Magic trick at Vanderbilt? A road victory for Vols

Cuonzo Martin talks about freshman Jarnell Stokes

Game preview: Tennessee vs. Vanderbilt

Skylar McBee determined to become more multi-dimensional player

Skylar McBee: Getting heckled on the road

Don't bother trying to convince Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin that Vanderbilt's so-called "Memorial Magic" is anything more than a clever marketing campaign.

Martin's more concerned with his team's ability to execute than the funky layout at the 14,316-seat, 60-year-old gym that most notably features team benches at both ends of the court rather than alongside it.

The Vols (9-10, 1-3 SEC) look to find their first road victory of the season against the Commodores (14-5, 4-1) tonight (TV: 7 p.m., ESPNU).

Tennessee has enjoyed recent success playing at Vanderbilt, winning in Nashville two of the past three seasons.

But the gym's odd layout — in addition to the unique team bench placement, the floor is raised — has led to the Commodores enjoying a decided advantage, their 8-4 home record this season aside.

"It's a matter of completing a mission," said Martin, whose team is 0-5 in opponents' gyms. "I think our guys have gotten better. It's a matter of taking care of the ball, more than anything.

"I think we're defending."

The SEC statistics would indicate as much; since adding perimeter defensive stopper Josh Richardson

to the starting lineup prior to a 67-56 league-opening win over Florida, the Vols are considerably stingier.

While Vanderbilt leads the SEC in scoring defense in league games (59 points), UT runs a close second (60 points).

The Commodores also are tops in the league in field-goal percentage defense (.367), while the Vols rank third in that department (.390).

"The level of defense we're playing now, we'll put ourselves in position to win games," said UT junior Skylar McBee, whose two free throws with 19 seconds left helped lift the Vols to a 60-57 win over defending national champion and then-No. 13 Connecticut last Saturday. "As our understanding keeps getting better, the defense is only going to pick up."

Martin makes few allowances for lack of defensive execution, but he concedes mid-term freshman enrollee Jarnell Stokes is still finding his way.

"Since he has come aboard (Jan. 9 first practice, Jan. 14 first game), I think the communication on defense has gotten a lot better," Martin said. "The guys have done a really good job allowing him to grow ... they are constantly talking to him to let him know what's going on.

"The biggest key is for us to allow Jarnell to continue to grow. I think he's still 65-to-70 percent of what he can be as a player."

Stokes was honored on Monday as the SEC's Freshman of the Week after averaging 13.5 points, 10 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, one assist and one steal in games at Georgia last Wednesday and at home against UConn, his second and third appearances of the season.

While Stokes figures to have his hands full with Vanderbilt senior center Festus Ezeli, a 6-foot-11, 255-pound preseason first-team All-SEC pick, Martin said the Vols must contain junior John Jenkins.

The 6-4 Jenkins leads the SEC with 19.8 points per game, and as Martin explained, represents a moving target.

"The thing about him, I watched him first hand, he's ready to catch and shoot at all times," said Martin, who served as an assistant coach on the World University Games all-star team that Jenkins played for in China last summer. "His team does a great job getting him shots. He's always moving, and they are constantly looking for him."

Richardson, a 6-6 freshman, is most likely to draw the assignment of chasing Jenkins. When it's not Richardson, it will likely be 6-7 senior Cameron Tatum.

Vanderbilt, however, is hardly one-dimensional on the perimeter. Jeffery Taylor is a 6-7 senior forward who averages 17.1 points and is shooting a blazing 63.2 percent beyond the 3-point arc in league games.

The Commodores are making an SEC-high 10.6 threes in league games while UT is tops in the league in 3-point field goal percentage defense (.258).

Martin believes the Vols' offense will take care of itself at the other end of the court, provided the team can limit its turnovers.

As for how the Memorial Gymnasium setup will affect his ability to play call, Martin shrugged.

"It will be a little different," Martin said. "We don't call a lot of plays anyway, so I don't think it will hurt us from that standpoint."

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

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Comments » 49

wigmeister writes:

Time to shut em down and blow em out!

