with a 4 star to back up most of them, especially the O-Line.

The biggest reason I disagree with the depth excuse is because of the ten or so times UT has went in the halftime very much in the game. They come out of the half and roll over and take it. That 20 minutes between the halves does not drain the energy of players.

ANYWAY... LOVED the effort from our UT basketball Vols yesterday!
effort, effort and more effort. We get that every game and we will be very proud of our team again.

GO VOLS

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Bivolar and other Vols,

You are absolutely correct. We've seen quite a few games in the past where we would have a 2:00 start for instance, and we'd see our game 15 minutes late because some team with no chance to win would be putting people on the line shooting meaningless free throws.......thus delaying the inevitable.

I certainly agree with your thoughts.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Have to wonder who did the scheduling. Playing MSU in Starkville at 9 eastern meaning the team doesn't get back to Knoxville until the wee hours on Friday and I assume still go to class that day. Then wake up early Saturday to play Kentucky at noon. Bad planning to accommodate ESPN.

Good point. I hadn't looked that closely at the schedule to realize that. MSU is BIG inside and they will be seething after the beat-down Arkansas put on them. Ready or not, Stokes may have to play some considerable minutes Thursday to hopefully save some wear-and-tear on the other post men. Or maybe by playing him just enough against MSU to get his feet wet, he will be fresh and eager--hopefully not TOO eager--to go off on UK if the other post players are too tired and/or beaten up to play solid against the Cats. When a team is something of an afterthought going into a season, they can expect to get the dirty end of the stick when it comes to things like scheduling.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

Bivolar and other Vols,

You are absolutely correct. We've seen quite a few games in the past where we would have a 2:00 start for instance, and we'd see our game 15 minutes late because some team with no chance to win would be putting people on the line shooting meaningless free throws.......thus delaying the inevitable.

I certainly agree with your thoughts.

I love the idea of an all sports all the time channel or even multiple channels that allow an enormous amount of sports to be viewed and digested with all the trimmings that go with it. I (like you) don't like the overlapped games. And I don't like the "news end" where they only show news about the games they had that we already know about. Get off the"expertise " idea and get back to sporting news. Much Much Much less commentators and more lots more news of the major sports like basketball and football. Why is there for instance a golf channel(lol) and NO basketball channel? WHY is there a racing channel and NO football only channel?? WHY OR Why won't they let ME choose which programs I want to see from a list of sporting events??? I certainly get to see enough advertising to support it all!!
Ya'll shouldn't have got me started (your fault). ESPN is a "gossip" channel as far as the sporting news is concerned. They will not talk about sports if they have a nice controversy to stir up!!. Same with newspaper articles as well KNS. Course a good argument does stir the old blood.

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