The pressure is on as Tennessee preps for Arkansas' defense

Tennessee guard Brandon Lopez (24) tries to work around Vanderbilt guard Eric McClellan (1) in the second half at Thompson-Boling Arena Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. Tennessee won 58-57 over Vanderbilt. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee guard Brandon Lopez (24) tries to work around Vanderbilt guard Eric McClellan (1) in the second half at Thompson-Boling Arena Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. Tennessee won 58-57 over Vanderbilt. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Arkansas scouting report

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“Listen here,” Cuonzo Martin demanded to 15 rapt faces Thursday. “Man up right now. I want to see how you handle this pressure.”

The Tennessee men’s basketball coach let a pause linger.

Whistle.

Mayhem.

Dribbles pounded the Pratt Pavilion hardwood. Each Vol navigated a fullcourt swarm of coaches and team managers.

Now, hell awaits.

“The way Arkansas pressures the ball, you have to be able to handle the ball, whether you’re a point guard or not,” Martin said before practice. “If you can’t handle the ball, it’s going to be a long night for you.”

Or even a long Saturday afternoon. Tennessee will face up-and-down Arkansas today (TV: ESPN, 4 p.m.) at Bud Walton Arena. The Razorbacks will bring their typical helter-skelter “40 Minutes of Hell” and the potent duo of B.J. Young and Marshawn Powell.

The Vols (12-7, 3-4 SEC), meanwhile, will bring an 0-5 road record to a home court worth 31.4 points. Arkansas (12-8, 3-4) is 12-1 at home thanks to a 92.8 point-per-game attack. In seven games outside the state lines, the Razorbacks are winless and average 61.4 points.

Tennessee is coming off back-to-back home wins over Alabama and Vanderbilt. Arkansas is coming off back-to-back road losses to South Carolina and Alabama. Both reside in the murky middle of the SEC standings.

“I feel like these last two games we got over the hump,” said UT junior guard Jordan McRae, the conference’s second-leading scorer in league play at 18.9 points per game. “We’re just going to keep on pushing from there.”

McRae and the UT guards are charged with navigating a press defense forcing 18.4 turnovers per game, fifth-most nationally. They’ll do so without point guard Trae Golden. The junior is “very doubtful” after suffering a strained right hamstring in Tuesday’s win over Vanderbilt.

Asked Thursday if he can single out any one player and know he can handle the pressure, Martin drew a tongue-in-cheek smile and responded, “We have to handle their pressure. We’ll be ready to go.”

Tennessee averages 12.6 turnovers. The problem is when they’ve occurred, often late in games against trapping pressure, precisely what Arkansas thrives on.

In practices since the Vanderbilt win, the Vols worked on inbounding the ball against double teams, keeping the ball in the middle of the floor and attacking full-court pressure.

One player Martin kept an eye on? Brandon Lopez. The walk-on point guard will garner some minutes with Golden on the shelf. After sitting for five straight games, Lopez played 10 minutes against Vandy. Because of a lack of action in practice, he said his “legs got heavy” in that affair.

Style-wise, Arkansas makes Vanderbilt look like a plodding boat with its anchor down. The Hogs are on jet skis.

Lopez’s legs will get all they can handle.

The key, according Martin, is to stop Arkansas from scoring. No offense equates to no defense. If the Hogs can’t get buckets, they can’t set up coach Mike Anderson’s press.

That won’t be easy with Powell and Young roving. The two combine to average 31.8 points.

But they both battle consistency problems. Young scored 25 points against Syracuse earlier this year. He also scored seven last weekend against South Carolina. Powell scored 28 in a win over Auburn one game after going scoreless in a foul-plagued loss to Texas A&M.

When the press does appear, Martin doesn’t want passive play.

“Really it’s about getting the ball over the top of that press and attacking the rim,” he said.

Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/BFQuinn

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Comments » 26

voloffaith writes:

Road woes as handling the pressure goes....we'll see if it shows...

Basketvol writes:

I'm glad to hear they are practicing getting the ball over the top of the press and attacking the rim. I've been screaming for them to do this late in several games this year, but instead they always seem to try to muscle the ball up the floor. Once or twice they've gone over the top, and I remember at least one play where they scored. I hope to see a lot more of this against Arkansas. It sounds like it's going to be a tough matchup, especially with Golden out. Go Vols!

CoverOrange writes:

This is akin to Pearl ball. Pearl's teams always struggled against teams that were guard centric and good ball handlers. That does not describe UT. That 90 pt avg at home is somewhat padded by lower tier schools but they did manage in the 80s vs Syracuse and Oklahoma. Took two overtimes against Auburn and held Vandy to 33 pts? Hard to peg the Hogs.

hikerdude writes:

I hope we win but I expect to lose. I remember when I hoped to win AND expected to win. I liked that better. BBB

Sir_Spanky writes:

So I understand CM's gonna tie up much of Jordan McRae's minutes at point. So much for my understanding of basketball.

volfan2002 writes:

Not having a quick ball handling point guard is the reason we are 11 and 8 this season. Is there anybody out there that wants to play point guard at Tennessee that can play the position? Were wide open here point guards need to apply.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to volfan2002:

Not having a quick ball handling point guard is the reason we are 11 and 8 this season. Is there anybody out there that wants to play point guard at Tennessee that can play the position? Were wide open here point guards need to apply.

Ronrico White or what ever at UTC. Problem is UTC has a worse record with what looks on paper to be a decent team. The point can't do it all but I see what you mean here. WHEN Golden decides to play FOR us and NOT against us he's very helpful.
I'm guessing it's injuries. Some say he's a head case. Some guess other things I don't want to get into 'cause I don't know.
I'm happy though to see someone else at the position if just to see if it'll work.

That I said I hope Golden gets better and better fast...with the hamstring that is. Seriously Mr. Trae get well.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Watched both of Hogs last 2 games and found they aren't real consistent in the game plans..At So Car they pressed hard and were active on defense So Car played just as hard on defense and hit everything they threw up and drilled Hogs..At Bama they were exactly opposite..Didn't press;were lazy on defense but were in the game to the end but lost late on some fluke plays that went Bama's way..Hogs aren't a great shooting teams;don't have a 3 point shooter but rebound real well and get a lot of put backs..Game will totally come down to shooting percentage..I suspect they will shot much better at home and we will have to do the same..If we have one of our patented cold shooting games they will run us out of the gym real quick..Our shooting history at Walton isn't great and Iam sure the Hogs will shoot good on their home floor. Hogs don't defend 3 pointers well and if McRae should do well driving to the basket..Bottom line we must shoot 50% to have a chance to win and knocking down 3's is a must cause thats how the gamecocks won big

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to Basketvol:

I'm glad to hear they are practicing getting the ball over the top of the press and attacking the rim. I've been screaming for them to do this late in several games this year, but instead they always seem to try to muscle the ball up the floor. Once or twice they've gone over the top, and I remember at least one play where they scored. I hope to see a lot more of this against Arkansas. It sounds like it's going to be a tough matchup, especially with Golden out. Go Vols!

Agree..No doubt we will miss Goldens up court ball handling and I don't know who will make up for Goldens 10 PPG output..Best hope is McRae shoots well and he should have no problem driving to the basket..Stokes will have to hit the point blank shots and make his put backs,,Richardson is the wild card in this one he has an awesome pull up near the foul line that the hogs can't defend..McBee also has a chance to make a difference because he will get plenty of open looks..Enough of the McBricks from Skyler time for him to be consistent like against Bama

tennlions writes:

Given the Arkansas style of play, the fact that it's a road game and Tennessee's PG deficiency, a win would be huge.

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

Easy to game plan and decide how to attack. Its a different story when it comes to execution.
UT 56
Ark. 63

SORRY!!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

Agree..No doubt we will miss Goldens up court ball handling and I don't know who will make up for Goldens 10 PPG output..Best hope is McRae shoots well and he should have no problem driving to the basket..Stokes will have to hit the point blank shots and make his put backs,,Richardson is the wild card in this one he has an awesome pull up near the foul line that the hogs can't defend..McBee also has a chance to make a difference because he will get plenty of open looks..Enough of the McBricks from Skyler time for him to be consistent like against Bama

I agree with nearly all of both your posts. I don't like the Vols' odds in this game, given their history, and not just THIS year's history. Arky has always given the Vols a tough battle at their place. Most teams struggle on the road. Even though Arky is not an elite team this year, and neither are the Vols, a Vol win would be HUGE for them going forward.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to jhayes0926#638474:

Easy to game plan and decide how to attack. Its a different story when it comes to execution.
UT 56
Ark. 63

SORRY!!

That result is not my hope, but it might be a smart way to bet.

Samuel_L_Salma_GataBait_HowBoutDemCowboys_BlueWaffles88 writes:

Won't be an easy game for you Vols. Arky at home will be tough for any opponent in the SEC. 40 MINUTES OF H***...

ncvol17 writes:

predicted espn tv rating 0.5

orangecountyvols writes:

Another one of those deals where we're the 2nd game on ESPN 2 and of course N D and Depaul are in freakin' overtime.

So it's probably going to be 15 minutes into the game before we can see it.

HtownVol writes:

29-20 Ark, Tenn refuses to run back on defense.

Martin has been here 2 seasons, you would think he would have recruited a PG this season. Lopez will not shoot the ball no matter how open he is and Stokes is going to turn over the ball or get a charge every time he has the ball more than 2 seconds.

HtownVol writes:

Bob Knight "the turnover margin usually reflects the team that turns it over less"
DUH

jandjhome#228397 writes:

Orange Country Vols it would have been ok if we missed it all, we are terrible.

jt45 writes:

Pathetic coaching and pathetic defense from start to finish.

eduardo writes:

the same things beat this team game after game. I feel as though Michael Jordan's Friend is coaching here again!!!!!!

eduardo writes:

It doesnt take that long to turn around a bad team and program. Boy it takes even less time to turn a good team and program to bad! And I do mean BAD!!!

Ironcity writes:

This team is so easy to defend when we don't try to score. watching this game I felt Conzos goal was to hold Arky under 75pts and he was willing to score only 50 to do it. Do we even try to score? How often do we run offense to the final 10 seconds without even thinking of trying to shot? Heck Lopez passed up a lay up one time to pass it to Stokes 25ft from the basket.

The one positive in this game is if they will allow Lopez to shot he should be the back up PG when Golden gets back. In the meantime he should start.

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to jandjhome#228397:

Orange Country Vols it would have been ok if we missed it all, we are terrible.

jandj,

My mistake. I thought I saw it was on ESPN 2 so kept waiting. But, it was ESPN when I switched over there. You're right, didn't miss much. I won't get into the x's and o's so to speak, but we all know no point guard to set up the plays............making everyone else have to try and act like a point guard.........hence turnovers..........'and the result was inevitible.

Realityvolgrad writes:

Enjoyed everyone's specific analysis of the game today. Not being analytic, perhaps we can attribute the loss to mediocrity which generally explains the UT Sports Program. Thanks Chancellor Cheeks. Let's get academic!

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