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor will be inconspicuously hidden in crowd. Witch Doctor see bad voodoo for Vandy. Witch Doctor first gonna paint the Gym like a end zone and that will keep them away for some time, then Witch Doctor gonna paint a room to look like James Franklins Butt so the media will all get lost. Witch Doctor smell upset brewing or maybe the taco Witch Doctor lost in desk couple weeks ago. Witch Doctor say wary Vandy! Wary!
Bones never lie.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Coach knows bball!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Uhhh Witchy knows Bball too.

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor tell Clay Travis to quit emailing Witch Doctor! Witch Doctor says there is NO room! no you cant rent it or live there! lol
Bones never lie.

underthehill writes:

Stokes and Maymon give Vols inside edge. UT by 7 ..if we have less turnovers than Vandy.

HtownVol writes:

I read this just now and seen "tennessee looks to fint 1st road victory of the season TONIGHT..", I nearly sharted myself. I have not missed one second of UT football or mens basketball in years. I thought I was missing something. Rushed to the remote to ESPNU, then to ESPN.com to double check.

Come on govols, dont be making me think I missed a game, even though the story would have made no sence seeing as the game would have ended when it was released.

Anyway, Jenkins will put up his numbers, we just have to contain him and stop others. Is it me or does UT always give up a huge game to one player for opposing teams? Usually the best shooter.

GO VOLS

VolinCalif writes:

in response to underthehill:

Stokes and Maymon give Vols inside edge. UT by 7 ..if we have less turnovers than Vandy.

don't disagree but I'd prefer to just have more baskets than Vandy.

underthehill writes:

in response to VolinCalif:

don't disagree but I'd prefer to just have more baskets than Vandy.

I'd take that ..but it gets scary the last 3 min. when you're having turnover problems..

HtownVol writes:

in response to 10seVol85:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yeah, still.. got my nervous.

imw8n4u writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor will be inconspicuously hidden in crowd. Witch Doctor see bad voodoo for Vandy. Witch Doctor first gonna paint the Gym like a end zone and that will keep them away for some time, then Witch Doctor gonna paint a room to look like James Franklins Butt so the media will all get lost. Witch Doctor smell upset brewing or maybe the taco Witch Doctor lost in desk couple weeks ago. Witch Doctor say wary Vandy! Wary!
Bones never lie.

You could have stopped after "paint the gym like an end zone", the rest is just piling on.

GONAVY writes:

in response to 10seVol85:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Classy post; name calling is always taking the high road...for middle schoolers that is.

GONAVY writes:

in response to imw8n4u:

You could have stopped after "paint the gym like an end zone", the rest is just piling on.

Agree. And not funny.

TommyJack writes:

in response to GONAVY:

Agree. And not funny.

Disagree. And very funny.

GiveHim6TDTennessee writes:

It's gonna be really fun to see how this team takes the rest of the schedule game by game the rest of the way. I feel like if the season reset right now, Tennessee would easily be roughly 15-4. This is definitely an NCAA Tournament team, but they bought in to the defense a little too late and then the addition of Stokes has made us more than formidable. So from here on in I say we're 0-0 going in to every game and we plan on the SEC tournament. There is no doubt in my mind this team is capable of winning the SEC and gaining an auto-bid.

Anyway, I think we've got a great shot against a team we know all too well tomorrow. Hopefully we can get some tough shots to fall and consistently keep Jenkins and Ezeli off balance. My final is UT 64 Vandy 58. GBO!

oldorange writes:

It would certainly improve Tennessee's chance of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA, to win in Nashville.

kyvol98 writes:

Memorial Gym needs to be renovated using the gasoline and match method.

txvolsfan writes:

65-70% is what we are getting from Stokes right now!!!
I bet a few SEC schools are will be terrified once Coach Zo gets him up 30-35% because this kid will be a BEAST!!!
Love me some Coach Zo, I think this guy can flat out coach and once he gets some more skins on the wall recruits will want to play for him!!!
GO VOLS
TXVOLSFAN

Down_The_Field writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor will be inconspicuously hidden in crowd. Witch Doctor see bad voodoo for Vandy. Witch Doctor first gonna paint the Gym like a end zone and that will keep them away for some time, then Witch Doctor gonna paint a room to look like James Franklins Butt so the media will all get lost. Witch Doctor smell upset brewing or maybe the taco Witch Doctor lost in desk couple weeks ago. Witch Doctor say wary Vandy! Wary!
Bones never lie.

maybe some of your best work, doc. i'm starting to feel better about this game.

defense wins and CCM has these guys playing D. the improvement is noticable.

vols by 4

underthehill writes:

in response to doesitmatter:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The system you run on offense in basketball opens up options for each player who handles the ball..Martin is saying "We"..meaning the coaches..do not call a lot of set plays..

mtnbikrtn writes:

Minnesota has a similar Barn (gym) and they don't have to sit at the end of the court. They just step down off the floor to the bench.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to doesitmatter:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Man!?? doesitmatter? U just tryin' ta rile sombody! U just tryin' to get my goat! U just bein' ornery!. U being ridiculous. U don't know nothin'!! YOu like stirring trouble. Like to argue. TROUBLEMAKER. Pessimist. TROLL maybe. Why have a post that doesn't post? Huh? Did ya ever think of that? Huh?

PHAT_VOL writes:

in response to mtnbikrtn:

Minnesota has a similar Barn (gym) and they don't have to sit at the end of the court. They just step down off the floor to the bench.

RIGHT, We all know the Doors GYM is a gimmick and nothing more. Vandy has been to six bowl games in the schools history. Baseball and Basketball at vandy is a little just a little different. So when you dont have a lot invent something. Like put the benches on the wrong end of the floor. LOL !!!
GO VOLS !!!

illinoisvolfan writes:

in response to doesitmatter:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Some bball offenses, like the motion offense, don't have many set plays. The offense cuts and screens according to what the defense is doing, such as whether they are playing man-to-man or some type of zone.

Now for my question -- why does this UT site seem to have more than its fair share of fans who don't support the team and the coach? If you don't like the Vols and their coaches, go to a site for your next team of the month. GBO!!

Simply_Orange51 writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor will be inconspicuously hidden in crowd. Witch Doctor see bad voodoo for Vandy. Witch Doctor first gonna paint the Gym like a end zone and that will keep them away for some time, then Witch Doctor gonna paint a room to look like James Franklins Butt so the media will all get lost. Witch Doctor smell upset brewing or maybe the taco Witch Doctor lost in desk couple weeks ago. Witch Doctor say wary Vandy! Wary!
Bones never lie.

It's paint fumes ..... not the taco.......

bkgunter writes:

in response to doesitmatter:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Why type without a brain ?

Simply_Orange51 writes:

One of Jarnell's early shots against UCONN was a short soft jumper from up around the left corner of the free throw lane. You knew before it ever left his hands that it would swish the net. That kind of shot precision and calmness to just elevate and knock down an easy basket reminds me of Bernard's early days in Knoxville. He was a freshman playing like a sophmore or junior - this kid is the same. My favorite memory was listening to John Ward saying "B-o-t-t-o-m!" after one of his shots. Jarnell is an uncommon talent and going to give people fits on the court. He'll be hard to stop when he gets his conditioning in college shape - maybe unstoppable like BK was.

jandjhome#228397 writes:

I hope Witchy is correct but we will have to contend with Memorial Majic which come with black and white stripes.

ProfessionalHandicapper writes:

On Saturday I gave UT as my free pick winner on my website and also told people on this page UT was just a 2 point dog, so the win would be nothing magical over a deflated UCONN bunch. UCONN was a one man team in scoring. Last week Vandy played two Top 20 teams and romped Bama on the road leading by 25 in the second half. Then Vandy blew a 12 point lead vs Miss State. Tonight UT has no size inside to match Ezili nor anyone who can man up with future NBA star Taylor. UCONN had no perimeter shooters so the Vols could fall inside and help. Tonight UT must guard every angle on the court. Tennessee has been a horrid road team witnessed by the loss again at Georgia last week. Vandy has Top 10 talent and will remember blowing two huge leads last year to a much better UT bunch. Vandy will crush UT by double digits. Vandy is a rare team in in the fact they have SEC Top talent but Mid Major age. Vandy is the oldest and most experienced team in the SEC. All seniors and a Junior vs a very inexperienced UT team. No contest here..Vandy in a blowout.

