Mike Strange: Vols score 36; fluke or omen?

Mike Strange
Tennessee guard Trae Golden (11) goes to the basket against Georgetown forward Mikael Hopkins (3) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Photo by Nick Wass, Associated Press

Tennessee guard Trae Golden (11) goes to the basket against Georgetown forward Mikael Hopkins (3) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

WASHINGTON — A couple of weeks ago some guy named Jack Taylor of Grinnell College scored 138 points in a game. Tennessee scored 36 points Friday night.

So basketball is a funny game. But I didn't see anyone laughing at the Verizon Center here in our nation's capital.

Not esteemed Hall of Fame coaches Bobby Knight, who was on the ESPN2 broadcast team, nor John Thompson, who built Georgetown University into a national power and dropped by to watch his son John III run the franchise.

Not towering Ralph Sampson, who was in the crowd, perhaps scouting on behalf of Virginia, his alma mater and UT's next opponent.

Georgetown 37, Tennessee 36.

Makes a pretty good halftime score, but this was a final.

"I knew it was a one-point game,'' said Trae Golden, UT's point guard, "but after the game, it really sank in — we only scored 36 points.''

I don't even believe erstwhile UT defensive taskmaster Kevin O'Neill would have gotten a chuckle out of this stinker.

O'Neill was the coach the last time the Vols scored this few points. It was in a 43-35 loss at Auburn in January 1997. A couple of weeks earlier, O'Neill's team finished 40 minutes in a 33-33 deadlock at Penn State, then lost 42-41 in overtime.

The shot clock was introduced to college basketball in the 1985-86 season to avoid scores like this.

And yet 37-36 proved unavoidable.

A few blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue, Congress is wrestling to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. Tennessee is teetering toward an offensive cliff.

Three games ago the Vols scored 45 points in a 17-point loss to Oklahoma State. In that game Tennessee produced only 13 baskets, two fewer than against Georgetown.

The difference between 45 then and 36 Friday was at the free-throw line.

Tennessee made 14 of 22 free throws against Oklahoma State. Nothing to brag about but it towers over 3 of 11, which is the crime the Vols committed against Georgetown.

The story of the game was the Hoyas' zone defense, particularly the height and wingspan of the guys on the front end of that zone.

But there was no zone defense at the foul stripe. Just a Vol, a ball and the basket.

Kenny Hall had an 0-for-2 early, but the killers came near the end. The Vols trailed 33-32 when first Josh Richardson missed both tries, then on the next possession Jarnell Stokes did likewise.

With a couple of exceptions, this hasn't been a good free-throw shooting team in the early stages of the season. But 3 of 11, come on?

Let me interrupt this gloomy account to applaud Tennessee's defense and effort on the boards.

The Vols weren't the only ones missing shots. Georgetown was 16-of-44. There were enough combined bricks to start a new monument down on the Mall.

If not for UT's inspired defensive effort, this one would have transcended from ugly to out-of-hand ugly.

"We had a chance to win there at the end and that's all you can ask,'' said senior Sklyar McBee. "Georgetown is one of the most talented teams in the country.

"They took Indiana, the number one team in the nation, into overtime. We come to Georgetown and get beat by one. I think that shows we're a team to be reckoned with.''

Opponents might want to reckon with the Vols with a zone defense after watching Georgetown's success.

Tennessee could neither penetrate nor shoot over the zone. The Vols were 3-of-16 beyond the 3-point line.

I asked Bert Bertelkamp how many times he got to shout "Money!" into the Vol Network microphone.

"Just once,'' he replied.

There probably aren't a bunch of zone defenses out there as lengthy and as oppressive as Georgetown's. Still, the suspicion remains that this won't be Tennessee's last offensively challenged night of the season.

Maybe 36 is a fluke. Maybe it's an omen.

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 » 51

redskinvol1 writes:

THE CLUTCH PLAYER WAS ON THE BENCH!!

ULTIMATEVOLUNTEER writes:

Not a big deal. Great defense. Off night on offense but with Maymon-the zone can be had with him at the free throw line. He busted it well last year.

vol98champ writes:

It has been obvious for several years that UT cannot play well against a zone. This should surprise no one. When the 3's aren't falling this team is hard to watch.

notorange writes:

in response to ULTIMATEVOLUNTEER:

Not a big deal. Great defense. Off night on offense but with Maymon-the zone can be had with him at the free throw line. He busted it well last year.

