BAYAMON, Puerto Rico — Perched behind a microphone sitting next to a slumped student-athlete, the coach flatly said, “They did a good job of being physical and of being aggressive.”
Usually it’s the opponent saying those things about Tennessee basketball.
This time, though, it was Vols coach Cuonzo Martin speaking of Oklahoma State.
The Vols were beat at their own game Friday.
Bigger, better and stronger, the Cowboys bullied cold-shooting Tennessee throughout a 62-45 thumping in the semifinals of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
“They set the tone,” Martin said.
And the Vols didn’t respond. They will now face Massachusetts in a tournament consolation game Sunday (TV: ESPNU, 3:30 p.m.).
Oklahoma State (3-0) brought too much Marcus Smart and too much Le’Bryan Nash, while Tennessee (2-1) left its offense back at the team hotel.
Toiling along without Jeronne Maymon, the Vols made just 13 of 50 shots from the floor and trailed by double digits the entire second half.
Those 13 made field goals are tied for the third-lowest total in the program’s 104-year history.
Some perspective: It was only the sixth time in 2,174 games that UT made 13 or fewer shots.
“I thought we had some wide-open 3s that guys normally make, but that’s part of the game,” Martin said. “That’s something I always tell our guys — you can’t worry whether you’re making or missing shots, you have to defend at a high level.”
Nash and Smart made that difficult. The two NBA prospects scored 17 points apiece, including a combined 21 in the second half. They also joined forces to sink 17 of OSU’s 23 made free throws.
On the other end, the Vols had no answer.
“For us to have success, especially without Jeronne Maymon, you have to be able to go inside,” Martin said. “We needed Jarnell and Kenny.”
That didn’t work, either.
Jarnell Stokes, whose production is even more crucial in Maymon’s absence, played the game in a telephone booth. A swarm of Cowboys offered him little room to operate.
A 2-for-8 shooting, seven-point outing was the result. Kenny Hall, Stokes’ frontcourt mate, fared no better. Battling foul trouble, the senior forward attempted one shot in 15 minutes.
“We wanted to stop their big men and, obviously, we did a pretty good job doing that,” Nash said.
Stokes and Trae Golden (team-high 11 points) were the only two Vols to make more than one field goal. The rest of the team shot 7-for-30 (23.3 percent).
Former Vol Philip Jurick, a 6-foot-11 center in the Oklahoma State starting lineup for injured starter Jean-Paul Olukemi, was a force frustrating Stokes. He added six points for good measure.
Jurick and starting power forward Kamari Murphy each found the bench early in the second half with foul trouble. It appeared the door was cracked open for the Vols.
Instead, the defense faltered. UT couldn’t get the stops needed, a result, Martin said, of a frustrating day on the offensive end.
On the few possessions the Vols’ defense did hold, the offense couldn’t respond.
“Shots didn’t fall,” Martin said. “That was a pressing situation where you’re trying to hurry up and get back in the game and it’s easier said than done to stay calm. It’s the emotions of the game.”
The emotions afterward weren’t any better. The Vols left the floor stonefaced. In the postgame press conference, UT junior D’Montre Edwards said the team will work to “keep confident” after such an outing.
A woeful first-half effort on the offensive end saw UT shoot 7-for-24 from the field with 10 turnovers against just three assists.
Oklahoma State struggled as well, but not to the extent of the hapless Vols. During a five-minute stretch, both teams went 1-for-10 from the field, but OSU responded to close the half.
Making six of their last 10 shots, the Cowboys took a 30-19 lead into halftime.
The Vols were outscored 24-10 in the paint and outrebounded 39-29 in the game.
Martin said the team will not practice today. Only a date with the Oklahoma State game film is scheduled.
Tennessee will play its final game in Puerto Rico on Sunday before departing for the mainland on Monday morning.
“We’re going to (go) over some things (Saturday) and get ready to play,” Martin said.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn