UT men reach Puerto Rico destination, look to show they've arrived on the court

Tennessee guard Armani Moore (4) defends against guard Delbert Love (3) during the first half at Thompson-Boling Arena Friday, Nov. 9, 2012. Tennessee won 76-67 over Kennesaw State. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer, Knoxville News Sentinel

Tennessee guard Armani Moore (4) defends against guard Delbert Love (3) during the first half at Thompson-Boling Arena Friday, Nov. 9, 2012. Tennessee won 76-67 over Kennesaw State. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Following a slight mix-up in what gym it would call home on Tuesday afternoon, the Tennessee men's basketball team took to the floor in San Juan for practice in preparation of the Puerto Rico Tip-off beginning Thursday.

A day of travel Tuesday served as a springboard to what will amount to a three-game in four-day proving ground for the Vols.

Tennessee will face UNC Asheville, a program located 117 miles outside of Knoxville, approximately 1,625 miles from the UT campus on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. on ESPNU.

Having practiced at Coliseo Mario Quijote Morales in Guaynabo on Tuesday, the Vols will get their first look at Coliseo Rodriquez, the tournament's home, at an 11:15 a.m. EST practice today.

Awaiting their meeting on the floor, the Vols and Bulldogs crossed paths in the baggage claim area of Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport on Tuesday. The two landed within moments of each other in Puerto Rico with UT arriving via Atlanta and Asheville coming via Charlotte.

No sparks flew upon the confrontation.

Maymon With Team: Injured Tennessee senior Jeronne Maymon (knee) made the trip to Puerto Rico with the Vols and is no longer on crutches. He will not play in the tournament.

Even on the Island vs. Even Asheville: Tennessee basketball is making its third appearance in Puerto Rico and holds a 3-3 overall record on the island. The Vols went 2-1 in the 1999 Puerto Rico Holiday Classic and 1-2 in the 1991 San Juan Shootout. Asheville is 1-1 this season, having most recently dropped a 67-59 tilt at UNC Wilmington. The loss followed a 10-point victory against Western Carolina in its season opener.

Making an Attempt for Stokes: A stat of concern to keep an eye on in Thursday's game is Jarnell Stokes' offensive output. Not in terms of point total, but his field-goal attempts. In a season-opening victory over Kennesaw State last Friday, the junior power forward scored 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting.

Seven shots aren't remotely enough, especially with Maymon out of the lineup, Stokes said.

"Coach definitely wants me to put up more shots," Stokes said before leaving for the trip. "Even if they're bad shots, I don't think he'd really even complain about it."

After the victory against Kennesaw, Martin praised Stokes' ability to pass from the blocks. What needs to be found, though, is a happy balance of attacking the rim and kicking the ball to an open man.

"He says sometimes I'm too unselfish," Stokes said. "I was OK with taking seven field goals, but I think for the team to be better everyone wants me to take more shots."

True Tournament: Unlike some of the other early season tournaments on the college basketball landscape that are round-robin or don't crown a true champion, the Puerto Rico Tip-Off is a true tournament with a winner's bracket and a loser's bracket. After the semifinals on Friday, the championship game will be played on Sunday after an off day on Saturday.

The Vols have said the tournament-style feel will pay dividends.

"The stakes are high down there so we're playing with a little bit of pressure real early in the year," said sophomore Josh Richardson.

Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Twitter.com/BFQuinn

Puerto Rico Tip-Off schedule

Thursday’s Games

10:30 a.m. — Akron vs. Oklahoma State (ESPNU)

12:30 — UNC Asheville vs. Tennessee (ESPNU)

5 — N.C. State vs. Penn State (ESPN2)

7:30 — Providence vs. Massachusetts (ESPNU)

Friday’s Games

10:30 a.m. — Semifinal 1 (ESPNU)

1 — Consolation 1 (ESPN3.com)

5 — Semifinal 2 (ESPN2 or ESPNU)

7:30 — Consolation 2 (ESPN3.com)

Sunday’s Games

11 a.m. — Seventh place (ESPN3.com)

1:30 — Fifth place (ESPNU)

3:30 — Third place (ESPNU)

6:30 — Championship (ESPN2)

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Comments » 11

redskinvol1 writes:

WIN IT ALL!!THIS TEAM IS GOING PLACES!!GO VOLS!!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Take more shots Stokes.

laraccoon writes:

dont drink the water .

johnlg00 writes:

Show 'em what you got, guys! Play hard, play smart, play together, and bring home that 1st place trophy. REALLY glad I get ESPNU on my cable system! I suspect those games will also be on ESPN3 for those who don't get ESPNU, even if they are not so listed.

johnlg00 writes:

PS: Glad to see that Maymon is making the trip even if he can't play. He deserves the reward of the trip and I'm sure the other guys will be glad to have him around.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

It's basketball time in Tennessee!!!!Asheville is a cake walk..OK State is Jekyll and Hyde,probably win that but beating Akron no sure thing..We are not ready for the likes of NC State..Not much chance there without Maymon

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

It's basketball time in Tennessee!!!!Asheville is a cake walk..OK State is Jekyll and Hyde,probably win that but beating Akron no sure thing..We are not ready for the likes of NC State..Not much chance there without Maymon

You're possibly right about all that. Ashville?? I don't know really. OK State. We MIGHT lose. Golly NCSt??? "Throw in the towel".lol

I'd say our defense and lack of big's fouling may do us well against NCSt. OUR bigs not foulng. We need the perimeter to produce more than the KSt. game. But also we need to pound it inside to Stokes. At this point I'd rather see Hall handle Stokes's passes than Golden's. Heck you're probably right about needing Maymon but I think keeping Hall on the team was great for us. We still have Makenjuola and Chievous. I don't know if that'll help but you have to believe it will.hehe

johnlg00 writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

It's basketball time in Tennessee!!!!Asheville is a cake walk..OK State is Jekyll and Hyde,probably win that but beating Akron no sure thing..We are not ready for the likes of NC State..Not much chance there without Maymon

IMHO, there is no need for the Vols to concede anything to NC State. They have some good players, no doubt, but they are even thinner in numbers and smaller on the inside than the Vols. Their best post player had almost as many fouls as points last year. PG Brown, SG Wood, and SF Leslie are as good at their positions as anybody in the game, but their main backups are freshmen--really GOOD freshmen, but they will still be playing in only about their third or fourth game by the time the Vols get them, if they do.

signalcorps writes:

GO VOLS

GiveHim6TDTennessee writes:

NC State is a legit contender for the Final Four. That's why the ESPN2 option is worked in for their semi final.

Sir_Spanky writes:

Lord, anything to get our minds off the footballers over in Nashburg making an instant Heisman contender out of Aaron's little brother. Barf bag, please.

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