Mike Strange: Memphis shoots Tennessee's lights out

Mike Strange
Tennessee's Kenny Hall reaches for the ball with Memphis' Joe Jackson during a game at Thompson-Boling Arena, Friday, Jan. 4, 2013. UT lost 85-80. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee's Kenny Hall reaches for the ball with Memphis' Joe Jackson during a game at Thompson-Boling Arena, Friday, Jan. 4, 2013. UT lost 85-80. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

If somebody bet you Tennessee would score 52 points in a half Friday night, you would have taken it. There have been nights the Vols didn't get to 52 in an entire 40 minutes.

And if the bet was a 52-point half and Tennessee still loses, you'd double down.

Memphis beat all the odds and walked away with the stakes.

It's been a rough couple of days for Tigers coach Josh Pastner, but an 85-80 victory over the Vols at Thompson-Boling Arena brightened up his weekend.

If this is how the UT-Memphis series ends — which is Pastner's emphatically stated desire but apparently not the plan of either school's athletic director — then it's a bitter pill to swallow for the Vols.

The Tigers knocked off UT twice last year and made it three straight by taking Tennessee's trump card — withering defense — and beating it with a grin on their faces.

Memphis shot 64 percent in the first half, finished at 56.4 and hit seven of 11 from 3-point range.

No opponent had scored more than 69 points against UT this year. No opponent had shot better than 50 percent.

Keeping things ugly had saved the offensively challenged Vols more than one night. This is what happens when the other team can stay pretty.

"When we make shots, we look good,'' said a beaming Pastner, "and we made shots.''

The Tigers made shots in the paint and from long range. They led by 42-28 at the half and by 21 points — 62-41 —– with about 13 minutes to play.

To Tennessee's credit, there was no quit. Led by Jordan McRae and Josh Richardson, the Vols picked up the tempo and got as close as 69-64 with plenty of time left.

A crowd of 19,535 finally had a reason to get out of its seats, other than to applaud new football coach Butch Jones in the first half and Eric Berry in the second.

The 52-point second half was a welcome change of pace from Tennessee's recent low-scoring ways but it wasn't enough. There would be no happy ending.

Geron Johnson, the Tigers' junior-college transfer guard, stuck in a pair of cold-blooded 3-pointers to help keep the Vols at arm's length.

Memphis' perimeter trio of Johnson, quicksilver point guard Joe Jackson and superb athlete Adonis Thomas combined for 54 points and 5-of-7 3-point shooting.

"We just got what we wanted,'' said Jackson. "We penetrated and that's what you look for in college basketball, getting in the paint and making plays.''

Memphis succeeded in doing so where other opponents have not.

"I wasn't so upset they made the threes,'' said UT coach Cuonzo Martin. "I was more upset they got in the orange.''

Richardson admitted something was missing. Like the usual grit and toughness.

"We were playing a little bit timid,'' he said. "They capitalized and made us pay.''

It's a steep price. This was Memphis. No telling when the Vols will get a chance at redemption as the series goes into at least temporary limbo.

Until they meet again at some undetermined juncture, the last impression is Memphis shooting the Tennessee lights out.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

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Comments » 16

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

Don't know, but one thing has always puzzled me with UT basketball:
the inability to dunk.

A dunk isn't always a showoff play. Often, it's highest-percentage shot available...for just about everyone other than UT.

One_in_West_Knox writes:

in response to emailnodata:

Don't know, but one thing has always puzzled me with UT basketball:
the inability to dunk.

A dunk isn't always a showoff play. Often, it's highest-percentage shot available...for just about everyone other than UT.

Another puzzler with this team is easy missed layups.

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

in response to One_in_West_Knox:

Another puzzler with this team is easy missed layups.

Which brings you to the dunk....layups can be a real (female-dog) if you're at full speed.

In the days when I could run, I'd use an underhand scoop layup to soften the ball off the glass (I suffer from WMD, too).

vol98champ writes:

Not many teams would have beaten Tiger High last night. Totally different team from what I saw last week. The two early fouls on Stokes were questionable. Those fouls are rarely called, especially at home. At least a fun game to watch for most of the night. We fought and out rebounded a much more athletically gifted team. I believe our starting guards were 1 for 7. If I knew that before the game I would have thought we lose by a double score. Their guards were 7 for 11 from 3. Recruit a shooting, quick guard!!!! Is there another Joe Johnson out there?

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

The defensive was a little lacking but Few players can stay with Jackson and Thomas had his best game of the season..Johnson's 3 pointers were momentum killers for sure..Probably the only time Tigers shot 63% on 3 pointers all season..Not sure about Goldens injury but if he was 100% we win that game..Does anybody know why Miller is still out?? He had surgery ages ago and has not even had contact practice

SouthPaVol writes:

I hate to lose as much as anyone, but last night I saw a bright spot. When we were down by 21 and about to be embarrassed, the Vols hit another level offensively--and it was fun to watch. They let themselves get too far behind on such a talented team, but our comeback was a thing of beauty!

My left-handed comment: If we can find that intensity BEFORE we get down by 20, we win a lot more games than we lose this year. Go Vols!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to emailnodata:

Which brings you to the dunk....layups can be a real (female-dog) if you're at full speed.

In the days when I could run, I'd use an underhand scoop layup to soften the ball off the glass (I suffer from WMD, too).

I too had WMD as a young player, though only a mild form--I could dunk, but only under perfect conditions. What I would do on a breakaway layup with a defender trailing me was to take off about a half-step before the defender expected me to, and glide to the basket with the ball out in front of me for the underhand layup. The only way the guy can get you from behind is to go all the way over your back, which nearly always resulted in a foul if he tried that and almost never resulted in a clean block. Taking off a bit early disrupted his timing in any case. And yes, I practiced that move constantly. When I saw Lopez take that one extra dribble to go right to the glass to go straight up, I knew he was going to get blocked. I sure would have liked to have that one and Josh's missed dunk back; they might have made the difference in the game.

