Mike Strange: Woolridge checked in, but the rest of the Vols checked out

Mike Strange
Kentucky's Terrence Jones, left, and Marquis Teague, right, and Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes battle after a loose ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012.

Photo by James Crisp, Associated Press

Kentucky's Terrence Jones, left, and Marquis Teague, right, and Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes battle after a loose ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012.

LEXINGTON, KY. — If Renaldo Woolridge had not scored a point Tuesday night, it would not have seemed remarkable. No message boards would have lit up in shock or suspicion.

So what if that's the way it played out? What if Woolridge didn't, in fact, score a point Tuesday night in Rupp Arena against No. 1 Kentucky?

Tennessee would have checked out at 27 points, that's what.

A score that would have made even Kevin O'Neill blush.

"My whole career,'' Woolridge said, "it's been instilled in me to answer when your number is called.''

Coach Cuonzo Martin called Woolridge's number Tuesday and he responded with 17 points. Thus, a 69-44 final count that will at least keep some of the snickers at bay.

By halftime, the Vols had managed 25 points. Fifteen of them came on 5-of-5 shooting beyond the 3-point stripe by Woolridge.

Kentucky made adjustments and Woolridge added only one basket in the second half. But still, it wasn't until the 8 minute mark that Woolridge didn't account for at least half of Tennessee's scoring.

So, good for Woolridge. And bad for everybody else. Tennessee's offense is in an awful funk.

"If you play a team of this level, you have to be able to make shots and make plays,'' said Martin.

At Vanderbilt last week, the Vols shot 35.3 percent and got beat by 18. Home against Auburn, they shot a season-low 34.4 percent and won by 15.

They lowered the bar to 28.1 percent in Rupp Arena. Take Woolridge out of the mix and the Vols were 10-of-48 from the field.

Moral of story: Auburn is at one level and Vanderbilt and Kentucky are at another.

Nobody other than Woolridge could make either a shot or a play, at least not until Jeronne Maymon finally got something going. Maymon scored all of his 13 points after halftime.

And just to provide a little contrast, Kentucky opened the game by hitting its first 11 shots. The Wildcats came back to earth after that, but the Vols were too ineffective to do anything about it.

"In the second half,'' said Martin, "we got six shutouts in a row and only got three points out of the whole deal. That's tough.''

Trae Golden made UT's first two shots and then didn't make another. Cameron Tatum stacked an 0-for-7 night onto his 0-for-9 night against Auburn. Josh Richardson was 0-for-5 and has yet to prove he can score effectively.

That takes care of three-fifths of the starting lineup. Kentucky's Anthony Davis took care of the rest.

Davis started the game with 101 blocked shots, more than seven other SEC teams and equal to UT's total. He added seven more against the Vols. If you're keeping up, it's now Davis 108, Tennessee 102.

The Vols' only points in the paint in the first half came from Yemi Makanjuola. The other bigs were in foul trouble. Jarnell Stokes didn't score until the 8:02 mark of the second half.

"Davis is one of the best if not the best in the country at changing the game,'' Martin said. "Guy like him comes along once in a lifetime.''

So at least the Vols are through with Davis. He'll be in the NBA when the next season tips off.

But what about the rest of this season? What can Martin do about Tennessee's offensive slump?

Perhaps he'll call Woolridge's number again.

Woolridge had scored a total of nine points in SEC play and didn't even see the court against Auburn. Kentucky probably thought he was as likely to cut a hip-hop video as his alter-ego Swiperboy as he was to go off on a 3-point spree Tuesday.

Say this for Woolridge, he plays his best against the best. His previous marquee game in a UT uniform was scoring 14 points in the upset of No. 1 Kansas two years ago.

"Coach Martin has been helping me keep my confidence,'' Woolridge said. "I believe he still has confidence in me and I thought it showed a little bit tonight.''

On nights when Davis isn't in the same gym, Maymon and Stokes will get their share in the paint. But I'm not sure who else Martin should have confidence in at this point.

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 » 4

OwensboroVol writes:

Another fantastic Coaching job Coach Martin. I believe that Help is on the way, but The Basketball Vols must continue to play hard in order to avoid dropping any more players.

eb502us#225637 writes:

Too many issues with this team for anyone to be consistent.'

Maymon constantly in foul trouble and never gets the ball in the right position to best utilize his talents.

Golden having the size of a one and the mentality of a two without the ability of either.

Stokes being a talented green freshman that's learning on the job. Hence the up and downs.

Tatum having the athletic and shooting ability of a potential AA but the BB IQ of a 6th grader. The result is a Division II player who's in way over his head (no pun intended) at the SEC level.

Woolridge is a man without a position. What he should play he can't and what he does play is anyone's guess. Coaches included.

Hall has skills but doesn't have the body or height to play consistently in the middle. His play is usually dictated by how big opposing teams front lines are.

McBee could be a player but his slowness afoot keeps him being able to create his own shot. Needs a good point guard or an exceptional front line player (neither of which we have) to be a consistent threat.

McRae - see Cameron Tatum without a consistent jumpshot

Yemi and Miller are both raw and inexperienced players with moderate talent. Don't get the minutes to be consistent.

Richardson has ability but has typical freshman ups and downs.


good job swipper

primetimevol writes:

Maybe it wouldn't have made a difference, but I was scratching my head why Martin didn't start the second half with the squad that finished the first half. With Woolridge hitting from the outside, Kentucky was starting to extend their defense thus opening the paint some. Whoever had Davis on them should have kept setting screens for Woolridge up top to hopefully get a switch and then maybe get a bucket closer to the cup.

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