GetSimmsandTeagueout writes:

I hope Stokes explodes tonight. What a player.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

The above poster didn't watch UConn obviously? NO PERIMETER shooters?? Professorhands you know that's not true. We'll see tonight about some other statements like inside play. It'll be a fun CLOSE game. UT 67 Vandy 66 LMAO close. But really we'll just have to see former canstandsaban ???I think you are?

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to Samuel_L_Jackson_dares_you_to_say_what_again:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Sounds good to me. Everbody knows you can't win if the bench is on the wrong end...well except some one has to win. It IS an advantage,,,uhh to whoever wins anyhow. Don't you know that?

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to GetSimmsandTeagueout:

I hope Stokes explodes tonight. What a player.

I hope he "explodes" on rebounds and defense as well. Triple double!!! GO VOLS! GO Tenneessee! Go STOKES and team! uhhhhh GO Mocs tonight too. They need a win desperately.

CommodoreCapital writes:

in response to underthehill:

Stokes and Maymon give Vols inside edge. UT by 7 ..if we have less turnovers than Vandy.

Not sure about edge considering both teams "bigs" average about the same in rebounding and if VU had to only rely on inside scoring FES and Lance would have better point averages.

Jenkins will get his points, he has averaged 20 for 2 plus years, but the key to the game is Jeff Taylor. Taylor as having the nickname "The Potential" for the past 3 years is finally living up to it. UT has no one that is a good match up with him. Defensively both teams playing well with Vandy and UT 1st and 3rd respectably in SEC play. UT will need to get Festus in foul trouble early and work the posts when he is on the bench. Both teams have trouble with the turnovers but luckliy neither teams press much. I expect a good game with a 67-60 Commodore win.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to HtownVol:

I read this just now and seen "tennessee looks to fint 1st road victory of the season TONIGHT..", I nearly sharted myself. I have not missed one second of UT football or mens basketball in years. I thought I was missing something. Rushed to the remote to ESPNU, then to ESPN.com to double check.

Come on govols, dont be making me think I missed a game, even though the story would have made no sence seeing as the game would have ended when it was released.

Anyway, Jenkins will put up his numbers, we just have to contain him and stop others. Is it me or does UT always give up a huge game to one player for opposing teams? Usually the best shooter.

GO VOLS

Lots of opposing guards have had big nights against the Vols in the last several years, and Jenkins will likely not be the exception. However, I would be willing to let him have 30 or so--especially if he needs 25 or more shots to get them--if no other Vandy player scores in double figures. I'm pretty sure the Vols will play creditable defense, but as Martin said, it will be necessary to limit the turnovers if the Vols are to score enough to win the game.

BeRealistic writes:

Seems the men & women teams have a problem hitting their foul shots down the stretch which can cause a costly (L).

johnlg00 writes:

in response to 10seVol85:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

For one thing, the dimensions of the COURT are specified but I don't think it is even possible to specify the dimensions of the FLOOR. As for the arrangement of the benches, I am pretty sure that was "grandfathered" in years ago because of the way the building was built. It was originally intended to double as an auditorium, so the actual floor of the building slopes toward the side where the stage used to be. The only way to put in the playing floor was to raise it well above the permanent floor's level. That means that the foundation of the seats at least on one side starts below floor level, so benches on the sidelines would obscure the view of the first ten rows or so, which is where some of the high-dollar seats are. Yeah, Memorial Gym is a kludged up mess by modern standards, but what can you do?

VolJunkie writes:

There is a lot of defense on the floor tonight; would not surprise me to see a game played in the 50's. But, until they start awarding style points all that matters is that UT be one point better than Vandy tonight and UT has been pretty successful in Memorial.

