Sandwiched between Saturday’s for-the-ages quadruple-overtime win at Texas A&M and Tuesday’s home date with No. 5 Florida, Cuonzo Martin addressed the press at his weekly noon Media luncheon Monday.
The Vols are riding a five-game winning streak and sit in a three-way tie for fifth place in the SEC alongside Arkansas and Missouri. Tennessee is 16-10 overall and boasts the longest winning streak in the conference.
Florida is coming off a 17-point win over Arkansas, but has dropped two road games – at Missouri and at Arkansas – in its last six games.
“You’re talking about a potential Final Four team coming in – a team that you feel like you can beat and you have a great opportunity to continue to add to your NCAA profile as an NCAA tournament team,” said Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin.
UT point guard Trae Golden, who scored 20 points in a win over LSU last Wednesday and 32 against A&M on Saturday, was named SEC player of the week moments before Monday’s luncheon.
“Well there you go,” said Martin, told of the honor just after his opening statement. “It’s not a surprise. It’s a credit to Trae.”
In Saturday’s 93-85 victory at A&M, three different UT players – Trae Golden (56), Jordan McRae (56) and Jarnell Stokes (53) – played over 50 minutes, while two other – Skylar McBee (48) and Josh Richardson (43) – played over 40.
Martin stated fatigue won’t be a factor Tuesday.
“You have to win ballgames,” he said. “This is the most important ballgame on our schedule at this point. After this, we’ll look forward to the next game. I’ve never been a guy (to say) it’s a must-win game, but you’ve got to win the game.”
Tuesday’s tip-off is set for 9:00 and will be shown nationally on ESPN. Tennessee leads the all-time series against Florida 71-52, including a 43-15 in Knoxville. UT handed Florida a pair of losses last season.
Over their five-game winning streak, the Vols are shooting 47.5 percent from the field, 46.4 percent on 3-point attempts and 75.7 percent from the free-throw line. They’ve made 25 of 41 treys in their last three outings.
“I feel like we’re all shooting the ball well – there’s a sense of confidence there,” UT guard Skylar McBee said during the luncheon, adding, “It was impressive during the Texas A&M game because some shots didn’t fall early and we kind of rode it out.”
Florida will be without Michael Frazier II against Tennessee. The freshman guard suffered a concussion against Arkansas. Gators coach Billy Donovan has said he doesn’t know how long he will be out of the lineup. Frazier averages 6.4 points per game and is tied for third on the team with 43 made 3-pointers. He ranks first in the SEC shooting 54.9 percent from beyond the arc in league play.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn