The best SEC scorers have been at their best when facing UT

Vols have played string of top SEC scorers

Vanderbilt guard Kedren Johnson (2) is covered up by Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes (5) and guard Josh Richardson (1) in the first half at Thompson-Boling Arena Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Vanderbilt guard Kedren Johnson (2) is covered up by Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes (5) and guard Josh Richardson (1) in the first half at Thompson-Boling Arena Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Josh Richardson hesitated.

"There's been some tough players coming through, but, I mean, we just, I haven't — I don't know," the Tennessee junior guard began, rummaging along.

The search for words unearthed an admission of culpability.

"I'll take the blame for that," he conceded.

In their past five games — a couple of wins and a threesome of losses — the Vols have faced the five leading scorers in the SEC.

Each one of them, from Ole Miss's Marshall Henderson, to Alabama's Trevor Releford, to Vanderbilt's Kedren Johnson, to Arkansas's B.J. Young, to Georgia's Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, met or exceeded his season scoring average.

Collectively, the five averaged 5 more points than their season averages.

Commonly, as UT's designated "stopper," it's been Richardson's duty to defend them.

"I don't feel pressure from it at all, but I know I have to do better at it," Richardson said before practice Friday afternoon.

Following five games of open fire from the SEC's top shooters, Richardson and the Vols will receive a reprieve Sunday. The problem now, though, is that they won't know where the shots are coming from. South Carolina (12-10, 2-7 SEC), today's host in Columbia, doesn't boast a scorer averaging more than 10.6 points, but does offer five scoring at least 8.2 points.

There is no star. Bruce Ellington, a 5-foot-9 point guard who spent the first half the season divvying up his time between basketball and as a standout wide receiver for Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks, is the closest thing. The renaissance man averages 10.4 points per game in league play.

"Bruce Ellington is the guy that makes them go," said Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin, whose team brings an 11-10 overall record and a 3-6 league mark into Sunday's meeting (TV: FSTN, 1 p.m.).

Given their 8-inch height differential, Richardson won't begin the day assigned on Ellington. He'll likely land on one of South Carolina's wings, either Brian Richardson (8.2 ppg) or Brenton Williams (10.3 ppg).

The Gamecocks' top scorer comes in the form of 6-5 power forward Michael Carrera. The freshman from Venezuela averages 10.6 points and 6.9 rebounds in SEC play. The job of keeping him from surpassing his season average and bucking UT's recent trend falls to forwards Jarnell Stokes and Kenny Hall.

Most recently, Georgia's Caldwell-Pope, a 6-5 life raft with a jump shot, scored eight of his game-high 24 points in the final five minutes of a win over the Vols on Wednesday.

Caldwell-Pope entered the night averaging 15.4 point per game.

He left averaging 17.8.

Martin said Friday that shutting down a team's best player needs to be, "Who we are as a program."

"As an individual player, you either have it in you to get stops or you don't," he added later. "That's the bottom line. It's taking pride in what you do."

Asked about Richardson, Martin said, "He accepts those challenges and he's putting forth a great effort, but you've just got to get it done."

Golden Update: Looking to return from a strained right hamstring, Tennessee point guard Trae Golden participated in a full practice Saturday, according to Martin.

Golden, having missed back-to-back games, should be "good to go" against the Gamecocks, Martin told the News Sentinel in a text message.

Prior to the injury, Golden was averaging 10.0 points and 3.9 assists per game.

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

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Comments » 14

Ironcity writes:

Stopping the best scorers is a team effort. The fact that our coach puts the onus on one guy says a lot about what is wrong with the program. In basketball its not all one and one match ups. In the pros maybe, but in college there are so many picks and switches that each player needs to step up when the time comes. Coach Martin has a lot of learning to do. I hope in the off season coach Martin looks into a mirror and analyzes what he could have done better to help this team achieve its goals. If we continue to do what we do now, I don't care if we have Maymonn next year or not, our ceiling will be the NIT.

underthehill writes:

in response to Ironcity:

Stopping the best scorers is a team effort. The fact that our coach puts the onus on one guy says a lot about what is wrong with the program. In basketball its not all one and one match ups. In the pros maybe, but in college there are so many picks and switches that each player needs to step up when the time comes. Coach Martin has a lot of learning to do. I hope in the off season coach Martin looks into a mirror and analyzes what he could have done better to help this team achieve its goals. If we continue to do what we do now, I don't care if we have Maymonn next year or not, our ceiling will be the NIT.

Stopping the best scorers..requires..a team effort ..only way to get it done..Pope put some NBA moves on Richardson no one could stop..should have been double teaming him as soon as the ball hit his hands..

CoverOrange writes:

in response to Ironcity:

Stopping the best scorers is a team effort. The fact that our coach puts the onus on one guy says a lot about what is wrong with the program. In basketball its not all one and one match ups. In the pros maybe, but in college there are so many picks and switches that each player needs to step up when the time comes. Coach Martin has a lot of learning to do. I hope in the off season coach Martin looks into a mirror and analyzes what he could have done better to help this team achieve its goals. If we continue to do what we do now, I don't care if we have Maymonn next year or not, our ceiling will be the NIT.

Well stated. Appears a lot of the opposing strategy is to get a mismatch against Stokes near the key and drive past him. Bob Knight called it out several times in the last game he was on, slow or no help-side defense. That requires a team effort.

tnvol4ever writes:

"I don't feel pressure from it at all"
Really, after the last 5 games?? Not sure what this says about our coach. Maybe some pressure should be placed on these guys to do their job.

Classof72 writes:

I'm proud of our coaches and players as good people, but I don't think our team is talented enough to contend in the SEC. Recruit better players or just keep getting beat.

tomeknight#1360761 writes:

"The best SEC scorers have been at their best when facing UT"
That is because it is so easy to do!

SevenT writes:

A matchup of two horrible teams. Don't waste your time watching this matchup

Sir_Spanky writes:

SC doesn't have any stars? Well, we'll fix that.

CrankE writes:

So . . . it's just like football last season.

TheFuj writes:

Just not good defensively. Lot of talk, but that is about it.
Remember football. It seemed someone always had their career day against us. I guess same for basketball now

Watching the KY game yesterday against Auburn. Announcers addressing upcoming KY games on their schedule. Stated KY has a fairly easy road ahead except for FL. We are not even looked as potential trouble for any teams--basketball or football.

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to SevenT:

A matchup of two horrible teams. Don't waste your time watching this matchup

scumbag, you'll still be on here commenting about it

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

With the exception of the Gators I haven't seen anybody shut down Pope..He came in on fire and shot 80% and so did Gaines..Getting open looks on 3 pointers isn't real difficult against even the best teams..Miami just Drilled UNC with 15 of 26 on 3's..If a guys hot; he's going to get his points!!! Young and Hogs is different.Young hurt us inside and outside..Against Hogs McRae;being the second leading scorer in SEC should have stepped up and matched him point for point

hikerdude writes:

Remember when we could beat the press, apply our own press, had inbound plays, could defend the opponents inbound plays, etc??? BBB

johnlg00 writes:

in response to hikerdude:

Remember when we could beat the press, apply our own press, had inbound plays, could defend the opponents inbound plays, etc??? BBB

I would surely suggest that CCM dig up some tapes of some of Bruce's better games in the off-season. Whatever a coach's basic philosophy is, there are those particular situations that come up in every game. Failing to plan adequately for them is just throwing good chances for scores away. The Vols have the right kind of personnel to duplicate the way Bruce's best teams defended the out-of-bounds plays, but this team needs to learn how to do that and practice on it.

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