UT men's basketball hopes for better memories against Memphis this season

Memphis 'bullied' UT last season

The 40-minute aerial attack ended with the longest faces in the season.

Memphis alley-ooped, slam-dunked and highlight-reeled its way to a 69-51 mauling of Tennessee's men's basketball team last Jan. 4.

"I told them in the locker room that we got bullied — that's not Tennessee basketball," UT point guard Trae Golden said afterward. He leaned against a wall, arms folded in disgust.

A year to the day, Tennessee and Memphis are set to meet again. The wound of last season's lashing is healed over, but it's still there, even if the Vols would prefer not to admit it.

"Uh, I don't remember that game," junior guard Jordan McRae said earlier this week with a smirk shaped like a sickle.

UT will look to erase those unacknowledged memories tonight (TV: ESPN2, 8 p.m.).

In the latest inception of the Vols-Tigers rivalry, the two will clash at Thompson-Boling Arena in front of a coordinating crowd decked out for a player-requested "Orange-Out."

"It's a big game, man," said McRae, who is averaging 12.8 points per game over UT's four-game winning streak.

To be exact, tonight is a big game pairing profoundly different programs.

Tennessee (8-3) is unilaterally dependent on its defense, a unit ranked 16th nationally with only 56.4 points allowed per game. No opponent has scored 70 on UT this season. Only six have posted more than 60.

Memphis (9-3), meanwhile, boasts a giddy-up-and-go attack averaging 74.0 points per game and shooting 47.2 percent from the field.

The Vols will look to find a happy medium in an unfriendly game of cat and mouse.

"You want to play fast, but you want to keep it in moderation," McRae said. "If you play a little too fast, you get sucked into what they want you to do."

"With any team, you want to control the game, play your style, whatever that is," added UT coach Cuonzo Martin. "For us, we need to keep those guys out of transition because that's when they're at their best."

While memories of last year linger like bad breath for the Vols, sophomore Jarnell Stokes enters tonight with scars left by off-the-court ammunition.

"You're a hillbilly now!" Tiger fans yelled in his direction last year at FedExForum.

Stokes is the only Vol from Memphis. He picked Tennessee over his hometown Tigers (who were without an available midyear scholarship) just a few weeks before the teams met last January. Sitting behind the Vols' bench sporting orange, Stokes took verbal haymakers.

"That was a reality check that it was all business," Stokes said this week. "Once you leave, you're not welcomed anymore at home."

No one knows if the sophomore, or any of the other Vols, will make a return trip to the Forum next year.

In a developing game of "he said, he said," Memphis athletic Tom Bowen surprisingly painted a divergent picture of the future of the Vols-Tigers rivalry than that of coach Josh Pastner. Since 2011, Pastner has adamantly said he won't renew the series contract after an existing eight-year, home-and-home agreement expires tonight.

"We will not play Tennessee as long as I'm the head coach and I'm doing my scheduling," Pastner said Monday.

Reports emerged Thursday to the contrary. "We are re-evaluating everything," Bowen told The Commercial Appeal, adding that playing the Vols is "important for us."

Regarding tonight's game, Pastner said, "I want to say this: Friday's game is not the national championship. I've made that point very clearly. It's two good teams who want to win the game, but no matter what, after the game is over, we both start league play."

Indeed, the Vols will open SEC play hosting Ole Miss next Thursday, while Memphis begins its final year in Conference USA against East Carolina next week.

But first, it's Tennessee-Memphis. With an uncertain future, the rivalry will continue in the present.

"There's a lot of buzz about this game," Stokes said. "People think it can go either way. That's a good thing."

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

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Comments » 17

Furbags writes:

UT will look to erase those unacknowledged memories tonight (TV: ESPN2, 8 p.m.)

Is this another "professional" editor's work or am I missing the game tonight?

TNVol71 writes:

As a fan I would love to see this series continue. Memphis can't recruit all of the stars in Memphis. Hope that Jarnell and the rest of the Vols step up. Memphis definitely likes to play uptempo. Living in the Memphis area, I would love for UT to shut them down!! GBO!! Play smart and win.

meknly writes:

Stories are written for the paper coming out the next day so reading online you have to think a day in advance.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

DEFENSE. GBO

Futurecoach16 writes:

in response to Furbags:

UT will look to erase those unacknowledged memories tonight (TV: ESPN2, 8 p.m.)

Is this another "professional" editor's work or am I missing the game tonight?

These articles are written for the newspaper the next day. So, writing "tonight" is the correct thing to do because it will be printed in Friday's (today's) newspaper.

born2ride writes:

UT - 66
Tiger High - 44

sly_stone99#434111 writes:

Pastner can't be too happy with his AD basically saying the series will continue.

brod writes:

i'll be there. my first game since the oakland game. if memphis people think that east tennessee people are hillbillies, what do they think of arkansas and mississippi people? losers!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Furbags:

UT will look to erase those unacknowledged memories tonight (TV: ESPN2, 8 p.m.)

Is this another "professional" editor's work or am I missing the game tonight?

Since I don't recognize your screen name, I assume you are new to the site. This issue is raised by some newcomer every sports season. The articles on here are mostly intended for the print edition the next day. We just get to see them earlier, immediately after they are written. Or did you think all the articles in the paper are written at 3:00AM the day they go out?

D60 writes:

in response to born2ride:

UT - 66
Tiger High - 44

Maybe 46

johnlg00 writes:

I don't know if anybody has noticed this, but the UT-Memphis game is the only college basketball game on the "ESPN family of networks" tonight. No doubt there are local telecasts of other games in various areas, but this is the only college basketball game tonight available nationwide. The viewership will likely not approach that of the #1 v #2 matchup of several years ago, but it is a PRIME opportunity for the Vols to show the rest of the country what they are about this year. I just hope they come to play hard but under control. I expect the Vols to prevail in a close, hard-fought game that will show fans of both schools and the rest of the country what will be missed if the series dies after this year.

jacksontnbob writes:

Is Maymon still on the roster? Will somebody in the AD make a statement about his future? This is getting ridiculous..........

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

Right now Memphis cannot miss a shot.

Really hard to defeat a team that is shooting 65% from the field.

Vol_Jokes writes:

UT men's basketball hopes for better memories against Memphis this season

Ha..so much for that wish

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

It's a butt-kicking so far.

AFTiger writes:

GO TIGERS!! Yeah!!

abnerPeabody writes:

in response to jacksontnbob:

Is Maymon still on the roster? Will somebody in the AD make a statement about his future? This is getting ridiculous..........

They have made a statement about his status.He has not healed and likely will red shirt.

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