Vols getting the shooting bug

Team-wide confidence up on offense

Saul Young/News Sentinel
Tennessee’s Trae Golden is tripped up by LSU’s Andrew Del Piero at Thompson-Boling Arena on Tuesday. Tennessee beat LSU, 82-72.

Photo by Saul Young, 2013 Knoxville News Sentinel

Saul Young/News Sentinel Tennessee’s Trae Golden is tripped up by LSU’s Andrew Del Piero at Thompson-Boling Arena on Tuesday. Tennessee beat LSU, 82-72.

Charging down the highway for an off-day recruiting trip Wednesday, Tennessee assistant men’s basketball coach Kent Williams paused to pinpoint the root of Jordan McRae’s 34-point assault of LSU the night before.

Williams knows about slipping into unconsciousness. He knows what it’s like to shoot at a rim stretched into an inviting black hole. In a four-year career at Southern Illinois, 747 of his 2,012 points came on 249 career 3-pointers.

So Williams pondered McRae’s UT-record tying 3-point barrage against LSU in which he went 6-for-6.

Intentionally or not, Williams instead described the Vols as a whole.

“It’s contagious,” Williams said by phone. “When some other guys are shooting well, you tend to shoot well with them. You feel good as a team.”

Whatever is going around, every Tennessee player seems to have caught it. The Vols (15-10, 7-6 SEC) have posted more than 80 points in two straight games and are shooting 50.5 percent from the field and 57.9 percent from 3-point distance in an ongoing four-game winning streak.

First, Jarnell Stokes caught the bug, rambling on a streak of double-doubles. Then Trae Golden fell under the spell, returning from a strained hamstring to average 18.0 points in four outings. Then it was Skylar McBee, whose infected shooting touch has made four of its last six 3-point attempts.

Now it’s McRae. After scoring right around his season average against Vanderbilt (14) and Kentucky (15), the junior guard broke out on Tuesday. Six made 3-pointers were joined by pull-up midrange jumpers, some contested layups and one big, slide-back-in-your seat, right-handed tomahawk dunk.

“The thing with Jordan, when he’s hitting them, he stays within what he does, and when he’s not, he sometimes comes out of his element and forces the issue a little bit,” Williams said. “There are guys that are great shooters and guys that are just OK shooters, form-wise and all that, but when you have confidence, it takes you a long ways.”

And everyone in orange is seemingly feeling confident. A recent switch by coach Cuonzo Martin to a four-guard offense has paid huge dividends. By removing a traditional four man, the Vols’ offense has fed off better spacing, sharper cuts and crisper ball movement.

Most importantly, shots are falling. From everywhere. This being the same team that made just 13 field goals — tied for its third-lowest total in program history — in a 17-point loss to Oklahoma State and was held under 40 in losses at Georgetown and Virginia.

That all came more than nine weeks ago. Ancient history, according to Williams.

“Guys have figured out their roles a little bit,” the second-year assistant said. “I think early in the year, guys were trying to figure out who should take the shot, who should do what.”

There’s no tangible strategy for keeping a hot team cooking. McRae missed 17 of 21 3-pointers before the LSU game. He wasn’t sprinkled in pixie dust Tuesday. The shots just fell.

When Tennessee faces SEC newcomer Texas A&M (15-10, 5-7) on Saturday (TV: WVLT, 4 p.m.), no one knows who will do what.

And for a team sick with confidence, that’s not a bad problem. Asked if he and the Vols can only hope the shots keep falling, Williams snickered and conceded, “That’s all you can do.”

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 » 15

kyvol98 writes:

in response to ALWAYS_TIME_2_TROLL:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Back to work man. Fries are up and the drive-thru is backing up.

mlynn1 writes:

in response to ALWAYS_TIME_2_TROLL:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Little Johnny, get off that computer and get ready for school, your going to miss the bus.