I'm not sure if mayman will be back anytime soon. Is there any word on his condition or when he may be back? Seems his knee problem is as much a secret as the fb coaching search.

notorange writes:

in response to notorange:

I'm not sure if mayman will be back anytime soon. Is there any word on his condition or when he may be back? Seems his knee problem is as much a secret as the fb coaching search.

Maymon not mayman..

hikerdude writes:

Free throws, free throws. Going to get us beat more than once this year. All it takes to fix the inability to shoot free throws is time in the gym. I'm surprised that a CQM coached team lets this continue.

DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho writes:

I'm not a basketball guy, but I think it's pretty impressive that our defense held the Hoyas to 37 points. We need to also shoot the damn ball, but wow. If martin can get us some shooters, then we may have a pretty good season. Again, I didn't see the game and I'm not a basketball guy, but I am impressed with the defense.

txvolsfan writes:

in response to ANYONE_BUT_LIBS:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

idiot, proof you can't fix stupid!!! you must be a lib!!!

scvol12 writes:

The worst game I have seen since Kevin Oneill. I would rather watch paint dry. If this is what Cuonzo strategy is going to be, my season tickets are going up for sale.

Tennfan4075 writes:

This team is really hard to enjoy.

willphill#241787 writes:

Cuonzo ball. Slow, plodding, boring and unsuccessful. The last installment of Mike Hamilton's legacy.

AlexAndersonAAradio writes:

Sure Georgetown plays a great zone, maybe the best in the country, but there is still now excuse for the way they attacked it. The weakness of a zone is always the middle of the free throw line, and we never made it a priority to get the ball in the middle. It seemed like we were attacking the baseline or the basket and it was easily shut down. I know Cuonzo is a man to man guy but he must come up with a much better scheme when teams play zone. Overall I'm proud of our effort and the way these guys represented the Vols.

volnvette03 writes:

in response to willphill#241787:

Cuonzo ball. Slow, plodding, boring and unsuccessful. The last installment of Mike Hamilton's legacy.

We played probably the worst offensive game I have ever seen. However, one freakin basket and we win. Come on fella, CCM and the Vols had numerous opportunities to win in the last 4 minutes and they choked! If we'd had win, tones would be much different. We need another Chris Loftin!

ronburgundy (Inactive) writes:

I really hope Martin is recruiting point guards. Golden's a decent 2nd guard, but just doesn't have the b-ball IQ to direct an offense. McBee is completely one dimensional. Hang out on the perimeter and jack up 3's. Stokes will never be able to be at his best until the perimeter game takes pressure off the guys down low. It seems if you double team Stokes, you've got a good shot at beating this team.

BigOrangeSmoker writes:

a sign of thangs to come until we get a coach

eb502us#225637 writes:

It's going to be ugly on offense all season long.

We don't have a player at the 2 and 3 position that can keep a defense honest. Sad when you consider how many 6'4 - 6'7 players we have that were recruited to play those positions.

When a former walk-on who can't create his own shot (McBee) is your best player at the 2, you know you've got problems.

eric022164 writes:

in response to notorange:

I'm not sure if mayman will be back anytime soon. Is there any word on his condition or when he may be back? Seems his knee problem is as much a secret as the fb coaching search.

Maymon left Pratt earlier this week on crutches. Several people think he is lost for the season

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Someone said that we may have played the "best" zone in the country. Well Indiana didn't have that much of a problem scoring. However they probably are the best team in the country. At least everyone seems to believe it.
We did bad against there D. It's too true. However we also did bad on our foul shooting. We did not test their zone at all. We had way to many silly fouls. Lot's of stuff for Martin to talk about the next few days.

Yep we could have won this one. We SHOULD have. But I for one didn't believe we'd even be in it this year.

TheFuj writes:

When the Mc's miss, we miss. McBrick and McBrick II just cannot hit consistently.
Plus you are not going to win many games shooting 27% from the free throw line.

eric022164 writes:

in response to ANYONE_BUT_LIBS:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

your basketball IQ is zero. Team wins 9 of 10 at the end of the season last year with that loss being KY. They got better and are getting better this year.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to eric022164:

Maymon left Pratt earlier this week on crutches. Several people think he is lost for the season

Too bad if true. I think Maymon would have demanded better offense last night. He would have demanded the ball.

huntined#565710 writes:

Foul shots and not having a player that can drive to the basket kills this team...

Ironcity writes:

in response to AlexAndersonAAradio:

Sure Georgetown plays a great zone, maybe the best in the country, but there is still now excuse for the way they attacked it. The weakness of a zone is always the middle of the free throw line, and we never made it a priority to get the ball in the middle. It seemed like we were attacking the baseline or the basket and it was easily shut down. I know Cuonzo is a man to man guy but he must come up with a much better scheme when teams play zone. Overall I'm proud of our effort and the way these guys represented the Vols.

You mentioned attacking the zone. I never saw us attack the zone. We chucked the ball around for 30 seconds and then jacked up an impossible 3pointer or a contested two. This team needs to take the easy shoots. Push the ball down court against a team with 4 tall guys. This score was by design and it was ugly. We are a really bad ball handling team and it hurts when you have to make two good passes in a row.

Games like this will get us out of the NCAA conversation quickly even if it was against a top 25 team. One last thing, none of the new players look like they are going to be able to help this team this year. What a shame.

JimmyJoe writes:

We need an Offensive Coordinator.... And Maymon back. And goofy Dr. Jekyll McBee to hit his dang shots every now and then.

D60 writes:

I hope Hart is looking for a BB coach too,Martin is the worse floor coach I've seen,3 times to set up a play and we don't get close to a good shot

shipperman#280095 writes:

Obviously we have a better BB defense than we had in football

Vol_in_Mich writes:

You know it's bad when your sorry football team could outscore your sorry basketball team.

usnavyvolfan__times_free_press_can_shove_it writes:

Why in God's name can this team NOT hit FT's?? I've never understood it. It's free points; no one's blocking you, waving their hands in your face, etc. Oh,well, on to the next one.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Well, that's at least part of one way. The thing is, it doesn't work that well if the guards are trying to throw that pass over 6'8" perimeter guys, and the post guys are having to try to catch it and finish down low against more 6'8"+ guys.

A more reliable way to beat the zone is to penetrate it to the foul-line area with either the dribble or the pass. Since it appears that none of the Vol guards feel confident doing that, they need to station Stokes in the foul circle. From there, he can step out to screen the outside defenders to free up OPEN 3-pt shots. He has the strong hands to catch passes in that area, where he can choose to shoot the jumper or take it to the hoop. Hall can roam between the blocks where he is available for high-low passes from Stokes.

One thing is for sure: unless the Vols can come up with SOME strategy for defeating zones, they will have more games like this. As you say, they dribble WAY too much outside, pass around the horn too much, and rarely search the middle for quick, decisive passes to the post players, even when they are open or have their men sealed. And of course, the free-throw shooting is atrocious.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho:

I'm not a basketball guy, but I think it's pretty impressive that our defense held the Hoyas to 37 points. We need to also shoot the damn ball, but wow. If martin can get us some shooters, then we may have a pretty good season. Again, I didn't see the game and I'm not a basketball guy, but I am impressed with the defense.

The Vols surely could have used Robert Hubbs last night, but by the time he gets here, the front court will be dangerously depleted. IMHO, it's not so much that the Vols have no shooters as it is that they don't do much to set them up to shoot free. A team needs to run patterns against a zone. Martin's motion offense works fairly well against man-to-man defenses, but they need to have more of a PLAN against zones.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to eric022164:

Maymon left Pratt earlier this week on crutches. Several people think he is lost for the season

Very sad for this team if he does miss the season, but it could be a blessing in disguise for next year's team if he can get a medical redshirt. Although I think he needs more seasoning, there is a good chance Stokes will go pro after this season, leaving Yemi as the only experienced post player, and he is FAR from being an adequate replacement even for Kenny Hall.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

Someone said that we may have played the "best" zone in the country. Well Indiana didn't have that much of a problem scoring. However they probably are the best team in the country. At least everyone seems to believe it.
We did bad against there D. It's too true. However we also did bad on our foul shooting. We did not test their zone at all. We had way to many silly fouls. Lot's of stuff for Martin to talk about the next few days.

Yep we could have won this one. We SHOULD have. But I for one didn't believe we'd even be in it this year.

Several good points here. If you will recall, I all but predicted that the Vols would get blitzed last night. Playing as badly on offense as they did, they still had a chance--several chances!--to win it at the end. Says a lot for their defense that they held G'town down so well--they scored over 80 against Indiana.

geraldodell#1377039 writes:

What can be said about this offense other than it is very stale. Too much dribbling out front against zone defenses, then having to heave desperation 3's in order to not create a shot clock violation. Got to have movement and crisp passing to score against a zone defense.

kazoo writes:

NO excuse for the lame free-throw shooting. Poor coaching. Do you think a coach K team at Duke has EVER shot 3-11, missing four straight late in the game? No! The Vols are pretenders. Any major college player who cannot make a clutch free throw--or at least one of two--is a pretender. And our last two possessions to end the game were another example of pretending. Two passes and heave up a 25-footer--twice! That's what bad teams do.

VolQB writes:

10 years without UT swagger is taking it's toll. Was that Dooley on the sideline? CM is clueless when the game is on the line. Two jacked-up threes? Four bricks in the last minute? Same phooey as last two years.

Is Stokes really a All-SEC candidate? 36 points, really? 36 was our scoring goal in 6th grade.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to usnavyvolfan__times_free_press_can_shove_it:

Why in God's name can this team NOT hit FT's?? I've never understood it. It's free points; no one's blocking you, waving their hands in your face, etc. Oh,well, on to the next one.

Free-throw percentages have been declining for years throughout college basketball. Kids these days often don't have backyard hoops where they can practice free-throws hour after hour on their own. Playground ball doesn't even have free-throws, and that is perhaps 90% of the ball most players play these days in their early years. Youth leagues are as much about winning as they are teaching proper fundamentals, so most kids just don't learn them. When a kid has played 10 or 12 years without grooving a reliable shooting stroke, they can't fix that in a couple of years in college.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to kazoo:

NO excuse for the lame free-throw shooting. Poor coaching. Do you think a coach K team at Duke has EVER shot 3-11, missing four straight late in the game? No! The Vols are pretenders. Any major college player who cannot make a clutch free throw--or at least one of two--is a pretender. And our last two possessions to end the game were another example of pretending. Two passes and heave up a 25-footer--twice! That's what bad teams do.

See my other comment about free-throw shooting. Duke gets a lot of surburban kids who DO have hoops in their backyards. Guys like Austin Rivers and Seth Curry had fathers who were good shooters, so both genetics and their relatively privileged backgrounds are in their favor when it comes to shooting and other fundamentals.

doubledeuce22Q writes:

Nobody has to be worried about us making any kind of a post-season run...we could play Nashville diesel college and they could probably beat us if they just run a zone all game. I learned in organized basketball when I was 9 years old how to break a zone...and it is not by passing the ball from top to wing to other wing to top until the shot clock is at 6 seconds and then hurling up a 2 cent shot. I am extremely concerned not only that this happened, but also at how after the game CCM said that he was really proud of our guys, but that the shots just werent falling. I know that there are some young guys who need to hear some positive thoughts, but also,they need to realize that they are NOWHERE closer to being able to play against a zone as they were in the pitiful performance in last year's SEC tourney when we did the smae thing against Ole' Miss. I promise that this is not the last that we have seen of the zone...anybody watching film on us should run it. Also, one last thought...have we ever actually worked on something else that I learned when I was in grade school basketball called the BOUNCE PASS? Stokes was 100% from the floor and shot only 2 times. Pitiful. Give our most dominant player the ball! Of course you cant throw the entry to the post over the top of a team as lengthy as G'town. ZONE PENETRATION AND DISH OFF...BOUNCE PASS...and oh yeah, FREE THROWS! I know that was tough to read for some, but that game was sure tough to watch for a die hard UT fan who knows a thing or two about the game of basketball.

murrayvol writes:

Wish I thought it was a fluke but, alas, this team can't shoot consistently beyond 4 feet (which includes free throws). And that's not going to get better between now and March.

I still think they'll play great defense, win 20+, and get to the tourney but that's about it for the upside.

Ask yourself this question. Have you EVER seen a Duke team with a critical mass of players who couldn't shoot?

John_10065 writes:

in response to ronburgundy:

I really hope Martin is recruiting point guards. Golden's a decent 2nd guard, but just doesn't have the b-ball IQ to direct an offense. McBee is completely one dimensional. Hang out on the perimeter and jack up 3's. Stokes will never be able to be at his best until the perimeter game takes pressure off the guys down low. It seems if you double team Stokes, you've got a good shot at beating this team.

Surely you keep up with recruiting just a little.

We already signed the #9 PG in the country for next year, Hubbs.

samvol writes:

the bright side is that the vols defense held a ranked GT to below 40

BxVol writes:

Ugly game!Our defense was good not great as Georgetown blew shot after shot at the rim.I wish Golden had taken the last shot because he can create off the dribble.Yes, Maymon will help when he comes back.Jarnell is not NBA ready and will do himself a disservice if he leaves early.He needs to work on moves around the basket besides free throw shooting.Jarnell needs to make a quick move before he is doubled, or pass out to an open man for the shot.
Proud of how the Vols hung tough with a very good Georgtown team who themselves had a terrible shooting night.Turnovers, foul shots and no penetration of the zone did us in.Hope Coach Martin reruits some players that can get there own shot as I don`t recall many screens last night.Sure hoping Maymon returns soon and also that Hall makes short range jumpers,turn arounds which he is capable of.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to John_10065:

Surely you keep up with recruiting just a little.

We already signed the #9 PG in the country for next year, Hubbs.

Hubbs is a shooting guard. The best hope for help at PG next year is Landry. He is not highly-rated right now, but he is said to be a great ball-handler and a natural PG.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

In all my years I have never seen a zone defense that good..It was effective because Gtown is big and the players arm span made it near impossible to get a pass to Stokes because 2 men were their to collapse on him immediately..It would take a 7 footer to get off a decent shot and Stokes likes to work off the dribble which was impossible..There are ways to combat a zone((we did it successfully against Oakland)) but Martin appears to be schooled in only one!!That is shoot it over their heads..But when the whole team is shooting brick after brick that goes out the window.In the last 5 minutes I was screaming for McRae or Golden to just drive the lane and take the foul but it never happened..I have to really question Martin missing the obvious solution of sending McRae to the hoop even if he wouldn't have got off a good shot..50% of the time he would have drawn the foul!!!!Richardson missing two FTs coming out of a timeout is inexcusable;especially when Stokes did the same. Edwards has to stop thinking he's DWade! Edwards gets 11 minutes and throws up no less then 6 bricks as fast he can and had 3 shots stuffed back in his face. Unbelievably stupid decision making for someone playing college basketball..Ive seen better walk ons than Edwards.

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to hikerdude:

Free throws, free throws. Going to get us beat more than once this year. All it takes to fix the inability to shoot free throws is time in the gym. I'm surprised that a CQM coached team lets this continue.

Absolutely. I'd have every player on the team shooting them, every day. Anybody who has an average under 65% has to shoot 100/day. Everybody else has to shoot 50 for every one they miss in a game (before the next game). Maybe I'm low on the numbers, but something must be done. There's no excuse for poor free throw shooting among players at this level.

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

In all my years I have never seen a zone defense that good..It was effective because Gtown is big and the players arm span made it near impossible to get a pass to Stokes because 2 men were their to collapse on him immediately..It would take a 7 footer to get off a decent shot and Stokes likes to work off the dribble which was impossible..There are ways to combat a zone((we did it successfully against Oakland)) but Martin appears to be schooled in only one!!That is shoot it over their heads..But when the whole team is shooting brick after brick that goes out the window.In the last 5 minutes I was screaming for McRae or Golden to just drive the lane and take the foul but it never happened..I have to really question Martin missing the obvious solution of sending McRae to the hoop even if he wouldn't have got off a good shot..50% of the time he would have drawn the foul!!!!Richardson missing two FTs coming out of a timeout is inexcusable;especially when Stokes did the same. Edwards has to stop thinking he's DWade! Edwards gets 11 minutes and throws up no less then 6 bricks as fast he can and had 3 shots stuffed back in his face. Unbelievably stupid decision making for someone playing college basketball..Ive seen better walk ons than Edwards.

I have to agree with you on one thing. I was yelling at the TV for Golden to drive in those last minutes. He's kind of a phenom at that, and that floater. He would have gotten to the line a lot more, same with McRae, and those are two of the best free throw shooters on the team. Too bad McBee can't be taught how to drive like that. He's money at the line.

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

Well, well, well. Them Wildcats have fallen again. This time at Corrupt Arena. Two unranked teams in a row. Not looking good for a repeat for those guys in blue.

1vavolfan writes:

Scoring 45 and 36 against the only 2 decent teams you play is not a fluke, this offense is about as bad as the football team's defense. UT needs to a win 1 or 2 against quality teams because the SEC is HORRIBLE. Go ahead and laugh but I even see Kentucky as an NIT team, Florida is the only contender in the league.

wishwehadabettercoach writes:

Did Martin get fired and Do loose easily replace him

johnlg00 writes:

in response to 10seVol85_Part_Deux:

Well, well, well. Them Wildcats have fallen again. This time at Corrupt Arena. Two unranked teams in a row. Not looking good for a repeat for those guys in blue.

Watching that game, it was hard to believe that Baylor wasn't ranked, though surely they will be now. That is why many say that polls this time of year are for amusement purposes only.

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