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

in response to johnlg00:

I too had WMD as a young player, though only a mild form--I could dunk, but only under perfect conditions. What I would do on a breakaway layup with a defender trailing me was to take off about a half-step before the defender expected me to, and glide to the basket with the ball out in front of me for the underhand layup. The only way the guy can get you from behind is to go all the way over your back, which nearly always resulted in a foul if he tried that and almost never resulted in a clean block. Taking off a bit early disrupted his timing in any case. And yes, I practiced that move constantly. When I saw Lopez take that one extra dribble to go right to the glass to go straight up, I knew he was going to get blocked. I sure would have liked to have that one and Josh's missed dunk back; they might have made the difference in the game.

@johnlg
It's surprisingly difficult to get kids to understand that with a player behind you that the underhand is almost unblockable.

I started using it for that and because it softens the ball off the glass...letting you bet less than perfect.

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

Tenn's sub guards were way superior to the starters on both offense and defense.

One thing is for certain: not having Maymon is a huge deal on the offensive end.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to vol98champ:

Not many teams would have beaten Tiger High last night. Totally different team from what I saw last week. The two early fouls on Stokes were questionable. Those fouls are rarely called, especially at home. At least a fun game to watch for most of the night. We fought and out rebounded a much more athletically gifted team. I believe our starting guards were 1 for 7. If I knew that before the game I would have thought we lose by a double score. Their guards were 7 for 11 from 3. Recruit a shooting, quick guard!!!! Is there another Joe Johnson out there?

I've seen Memphis play about four times before last night, and they never came CLOSE to shooting as well as they did against the Vols. They were also great on the spin moves and half-hooks in the lane. I would LOVE to see more of that from our guys.

As for the fouls on Stokes, the second one seemed legit to me. Yeah, the guy flopped on the play but Jarnell had his left arm out which made it look like he pushed the guy off. A post player should merely come up TO a guy and then spin or go at an angle off of him rather than giving him the firm hip or shoulder. You just CANNOT put the hand or forearm into him in any case.

As for the poor shooting by the Vol guards, Golden just hasn't looked quite right to me for most of this season. He has been uncharacteristically loose with his dribble and uncertain about his penetration. Even his free-throws aren't as solid as we have come to expect. His shooting stroke in general looks hurried and jerky. As tight-lipped as this staff seems to be about injuries, he may be hurt or sick and they are just not letting on about it. In any case, he is just not producing the way he has in the past.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to SouthPaVol:

I hate to lose as much as anyone, but last night I saw a bright spot. When we were down by 21 and about to be embarrassed, the Vols hit another level offensively--and it was fun to watch. They let themselves get too far behind on such a talented team, but our comeback was a thing of beauty!

My left-handed comment: If we can find that intensity BEFORE we get down by 20, we win a lot more games than we lose this year. Go Vols!

Everybody disparages the idea of "moral victories" and rightly so, but the way the Vols fought back out of the hole they dug for themselves is something this team can build on for the future. One thing seems sure: McRae and Richardson are becoming the kind of scorers the team can rely on, they just need to stay in scorer's mode, not forcing it but not passing up any good opportunities, either. As valuable as McRae has been coming off the bench, maybe it is time he became a starter. McBee just doesn't seem to have his confidence these days.

TNVol71 writes:

When your spouse is for the other team, this makes this a double tough loss. Like one of the other posters said, I have been to a coupld of Memphis games this year, and they were no where near the juggernaut that came into TBA. Look for Memphis to make the NIT again this year.

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

Time to sit Golden and McBee, IMO.

McRae coming off the bench is still good, though, I think he plays better that way.

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

BTW...
it's time to go to the 30-second shot clock on men's college ball....or even 25.

They only started at 45 to placate the old farts like Dean Smith who let the air out of the ball constantly.

Now, when you watch a game, everyone is passing the ball around for 20 seconds prior to ingratiating any offense whatsoever.

Liven up the game a bit.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to emailnodata:

Time to sit Golden and McBee, IMO.

McRae coming off the bench is still good, though, I think he plays better that way.

If you would sit Golden and McBee but still have McRae coming off the bench, what would your starting lineup be? I guess Lopez would be the obvious starting PG though he is still a non-scorer, but of the other guards, none that I can think of have yet shown they are capable of filling a starting role, or even that they can help a lot off the bench. I am still high on Reese's potential, but he seems not to be quite up to game speed yet and I at least haven't seen enough of him to know how much he can help now. Not quarreling, just asking.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to emailnodata:

BTW...
it's time to go to the 30-second shot clock on men's college ball....or even 25.

They only started at 45 to placate the old farts like Dean Smith who let the air out of the ball constantly.

Now, when you watch a game, everyone is passing the ball around for 20 seconds prior to ingratiating any offense whatsoever.

Liven up the game a bit.

"Initiating" the offense, perhaps(;-P)? I am all in favor of making the rules consistent in all of basketball. Women's college and all international ball use a 30-second clock; the NBA uses a 24-second clock and men's college ball goes with a 35-second clock. I don't mind speeding up the game a little bit, but the ability to slow the game down is one of the few tools less-talented teams have to hang with the more-talented ones, and learning to overcome frustration is both a useful tool in life and the mark of a mature, disciplined team. I never want to see any more of the slow-down travesties we had in the pre-shot-clock era, but I don't want to see only race-horse ball either in which only the fastest horses have any chance at all.

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