BrassMonkey writes:

They did look good against LSU from my 2nd row seat at TBA. Free throws have improved greatly. If they can average 80 they will be hard to beat. If they digress back into the 60 point range they fall back into a near .500 record.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to BrassMonkey:

They did look good against LSU from my 2nd row seat at TBA. Free throws have improved greatly. If they can average 80 they will be hard to beat. If they digress back into the 60 point range they fall back into a near .500 record.

True; gonna take 70 points to beat A&M

dcap8424 writes:

in response to BrassMonkey:

They did look good against LSU from my 2nd row seat at TBA. Free throws have improved greatly. If they can average 80 they will be hard to beat. If they digress back into the 60 point range they fall back into a near .500 record.

They looked good from my upper-deck 13th row seat as well.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I like 'em. I like the Vols.

vol98champ writes:

Like most teams, we are great when the 3's are falling. Unlike most good teams we(until lately)appear completely lost when they aren't.
I posted very early that this could be a problem.

TNVol71 writes:

It would be nice to see the hot streak continue through the rest of the season. Way to go Vols. Keep doing what you're doing. GBO!!

GrandCanyonVol writes:

in response to vol98champ:

Like most teams, we are great when the 3's are falling. Unlike most good teams we(until lately)appear completely lost when they aren't.
I posted very early that this could be a problem.

Tennessee has a lot of players who can go to the rim, sooooo go to the rim if the 3's are not falling. Go to the rim anyway.... A two foot shot is usually better than a twenty foot shot. Texas A&M will be a good gauge for this team.

bUTch_please writes:

A&M will be a stiff challenge. They play a well-rounded 40 minute effort game. Solid fundamentals and confident at home.

Bringing a win back to Knoxville will be a bigger statement than appears on paper.

Zo VOLS!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to vol98champ:

Like most teams, we are great when the 3's are falling. Unlike most good teams we(until lately)appear completely lost when they aren't.
I posted very early that this could be a problem.

If you noticed, they have not been taking nearly as MANY 3-pointers lately as they were earlier in the season. The thing that annoyed me the most earlier was that they weren't moving the defense before they put up shots. That was one reason why it was so easy for opponents to gang up on Stokes inside. The ones they are taking now are mostly in the context of the offense, which has featured more cutting and driving to the basket than was the case earlier. Williams' remarks are very perceptive. Shooting IS contagious. It can still run hot and cold, but the best sign for me is that the number of shots taken "just because" has gone down, and I don't see that changing.

Pipe_Down_Otis writes:

Too bad Coach didn't think of this new 4 guard offense 20 games ago instead of 5.

jakethevolguy writes:

in response to vol98champ:

Like most teams, we are great when the 3's are falling. Unlike most good teams we(until lately)appear completely lost when they aren't.
I posted very early that this could be a problem.

I thought against LSU the Vols didn't panic so much and rely on the 3 when LSU started making up ground. Instead they stuck to the game plan, went for the 2 (and sometimes the old fashion 3 point play), kept LSU at arms length and took the 3 when it was open. That's why they more or less maintained the 10 point lead the last few minutes of the game.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Pipe_Down_Otis:

Too bad Coach didn't think of this new 4 guard offense 20 games ago instead of 5.

As I tried to explain on an earlier thread, the loss of Maymon in the off-season meant that much of what they were trying to do last year was no longer relevant, but it was what everybody knew, so they had to try to build on that first. Also, Armani Moore was a freshman who came in without much fanfare and had to learn to play at this level. He is the one guy who has made it possible, despite the lack of great scoring stats, to play the 4-guard set because he is tall enough and physical enough to rebound effectively and guard a forward. This ain't no video game. Guys have to learn and develop.

murrayvol writes:

in response to johnlg00:

As I tried to explain on an earlier thread, the loss of Maymon in the off-season meant that much of what they were trying to do last year was no longer relevant, but it was what everybody knew, so they had to try to build on that first. Also, Armani Moore was a freshman who came in without much fanfare and had to learn to play at this level. He is the one guy who has made it possible, despite the lack of great scoring stats, to play the 4-guard set because he is tall enough and physical enough to rebound effectively and guard a forward. This ain't no video game. Guys have to learn and develop.

Yessir!

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