Coming off a historic 30-point beatdown of 25th-ranked Kentucky, Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin addressed the media Monday at his weekly press luncheon. Reversing course, Martin talked of a Vols team rolling along on a three-game win streak.
Just two weeks ago, UT was 11-10 overall, 3-6 in the SEC and had lost seven of its last 10 games.
Now the Vols are 14-10 and 6-6 in conference play.
“It’s amazing what confidence can do for you,” Martin said. “It’s the same team. We haven’t changed anything, outside of tweaks here and there. It’s the same system.”
Tennessee will take its newfound confidence into a meeting with LSU at Thompson-Boling Arena on Tuesday night (TV: ESPNU 7:00 p.m.). The Tigers (15-8, 6-6) are led by sophomore Johnny O’Bryant, 6-foot-9 forward averaging 13.0 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.
Martin used Monday to praise his Vols for their recent comeuppance. Trae Golden is averaging 17.3 points per game over the last three games, while, defensively, UT has held those three opponents – South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Kentucky – to 55.0 points per game. A plus-10 average rebound margin has come despite a reliance on a four-guard lineup.
“You got to stick with it,” Martin said. “You’ve got to give guys a level of confidence. You can’t beat guys up, make them feel uncomfortable, make it where they hate coming to practice. You lose some games, you learn from them. Our problems were things we could correct. It’s not a case where we were out-manned and the other teams were that much better.”
More coming online and in Tuesday’s News Sentinel.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn