Mike Strange: Vols had a plan, but then they got hit

Mike Strange
Tennessee's Josh Richardson (1) defends himself as the referee, left, gives him a warning during the first half an NCAA college basketball game against Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013. Arkansas defeated Tennessee 73-60. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)

Tennessee's Josh Richardson (1) defends himself as the referee, left, gives him a warning during the first half an NCAA college basketball game against Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013. Arkansas defeated Tennessee 73-60. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)

Former Arkansas head basketball coach Nolan Richardson, left, and chancellor David Gearhart acknowledge a painting during halftime of an NCAA college basketball game between Arkansas and Tennessee in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013. Arkansas defeated Tennessee 73-60. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)

Former Arkansas head basketball coach Nolan Richardson, left, and chancellor David Gearhart acknowledge a painting during halftime of an NCAA college basketball game between Arkansas and Tennessee in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013. Arkansas defeated Tennessee 73-60. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — I'm not sure what Tennessee's plan was coming out of halftime Saturday at Bud Walton Arena.

No doubt, it had something to do with taking better care of the basketball against withering Arkansas defensive pressure.

An ESPN national audience, after all, didn't need Bobby Knight's Hall of Fame analysis to understand 12 turnovers were why the Vols trailed Arkansas 35-25 at the break.

But as the once-fearsome Mike Tyson said of good strategic intentions in the boxing ring:

Everybody's got a plan until they get hit.

So we're left to wonder what the Vols' plan was. They got hit.

On the first possession of the second half, freshman guard Armani Moore got trapped into a turnover 40 feet from the basket. Eight seconds had elapsed.

On the second possession, 35 seconds elapsed before Josh Richardson heaved a desperate 25-footer, too late to avoid a shot-clock violation.

Third possession, Richardson, hounded by a Razorback defender, dribbled the ball on the sideline.

On the fourth possession, no time elapsed at all.

Jarnell Stokes ripped down a rebound of a missed Arkansas shot but the ball never got pointed toward the UT end of the floor before Razorback Michael Qualls stripped Stokes and fed Coty Clarke for a dunk.

By that point, the Razorbacks led 39-25, a Bud Walton Arena crowd of 14,029 was on fire and the prospects of Tennessee's first road win of the season were downgraded from serious condition to critical.

Those prospects eventually expired by a 73-60 score.

"It was a real tough way to start the half,'' said UT guard Brandon Lopez.

"They were real good pressuring the ball. They played four, even five guards at a time, so it was real tough to deal with their pressure.''

The Vols, to their credit, had the moxie to hang around in a tough environment, just close enough to keep fans from flipping the channel, but without really threatening.

In the end, whatever they did right was undone by 20 turnovers, one short of their season high.

How damaging were the lost possessions? The box score quantified it as a 27-6 Arkansas advantage in points off turnovers.

Another way to view the carnage is how many opportunities might have been squandered to get the ball inside into the hands of Stokes and Kenny Hall.

UT's two big men were identical 6-of-7 shooting. Too bad they didn't shoot more.

But we probably could have seen this coming. Arkansas leads the SEC in forcing turnovers. The Vols have been susceptible to pressure, even with a healthy Trae Golden available, which he was not Saturday.

At halftime, retired coach Nolan Richardson took a bow, a nod to the Razorbacks' 1994 national championship.

Richardson created the attacking, unrelenting defensive style that was Arkansas' identity in those good old days. That identity faded through a couple of ill-fated coaching hires, but now Richardson's old protégé, Mike Anderson, is trying to bring it back.

"We're playing a tremendous brand of defense,'' Anderson said.

"We're making people take tough shots. Our press, even when it's not making steals, it throws people out of rhythm.''

As to that, Anderson could get an amen from the Vols. Jordan McRae, UT's leading scorer, never found a beat of rhythm. Continuously dogged by Razorbacks, McRae had two field goals, one on a rebound put-back.

"But it shouldn't be nothing we shouldn't be able to handle,'' said Josh Richardson, his face a frown of frustration.

Maybe back home at Thompson-Boling Arena, the Vols could have handled it. Out there in the great big hostile world, though, it's a different story.

"The road environment definitely has something to do with it,'' Stokes acknowledged. "These guys, they feed off their crowd. That makes it that much harder to handle the ball and run your offense.''

In short, harder to follow the plan. Because on the road, you will get hit.

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 » 3

eduardo writes:

We have been tkod all yr!

wigmeister writes:

Dribble, dribble, dribble, dribble, lots of guys running around, dribble, even Stokes dribble, running out of time, throw up a brick, other team scores, dribble, dribble, awe, you get the idea. Supported CCM, but something is not working. CCM, nice guy, but like Dooley, don't see the training for improvement by the coaching staff, and do not see good game management and decision making. Hope we improve soon, or this is another throw away season. Like the Cubs, wait till next year, but with the Cubs, next year never came!

volthrunthru#658770 writes:

UT Basketball is in the middle of another Hamilton-Hire meltdown. This team looks lost a lot of the time---almost like a playground team that has not practiced being in specified positions on either offense or defense.

Since this is not smellevision, we only know they look as if they stink. Players here during Pearl's last (worst) year have regressed. Nobody plays defense or goes toward the rim. UT stands for Unbelievable Turnovers. The # have been amazing, yet continue.

They do not know dribbling is best done with eyes open, or crashing boards works best near board, or 3-point shots are at least supposed to hit rim or backboard or net or something connected. Maybe they need a note in their mittens: "Winners take care of the basketball and play better defense than losers." Maybe somebody could show them and the coaching staff what defense looks like. Nobody in either group knows.
UT has replaced Hall-of-Fame Fulmer with NACAAproblemsKiffen, Can'tWinInTheSECDooley, lost-to-Dooley-Jones, and replaced-Pearl-with-Martin---whose staff delivered horrible basketball once again today.
Three people who orchestrated the demise of Athletics: PresOfTheWeek/Cheek/Hamilton. They became PresOfTheWeek/Cheek/Hart. A among them they have decimated what Dickey, Fulmer, Pearl, Delmonico & Summitt built.
This group played Bruce Pearl, saying they would back him, but left him hanging with the NCAA; had a Swimming Coach w/morals problems, a baseball coach who replaced Del Monico, but was not SEC caliber; yet the replacement’s replacement had to apologize for last year's performance.
.
When Bobby Knight, himself a hall of fame coach, all but says this UT Basketball Team is poorly coached, you gotta wonder. But it is the same in almost every major sport. This is what almo$t $500-million dollars athletics budget spent have bought since Hamilton fired Fulmer on Homecoming Week Monday, knowing it would demoralize the team.

The governor needs to have the administration of the program investigated by a special master or panel.

The program is gasping for air, but most writers and reporters in Knoxville do not have business degrees or business experience, so do not understand how much trouble the program REALLY is in. These news people have no idea of accounting procedures. They cannot follow the money, because they do not understand financial books. They are reduced to being cheerleaders or excuse mongers to keep getting quotes.
UT’s is a program whose peers are flush financially, yet borrows from its school to fix the fix that was supposed to be the fix for firing Fulmer. Fulmer's real problem was that Cutcliffe got a golden job, later in that season than this, when Dooley was fired---so Fulmer had to quickly find an OC, and those available were not good at all. Presto! Hall of Fame coach gets fired.

UT athletics needs to be looked at by people other than insiders and twenty-somethings with bachelors degrees in journalism.

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