Kenny Hall says road wins will come when mental toughness increases

Tennessee's Kenny Hall (20) is fouled by Mississippi's Murphy Holloway (31) as Reginald Buckner (23) defends during their NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, in Oxford, Miss. (AP Photo/The Oxford Eagle, Bruce Newman)  MANDATORY CREDIT; NO SALES; MAGS OUT

Photo by Bruce Newman, ©Oxford Eagle2013

Tennessee's Kenny Hall (20) is fouled by Mississippi's Murphy Holloway (31) as Reginald Buckner (23) defends during their NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, in Oxford, Miss. (AP Photo/The Oxford Eagle, Bruce Newman) MANDATORY CREDIT; NO SALES; MAGS OUT

Since his wardrobe turned orange in the fall of 2009, Kenny Hall has seen some things. He's seen 78 wins. He's seen 48 losses. He's seen 456 career points. He's seen two coaching staffs.

He's seen the lights of the Elite Eight and the lows of an NCAA investigation.

But there are two things Hall hasn't seen during his senior season at Tennessee.

One — a road victory —is the result of lacking the other — mental fortitude.

"It's not just getting a road win," Hall said Saturday after a 73-60 loss at Arkansas pushed the Vols to 0-6 on the road in this season. "It's more about being mentally tough — locking in and keying in on the task at hand."

Saturday's task was simple, in theory. The Razorbacks play fast. They press. They thrive on chaos. So UT coach Cuonzo Martin concocted a plan — go right over the top of that Hogs' press and attack the rim like a last meal.

Arkansas wasn't having it. Twenty Tennessee turnovers — many coming before the ball could traverse midcourt — unraveled Martin's plan.

Hall said the opportunities were there. And that they were lost, again.

"I feel like we still lack mental toughness," Hall continued. "I don't even feel like we've got it down all the way. As a team, it's about being consistent, staying focused, not turning the ball over, making plays, getting stops without the defensive breakdowns. At home we do a great job of it, but on the road, that's when we when we really have to step it up, really tighten up our screws."

Claiming to be any more than a middling SEC team comes with a prerequisite of winning league road games. That's a contract you can't break.

Saturday's disappointment corresponded with Hall's finest outing of the year. He made six of seven shots for a season-high 14 points. Ten of those points came after halftime, when Hall and Jarnell Stokes combined for 22 of UT's 35 points.

The Vols' guards missed 14 of 17 second-half shots.

It wasn't all fun for UT's two big men. They combined for seven of the team's 20 turnovers, including six of the 12 that allowed Arkansas to build a 35-25 halftime lead.

Hall didn't hide from the facts, counting himself among those needing more "mental toughness."

Saturday was soaked in the irony that despite opposite styles, Tennessee and Arkansas mirror each other. The Hogs entered the day 12-1 at home and 0-7 on the road. The Vols, 9-2 at home, 0-5 on the road.

Obviously, the trends won out.

Martin was asked in the postgame press conference to explain the differences between Arkansas at home versus on the road. Intentionally or not, he described his own team.

"Winning road games is mental," he said. "It's going through it. Leadership, those older guys, so to speak. And it's just finding ways to get one, more than anything else. Once you get over the mental hump, I think you're OK. They have the pieces to do it."

The next question is obvious.

Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn

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Comments » 21

claiborneh writes:

Mental toughness? I have another reason: they are not good.

JimmyJoe writes:

Maybe Kenny should be coach. They sure aren't going anywhere with the one they got now.

crmcm44#321757 writes:

Poor skills, low basketball IQ and poor coaching can only be fixed with different players and coach; mental toughness is not the issue.

Sir_Spanky writes:

Poor ole Tennessee.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

I'll take athletes and talent over the proverbial leadership and mental toughness any day of the week..Do you think KY gives a squat if Wiltjer and Noel are "Mentally Tough" ??? They want them to be physical and knock down shots!!!

kwcoach writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yeah, this is awful. They are "coached" to dribble more than any team I have ever seen. They dribble a lot but not very well. Into and out of double teams. In the post they dribble and get the ball stolen. Coaching against Tennessee would be easy. Wait until they dribble then steal it. They will not win on the road this year.

brod writes:

the next 5 games are critical to the success of the season. they could easily win all 5.

BrassMonkey writes:

The stats below point to more than lack of mental toughness, or just missing Maymom.

POINTS PER GAME
63.9
259th
OVERALL
REBOUNDS PER GAME
37.0
92nd
OVERALL
ASSISTS PER GAME
10.4
314th
OVERALL
FIELD GOAL PCT
.428
196th
OVERALL

crappieking writes:

When? After the season is over.

Ironcity writes:

in response to kwcoach:

Yeah, this is awful. They are "coached" to dribble more than any team I have ever seen. They dribble a lot but not very well. Into and out of double teams. In the post they dribble and get the ball stolen. Coaching against Tennessee would be easy. Wait until they dribble then steal it. They will not win on the road this year.

