Jarnell Stokes on the Vols' win over UMass
The horn blared and eyebrows rose.
Coming out of a media timeout with 7 minutes, 58 seconds left until halftime against Massachusetts on Sunday, Tennessee's Trae Golden and Jarnell Stokes remained on the bench.
Freshman point guard Armani Moore and little-used sophomore center Yemi Makanjuola instead took the floor. There they joined redshirt freshman combo-forward Quinton Chievous.
Even with Jordan McRae and Josh Richardson filling out the five-man look, a lineup featuring Moore (26 minutes played in 2012-13 entering the game), Chievous (33) and Makanjuola (16) on the floor together appeared, well, odd.
The rotation came partially as a result of foul trouble. Golden and starting forward Kenny Hall had two apiece.
"As a coach you can be stubborn in your ways," he said following UT's 83-69 win. "I told my staff I have to do a better job of giving Armani, Yemi and those guys a chance to play."
He did and it worked. The three combined for 41 minutes played, 11 points, 10 rebounds and two assists. Each played less minutes in the game's decisive second half, but their impact was critical.
"What happens is sometimes you put them in games where the matchups aren't right and they can't flow so they don't look as good," Martin said. "Then I take them out of the game. I just told myself I've got to give those guys a chance to play.
"They're good players, but you can't be successful if you don't have the opportunity. I had to give them a chance."
Chievous made the most of his chance. Playing additional minutes due in part to Martin's decision to bench junior forward D'Montre Edwards, Chievous scored four points and pulled down four rebounds in 23 minutes. The stats aren't eye-popping, but it doesn't reflect the strong defense and hustle plays Chievous had.
Martin said Chievous finally resembled the player that led the Vols with 15 points and nine rebounds in an early-season exhibition two weeks ago.
"Since the exhibition, I don't think he's played as hard as he's capable of playing," Martin said. "He showed that tonight."
Back to Rocky Top: The Vols lifted off from Puerto Rico at 7:10 a.m. EST and returned to Knoxville by way of Atlanta at 10:55 a.m.
Tennessee (3-1) finished the Puerto Rico Tip-Off with a 2-1 record including victories against UNC Asheville and UMass and a loss to eventual tournament champion Oklahoma State, who beat at the time No. 6 North Carolina state by 20 in the championship game.
Richie Rich: The season is young, but no player on the UT roster has improved as much as Richardson. He doesn't resemble the player who was held scoreless in five of the Vols' last eight games a year ago.
In three games in Puerto Rico, the sophomore averaged 9.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. An 11-point, nine-rebound effort, coupled with his solid-as-always defense, against UMass now stands as the best game of his career.
Think about it this way, Richardson had 21 points and 14 rebounds in eight games last February.
Golden Nuggets: Golden's six assists against Oklahoma State gave him team-high honors for the 37th time in his career.
Since his freshman year, the junior has led the Vols in assists in 28 of the past 38 games (73.7 percent).
Next Up: The Vols' next opponent, Oakland, has beaten UT the past two seasons, but is 1-3 to start 2012-13. The two will meet again Monday at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow Twitter.com/BFQuinn