Cutting down turnovers a concern for Vols

Tennessee is moving forward, set on enhancing what it hopes will be a men's basketball postseason résumé, but the last-minute losses in the Vols' rearview mirror are troubling.

Coach Cuonzo Martin said Monday at media day the key to eliminating future last-minute heartbreak is avoiding turnovers.

"We put ourselves in great positions to win games,'' he said, "and we have costly turnovers in tough situations.''

UT had opportunities to win games in the final minute against Memphis (99-97 double-overtime, in the EA Sports Maui Invitational), Pittsburgh (61-56), Austin Peay (74-70), Mississippi State (62-58) and Saturday against No. 2 Kentucky (65-62).

The Vols (8-9, 1-2 SEC) travel to play Georgia (9-8, 0-3) on Wednesday (TV: WVLT, 8 p.m.) hoping to get their first road win of the season.

The Bulldogs are 7-3 at home while UT brings an 0-4 road record into the contest.

"We've been in tough situations, tough environments and tough games, now we have to do a good job of taking care of the ball and getting the ball where it's supposed to go,'' said Martin, whose team is 2-8 in games decided by 10 points or less. "Our biggest concern as a staff is our turnovers.''

Sophomore point guard Trae Golden has shouldered most of the blame for the Vols' late-game lack of execution, even though the problem is often bigger than one player.

"I understand a lot comes with my position, and rightfully so; I've had big turnovers and taken shots I shouldn't have taken,'' Golden said. "So I take a lot of that blame. It's understanding what we want to do in the last minute, and who needs the ball at certain times.''

Golden leads the SEC with 5.4 assists per game and ranks tied for fifth with a 1.8 assist/turnover ratio.

Junior forward Jeronne Maymon believes UT could have helped out its point guard with sharper execution in the final minutes in the loss to Kentucky.

"We weren't cutting hard, and our execution wasn't there,'' Maymon said. "That hurts your momentum.''

Despite Golden's solid numbers, the Vols rank 11th in the SEC with a turnover margin of minus-1.29 per game.

"We've had 13, 14 and 15 (turnovers) the last three games,'' Martin said. "They are really unforced turnovers. That's an area we have to get better.''

Senior wing Cam Tatum, who has five turnovers in the three SEC games, believes it's a matter of continuity and focus.

"Some of those lapses we've had in the second half, we have to overcome,'' Tatum said. "It's a combination of a lot of things, learning to play better with each other.''

Martin knew his motion offense would bring some challenges his first season with the team. In the motion offense, everyone touches the ball and must make decisions.

That's why Martin has mixed up his lineups in practice instead of keeping the starting unit playing against the backups, as is the custom with many other coaches. The idea, is for the players to grow comfortable playing with one another in a variety of potential lineups.

Martin said the players are learning to understand their roles better and play to their strengths in pressure situations.

"It's a matter of not trying to do too much, not letting the situation or the atmosphere or the crowd get you caught up trying to do something you don't normally do,'' he said. "It's being consistent and sticking to the script.

"Not pinpointing one thing, just take care of the ball better. If you're not a true ballhandler, don't handle the ball as much.''

Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32

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Comments » 16

clvolfan writes:

Golden shoulders the,much deserved,blame--now,go get'er done and win one at Ga.

givehim6 writes:

Keep playing tough, keep a stong D, cut back on the turn overs especially in the last five mins. Keep playing like this UT will be ok. Getting a SEC road win will be good for there mind set, that way no monkey will develop on there back.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

It's easy to blame it all on Golden. AND he is to blame some. But I've seen some weird turnovers this year just when players forget they need to hold the ball or dribble etc.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

PS I'm thinking the majority were just poor passes? Now that I think about it.

crmcm44#321757 writes:

Dribbling is an issue but a more troubling issue is poor decision making skills which is much harder to fix.

carbonzip writes:

Many turnovers resulted from repeatetive and telegraphed passes. Use the bounce pass more often. It is difficult to defend and easier to catch.

underthehill writes:

in response to kiffinsux:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Bruce Pearl's record of accomplishments at UT are just that..a matter of record. However, it was obvious to anyone with any knowledge of basketball that it was an injustice to more talented players and the team for Steven Pearl to be on the floor. I have never seen players come this far in such a short time as those you mention. Martin has not made any excuses. He has consistently praised the efforts of his players and they are responding. His recruiting was questioned by some and we have one freshman (Richardson) who is the best outside defender and Stokes who is already being considered one of the best big men in the conference and he has played 17 min in one game. Hope the progress continues at Georgia..

tennrich1 writes:

in response to kiffinsux:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Actually the thing that got Steven playing time is the EXACT SAME THING that would get him playing time under CCM...hard work and hustle on defense....I MEAN REALLY DO SOME OF YOU FOLKS EVER, EVER think for one second before posting this stuff or is it maybe you have NO CLUE about running an offense, screening, boxing out, defense etc....now I do feel better I declare!!!