Go Vols!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to doesitmatter:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Nice try, genius. No, actually it wasn't. The reason why the Vols don't call a lot of plays is because they run a motion offense that doesn't HAVE a lot of set plays. You must be the only fan in America who thinks Martin doesn't coach, considering how much better the Vols are now than they were earlier in the season, but then you ARE just a sorry troll.

jt45 writes:

in response to ProfessionalHandicapper:

On Saturday I gave UT as my free pick winner on my website and also told people on this page UT was just a 2 point dog, so the win would be nothing magical over a deflated UCONN bunch. UCONN was a one man team in scoring. Last week Vandy played two Top 20 teams and romped Bama on the road leading by 25 in the second half. Then Vandy blew a 12 point lead vs Miss State. Tonight UT has no size inside to match Ezili nor anyone who can man up with future NBA star Taylor. UCONN had no perimeter shooters so the Vols could fall inside and help. Tonight UT must guard every angle on the court. Tennessee has been a horrid road team witnessed by the loss again at Georgia last week. Vandy has Top 10 talent and will remember blowing two huge leads last year to a much better UT bunch. Vandy will crush UT by double digits. Vandy is a rare team in in the fact they have SEC Top talent but Mid Major age. Vandy is the oldest and most experienced team in the SEC. All seniors and a Junior vs a very inexperienced UT team. No contest here..Vandy in a blowout.

The most inaccurate post Ive read to date, Uconn had/has perhaps the best 2 guards anywhere and both of them are great perimeter shooters. In fact Vandy and Uconn share more similarity's than differences, and this game could have the same ending if UT plays like their capable of.

hikerdude writes:

When I see Skylar quoted about what good defense the team is playing, I just have to laugh. Why does a reporter talk to Skylar about defense? Bless his heart, he does try. VOLS will beat Vandy tonight even if Skylar plays no defense.

Govols2012 writes:

We have not played good on the road yet so it could go one of two ways. We get blown out by 20pts or we beat them by a single digit lead

Navaloranges writes:

in response to GONAVY:

Agree. And not funny.

You should change your name to GOvandy. You ALWAYS defend vandy and trash posters on goVOLSxtra for cracking vandy jokes. It's an in-state rivalry. There WILL be statements and jibes toward the commode-doors. What seems to be the problem? Are you a Vol fan, or vandy? If you're a vandy fan, don't worry about it, it's a VOL site. And if you're a UT fan, I just don't get it. And yes, Witchy's post WAS funny. If it offended you, maybe you're on the wrong site.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to Govols2012:

We have not played good on the road yet so it could go one of two ways. We get blown out by 20pts or we beat them by a single digit lead

Witch Doctor say everyone forget to figure in the Voodoo factor.....Witch Doctor say wary of strange happenings and events!! Witch Doctor say the Voodoo is on the lose in Memorial tonight! Witch Doctor already started drinking early so it gonna be a good night! lol.
Bones never lie.
Wary!! Wary!! VANDY!! Witch Doctor say about 8 you turn to Candy!! Wary!!
(voodoo curse)

voltrack89 writes:

Why is Vandy allowed by the NCAA to have such a stupid gym layout? There are 342 division one basketball teams and as far as I know, Vandy is the only one with such a layout.

johnlg00 writes:

In his quiet, understated manner, Martin continues to amaze me with his insight into the game and the development of players. He and Pearl seem to be almost polar opposites in personality, but that just shows that there is more than one way to be successful in this crazy game. I keep going back to how I think Martin likely comes across in the living rooms of recruits' parents. He may not come across in the same extroverted, never-met-a-stranger manner that Pearl personifies, but he just seems to radiate an earnestness that leaves people in no doubt that he means what he says, and would say the same thing tomorrow that he told you today. As the team improves, more and more good recruits will be interested to hear what he has to say and the results can only be good for the program going forward.

sambad writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor will be inconspicuously hidden in crowd. Witch Doctor see bad voodoo for Vandy. Witch Doctor first gonna paint the Gym like a end zone and that will keep them away for some time, then Witch Doctor gonna paint a room to look like James Franklins Butt so the media will all get lost. Witch Doctor smell upset brewing or maybe the taco Witch Doctor lost in desk couple weeks ago. Witch Doctor say wary Vandy! Wary!
Bones never lie.

I think Bones lied but at least Zo looks good in his orange blazer.

AFTiger writes:

I'm predicting a blowout.

Let's say, 65-47, Vandy.

What do you guys think?

sorkb writes:

in response to Samuel_L_Jackson_dares_you_to_say_what_again:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The bench location! That's it! OR Vandy is just better than the BO this year. ONE THREE POINTER TONIGHT. IT WAS THE BENCH LOCATION HAHAHAHA

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