Jordan McRae says 'confidence is still way up' despite 11-9 record

Tennessee guard Jordan McRae (52) goes up for a basket as he is covered by Vanderbilt guard Kevin Bright (15) at Thompson-Boling Arena Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. Tennessee won 58-57 over Vanderbilt. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee guard Jordan McRae (52) goes up for a basket as he is covered by Vanderbilt guard Kevin Bright (15) at Thompson-Boling Arena Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. Tennessee won 58-57 over Vanderbilt. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Nearly one year ago to the day, a floundering Tennessee men's basketball team hosted Georgia and star Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at Thompson-Boling Arena. Losers in six of their last nine games, the Vols were watching the season slip away over the horizon.

Then the Bulldogs showed up in Knoxville. A nondescript 73-62 UT win left nary a blip on the radar. A few weeks later, however, the victory stood as a turning point, of sorts. Coach Cuonzo Martin's team built on the win, ringing up Ws in seven of its next eight, and meandered into the NCAA tournament bubble.

Georgia returns to Knoxville today (TV: MyVLT, 8 p.m.). That noise you hear is echoes of last year. Tennessee has lost six of its last nine. Check. Early hopes of a triumphant 2012-13 season are all but snuffed out. Check. The Vols are in desperate need of a springboard. Check.

"Our confidence is still way up," UT guard Jordan McRae, a native of Midway, Ga., said earlier this week. "We still have a ways to go in the SEC, so it's not over for us."

While upstart Georgia enters the game on a three-game winning streak, Tennessee (11-9, 3-5 SEC) is coming off a 73-60 loss at Arkansas. Despite the defeat, the game was highlighted for UT by a season high 14-point performance from senior forward Kenny Hall.

Hall's name was in the news Tuesday, but for very different reasons. The Stone Mountain, Ga., native was arrested early Tuesday morning for driving on a suspended license.

Martin informed the News Sentinel late Tuesday that Hall does not face suspension and will be uniform against Georgia.

UT point guard Trae Golden, a junior from Power Springs, Ga., might not be as lucky. The junior is unlikely to play today as his recovery from a strained hamstring continues.

Golden or no Golden, the Vols will have a singular gameplan against Georgia (10-11, 4-4): Stop Caldwell-Pope.

The 6-foot-5 guard has led the Bulldogs in scoring in 19 of 21 games. UT hopes not to be No. 20.

"Caldwell-Pope — that's obviously going to be an emphasis — not letting him go off on us," said McRae, who hails from Midway, Ga., about 30 miles southeast of Savannah.

Caldwell-Pope recently passed McRae as the SEC's second-leading scorer in league play. Caldwell-Pope averages 17.6 points. McRae sits at 17.3.

McRae's production has dropped of late. After averaging 21.6 points on 48.6 percent shooting over a seven-game stretch, the junior scored 13 points on 4-for-21 shooting combined in UT's last two outings. He has recently switched from his off-the-ball offensive role to being one of the Vols' primary point guards.

"I've just been letting teams kind of speed me up, forcing me into tough 2s," McRae said. "I've just really got to slow down. That comes along with me learning how to be a point guard."

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

Get Copyright Permissions © 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2013 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 16

brod writes:

the schedule is easier. arkansas loss doesn't look as bad now. time to win some games. a bunch of them.

hikerdude writes:

Tomorrow's headline: "Caldwell-Pope sets personal scoring record". BBB

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to hikerdude:

Tomorrow's headline: "Caldwell-Pope sets personal scoring record". BBB

I don't care as long as WE(UT) win. Caldwell-Pope will be fun to watch though. it will be interesting to see how we handle him. Richardson needs a great defensive effort. Stokes will need to establish his superiority early. McRae will have to hit some 3s as I also hope McBee hits some. Reese needs to play well on offense and defense. MOORE! We need more of Moore. Moore going to the basket.hehe

johnlg00 writes:

I think McRae has been hurt recently by having to try to play PG. Taking the ball from the top off the dribble to try to slash to the bucket, the thing he does best, is not nearly as easy as when he has the ball before he uses his dribble out on a wing. He also needs to be free to move without the ball. Without Golden, the Vols not only don't have one of their main ball-handlers, they don't have one of the few offensive threats who can draw some attention away from McRae. The Vols surely have their backs against the wall. Sure hope they can push back some the way they did last year.

johnlg00 writes:

Oh, BTW, I guess Arkansas isn't quite as horrible as some of you seemed to want to believe in last week's Vol-bashing orgy on here. I agree that the Vols didn't look very good against the Pigs last week, but Florida didn't look much better. That 80-69 score was very deceptive in that the Gators trailed by 20 or more for about three-quarters of the game, including the early moments when the lead was being built.

DICK_MASTERSON_N_TENN (Inactive) writes:

Hope he stays confident.

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

Watching the men play basketball is a preview of what UT football will look like next season.

Man, is this painful.

Ironcity writes:

The 2012-2013 cycle will likely go down as the worst year in UT sports history. Thank you Mike Hamilton!@!!! The least Mike can do is give back his season tickets for life. I can't believe he would dare show up in any venue that UT plays in.

eduardo writes:

Horrible sports season on Rocky Top! Pathetic!

usnavyvolfan__times_free_press_can_shove_it writes:

Soooo.....this is the most clueless TN basketball team in recent memory. Stokes has a decent game, but they forget to play defense.

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

Guess I am done for this year. The season next year must start off well or I will be forced to join the BBB club!!

VolGrad writes:

Game over. Thanks for playing.

Insert two quarters.

Ironcity writes:

I usually don't defend the hapless coaching we witness every night but UGA played awfully well tonight and made a lot of tough shots. That said UGA's weakness mirrors UTs in that they are poor ball handlers. Coach Fox immediately pressed UT and caused turnovers and disruption. UT on the other hand did what we always do and just let the other team dictate what they want to do and put zero pressure on the ball.

I think we have three more wins in us. I hate to say this but ticket sales will plummet enough that coach Martin will be on the hot seat next year for sure.

VolGrad writes:

It gets a bit suspicious when other teams, especially mediocre ones, seem to have one of their best games against us. Regardless of the Maymon injury, we shouldn't be losing all the games we're losing right now. I may be wrong, but it doesn't add up to me.

Go Vols! Play some basketball!!!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Ironcity:

I usually don't defend the hapless coaching we witness every night but UGA played awfully well tonight and made a lot of tough shots. That said UGA's weakness mirrors UTs in that they are poor ball handlers. Coach Fox immediately pressed UT and caused turnovers and disruption. UT on the other hand did what we always do and just let the other team dictate what they want to do and put zero pressure on the ball.

I think we have three more wins in us. I hate to say this but ticket sales will plummet enough that coach Martin will be on the hot seat next year for sure.

As you know, I have been a staunch defender of CCM and the team through their earlier struggles, but they are making it harder for me to keep defending them. UGA is having the kind of year the Vols had last year while the Vols have obviously regressed. The absence of Maymon hit them harder than I would have thought. Golden first regressed and then got hurt. CCM has another year on his contract and he deserves to have that year with what should be his best squad yet. However, he has to know that he will have to produce in a pretty big way next year or his seat will justifiably be heating up.

johnlg00 writes:

Oh, BTW, somebody posted a bunch of stats that showed the Vols way down in several national offensive categories. After that, somebody said the absence of Maymon may have greatly contributed to those low rankings. Somebody ELSE then said that he didn't see how missing Maymon's 12/PPG and 8/RPG could have that much of an effect. That shows a lack of appreciation for the idea that a team is more than just the sum of its parts, for better or worse. Every good team must have at least one player who is a leader on the court and in practice, who pushes the other players to be better, and calls them out when they are not. Maymon was unquestionably THAT guy last year. I'm sure he is doing all he can as just an interested spectator this year, but he doesn't have the same credibility when he isn't out there sweating and bleeding with the other guys. On the court, he was very efficient, getting good shots, making good passes, setting good screens, playing decent defense, and getting key rebounds. His plus/minus must have been off the charts compared to anybody they have this year. If he can come back 100% next year and everybody works on their weaknesses in the off-season, including the coaches, there should be a night-and-day difference between this year and next year.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features