Its easier to be mentally tough when you can do the simple things. In Pearls early years it was never a concern that we were going to turn the ball over at the end of the game. The concern was the shot and the play. This team can't do the basics such as dribbling and passing so its easy to forget what the actual job is which is to score. I agree with KWcoach, I really don't think we win a road game this year even though the SEC is the worst in 50 years. I also find it hard to believe we can beat any team with ease at this point and time. This team has been poorly constructed and that can't be fixed this year. I hope coach Martin learns from his mistakes because we need him to be successful. Another coaching change and we are back to the late 80s and early 90s of mediocrity and bad basketball.

huntined#565710 writes:

They do dribble a lot but the bad thing about it is the other 4 just stand and watch them dribble

hikerdude writes:

in response to Ironcity:

Its easier to be mentally tough when you can do the simple things. In Pearls early years it was never a concern that we were going to turn the ball over at the end of the game. The concern was the shot and the play. This team can't do the basics such as dribbling and passing so its easy to forget what the actual job is which is to score. I agree with KWcoach, I really don't think we win a road game this year even though the SEC is the worst in 50 years. I also find it hard to believe we can beat any team with ease at this point and time. This team has been poorly constructed and that can't be fixed this year. I hope coach Martin learns from his mistakes because we need him to be successful. Another coaching change and we are back to the late 80s and early 90s of mediocrity and bad basketball.

We are already back to mediocrity. BBB

Ironcity writes:

in response to hikerdude:

We are already back to mediocrity. BBB

Long term mediocrity

claiborneh writes:

I think one can guess what seems a strong possibility to happen. This season is likely over as far as making the tournament. If next season is more mediocrity, even if they make the tournament, Pearl chants will start getting louder and louder. Pearl will be coach again if he wants it. And to retort anyone who brings up the "we don't need that kind of baggage" response, I say nonsense! That argument is now a wash because he paid the price and then some. Even if the winning did not improve,, the excitement and fun would. Listening to the current coaches interview is like listening to Eyor on Valium. It's like Martin's boring listless persona is reflected in the entire program and sloppy,slow, boring performance.
BBB

CoverOrange writes:

I don't remember "many" instances of Ark's press causing t/o before midcourt. A lazy pass by Stokes, Richardson dribbling on the out-of-bounds line, Lopez dribbling off his foot. A lot of t/o's were bad ball handling in the paint, putting the ball on the floor close-in, bringing it down low to be stripped or an uncatchable pass in traffic.

One thing I have noticed is that they do run an offense more than at the beginning of the season, they just don't execute it. Saw several slip-screen flashes that the guard refused to make the entry pass on. It's like they are afraid.

chipmurphy461 writes:

This isn't the UT football team that Dooley inherited with a depleted roster and MAAC talent. UT's men's basketball team that Martin inherited was a talented roster and Martin added some talent, but no one has developed except McRae!! Bring back Bruce!!!!

brokendownoldvol writes:

How about when they get some players with BB skills?

samvol writes:

LOL...he sounds like Coach Martin...Mental toughness...

mocsandvolsfan writes:

How about some mental awareness. Even approaching mental toughness is gonna be hard when you're in jail. DANG it Kenny but you gotta be smarter. The police ALWAYS show up when you run a light or stop sign at 3AM and there's no other cars for miles around. Not that you did that. But unfortunately in Tennessee you need a license to drive.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

I'll take athletes and talent over the proverbial leadership and mental toughness any day of the week..Do you think KY gives a squat if Wiltjer and Noel are "Mentally Tough" ??? They want them to be physical and knock down shots!!!

During last year's NCAA tourney, I heard TNT's Kenny Smith say that talent as most fans understand the term is less important at a given level than the ability to make proper decisions consistently in executing the basics of the game. The biggest difference between last year's UK team and the current one is precisely the greater mental toughness of the previous one. Even Calapari has said this. Last year's UK team had several upperclassmen who were able to steady the rookies on the rare occasions when they let their mental toughness slip. The current Vols have plenty of athletes. What they don't have is a firm grasp of the necessity to consistently execute the fundamentals of the game, not to mention an insufficient mastery of those fundamentals.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to claiborneh:

I think one can guess what seems a strong possibility to happen. This season is likely over as far as making the tournament. If next season is more mediocrity, even if they make the tournament, Pearl chants will start getting louder and louder. Pearl will be coach again if he wants it. And to retort anyone who brings up the "we don't need that kind of baggage" response, I say nonsense! That argument is now a wash because he paid the price and then some. Even if the winning did not improve,, the excitement and fun would. Listening to the current coaches interview is like listening to Eyor on Valium. It's like Martin's boring listless persona is reflected in the entire program and sloppy,slow, boring performance.
BBB

As I have said many times, I like much about what Pearl did at UT and that he paid a high price for what was at bottom a minor violation. Having said that, I think it is important to realize that UT didn't get harsher penalties than they did because Pearl was dismissed. If UT had "stood up" to the NCAA by retaining Pearl, they could have incurred some really serious sanctions. Furthermore, rehiring him would be regarded by the NCAA as UT "flipping them the finger". Some more hot-headed fans might think that was a good thing, but they are not the ones who would pay the professional price for doing that, and the program might well be sunk for years if that happened.

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