RoyaltyVol writes:

Turnovers was a big problem last year as well. I'm hoping coach Martin can get this team to turn the ball over less. Cam Tatum has always been bad at this, somebody needs to work one on one with him on this problem.

underthehill writes:

in response to tennrich1:

Actually the thing that got Steven playing time is the EXACT SAME THING that would get him playing time under CCM...hard work and hustle on defense....I MEAN REALLY DO SOME OF YOU FOLKS EVER, EVER think for one second before posting this stuff or is it maybe you have NO CLUE about running an offense, screening, boxing out, defense etc....now I do feel better I declare!!!

Glad you feel better..so you think Steven Pearl would be playing in front of Maymon, Hall, and Woolridge as he did under his father. Your knowledge, or lack thereof, of the game of basketball is duly noted.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to underthehill:

Glad you feel better..so you think Steven Pearl would be playing in front of Maymon, Hall, and Woolridge as he did under his father. Your knowledge, or lack thereof, of the game of basketball is duly noted.

I liked Stephen's hustle and thought that by his senior year he was a decent off the bench type player. He was sorta like our "bruiser" at times. Maymon was a little out of shape last year and has become a star imho. He's not the same player. This year Maymon by far get's the nod over not only Stephen but probably anyone we had last season. Maymon's a brute with finesse. Stephen might be playing in front of Tatum. lol Sorry Tatum! At times you deserve that comment and at times you don't. Most the time your defense is really good adn your offense is tentatively ok. I WANT desparately to see you have a great offensive game to go with your D.
I'd play Maymon over Scotty. Any day. I still think we need to try Maymon at 3 sometime. NOT for an outside threat of course but as a way to get in the lane when we need the extra power and finesse. I would not play him over Harris lol.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to carbonzip:

Many turnovers resulted from repeatetive and telegraphed passes. Use the bounce pass more often. It is difficult to defend and easier to catch.

Good point. When the Vols are swinging the ball from side to side, it is too often in a rhythm that any good defender can pick up on. I also agree about the bounce pass. You just don't see that much anymore. Also, there is nothing wrong with FAKING a pass occasionally, or faking a shot, for that matter. Hopefully, when the Vols get more accustomed to this style and with each other, they will start faking the pass to a guy on the perimeter to catch a defender overplaying the pass and free him up for a backdoor cut. That is a play you DO see a lot these days. You DO see good teams doing both of those more often and with more success than the Vols are doing right now.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to tennrich1:

Actually the thing that got Steven playing time is the EXACT SAME THING that would get him playing time under CCM...hard work and hustle on defense....I MEAN REALLY DO SOME OF YOU FOLKS EVER, EVER think for one second before posting this stuff or is it maybe you have NO CLUE about running an offense, screening, boxing out, defense etc....now I do feel better I declare!!!

I'm pretty much with you, tennrich1. The SP-haters will just NEVER see it that way. They prefer "pretty" players, however ineffective they may be, and think no one has any business on the court if they aren't stylin' and profilin'. Knowledgeable fans know better, as do the countless coaches who stated that they could use a few more SP types on their teams. Won't matter to the SP-haters; it didn't then and it won't now.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to underthehill:

Glad you feel better..so you think Steven Pearl would be playing in front of Maymon, Hall, and Woolridge as he did under his father. Your knowledge, or lack thereof, of the game of basketball is duly noted.

It's not as though Maymon, Hall, and Woolridge didn't get their opportunities! I don't know why they didn't make more progress under Pearl than they did, but it doesn't do him any credit to think he would play his son if he KNEW the other guys would do a better job, at the things he needed them to do, or if they had given any evidence that they COULD or WOULD do so on a regular basis. If those guys had played in games as well LAST year as they have THIS year, they would have played ahead of SP. As I said to tennrich1, the SP-haters will NEVER understand why he played as much as he did, but it appears that no argument will suffice for someone who won't understand that. Of course, you may have a different opinion and you are certainly welcome to it. Goodness knows, plenty of people shared it.

Ironcity writes:

UT turnovers are not that bad. What may be more concerning is how few we cause. As for Golden he sits in the middle of the pack for SEC guards in that area and I would venture to say he plays more minutes then any of them.

UT needs to start winning games and this Tuesday will help us know if we are playing to the competition or are gaining ground. I hate the idea that we are the best team in the country with a losing record.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to Ironcity:

UT turnovers are not that bad. What may be more concerning is how few we cause. As for Golden he sits in the middle of the pack for SEC guards in that area and I would venture to say he plays more minutes then any of them.

UT needs to start winning games and this Tuesday will help us know if we are playing to the competition or are gaining ground. I hate the idea that we are the best team in the country with a losing record.

Our turnovers have been at some very inoppurtune times. Pressure I guess. Some happen when the defense steps it up against or when we rush things maybe or just plain not paying attenion to the ball and the other's positions. Some from the point and some from others not watching. But overall we've really improved in this area.

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