Jordan McRae the Vols' lone scorer

Tennessee looking for offensive help

James Crisp/associated press
Tennessee's Jordan McRae, middle, is wrapped up by, from left, Kentucky's Julius Mays, Alex Poythress, and Nerlens Noel during the second half at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., on Tuesday. Kentucky defeated Tennessee 75-65.

Photo by James Crisp

James Crisp/associated press Tennessee's Jordan McRae, middle, is wrapped up by, from left, Kentucky's Julius Mays, Alex Poythress, and Nerlens Noel during the second half at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., on Tuesday. Kentucky defeated Tennessee 75-65.

AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL
Tennessee's Jordan McRae takes a shot against Memphis during a game at Thompson-Boling Arena on Jan. 4.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL Tennessee's Jordan McRae takes a shot against Memphis during a game at Thompson-Boling Arena on Jan. 4.

In the midst of Kentucky's 75-65 men's basketball victory against Tennessee on Tuesday night, Wildcats sophomore Kyle Wiltjer veered over to the team's bench.

Kentucky's fourth-leading scorer got coach John Calipari's attention and petitioned, "Coach, run four-down for me." The play is designed to get Wiltjer, UK's 6-foot-10 sixth man, an open shot.

Calipari ran it.

Wiltjer made it.

"There was no surprise," Calipari later said. "I'm happy, thank you. This is supposed to be their team."

Calipari returned to Wiltjer time and time again to the tune of a team-high 17-point effort.

Oh what Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin would give for such brazen offensive moxie.

For the second straight game, the Vols' leading scorer, Jordan McRae, was their only scorer in double digits.

In the final decisive minutes against Kentucky, the Wldcats' defensive agenda was clear: Attack McRae, make someone else score.

After a 3-pointer by Derek Reese gave UT a 54-53 lead with 7 minutes, 19 seconds remaining, the Vols missed 11 of their final

13 shots. They made 7 of 10 free throws, but five of the makes and six of the attempts belonged to McRae.

As Kentucky's lineup of NBA hopefuls was busy running plays for Wiljter, Tennessee was looking for someone, anyone, to step up aside McRae.

Didn't happen. A fourth straight loss dropped UT to 0-3 in the SEC, 8-7 overall.

McRae was diplomatic when asked about his unaccompanied production.

"I don't feel like I'm carrying the load," the junior said. "I'm just doing the same thing I always did — I'm just taking more shots and attacking more. It isn't just me."

Except it is.

In the last three games only one player other than McRae has reached double figures. Jarnell Stokes scored 15 against Ole Miss on Jan. 9.

That's not to say others aren't capable.

Point guard Trae Golden scored 25 in a win over then-undefeated Wichita State in December. He's since wandered into the woods, missing 46 of 59 shots.

Shooting guard Josh Richardson scored double figures in three straight games against Western Carolina (12), Xavier (12) and Memphis (20). He's scored 23 with eight turnovers in the three games since.

Stokes is supposed to be the anchor. Instead, he's cast UT adrift with wayward free-throw shooting, inconsistent play and persistent foul trouble. The sophomore scored 24 against Massachusetts in 32 minutes, 18 against Presbyterian in 25 minutes and 15 against Ole Miss in 32 minutes. He also scored six in 18 minutes against Wichita State and four in 15 minutes against Kentucky.

The others? Skylar McBee has made six shots in the last five games. Kenny Hall has scored 10 in the last three combined.

In the past two games, freshmen reserves Reese and Armani Moore have appeared as the most potent offensive weapons aside McRae.

The problem, of course, is that they have combined to play 178 career minutes.

Whoever it is, Martin needs someone to ride shotgun while McRae steers.

And when it comes to McRae himself, Martin still wants more.

"The next step for him (is) taking pride on the defensive side of the ball," the UT coach said after Tuesday's loss at Rupp Arena.

Off to their worst start in SEC play since 1997-98, the next step for the Vols is a Saturday date with Mississippi State (7-8, 2-1) at Thompson-Boling Arena (TV: WVLT, 4 p.m.). Having already notched league wins over South Carolina and Georgia, the Bulldogs lost to Alabama at home, 75-43, on Wednesday night.

After facing Mississippi State, Tennessee will travel to Oxford, Miss., for a rematch with Ole Miss (14-2, 3-0) next Thursday. The Rebels overmatched UT in a 92-74 win last week.

ESPN announced Wednesday that the Ole Miss game will be televised on ESPN2.

Though he dodged the question about being the lone bullet in the Vols' chamber, McRae didn't hesitate to say, "these next couple games are must-win."

"We are going to have to do whatever we have to do to try and get it straightened out," he added.

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

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Comments » 23

FeelVol writes:

Hey Quinn sounds like you enjoy trying to contradict our coach it sickens me when reporters think they know more than coaches.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

McRae mostly does ok on D. All players have occasional costly letups or maybe the other guy just out plays you sometimes. I thought we did really well against a tough(athletic anyhow) team in their own gym. That's what the coach meant when he said, "I think we're fine". We are going to get better is another way of saying that.

McRae is a bright spot but Martin's not gonna let him have a lot of lapses on defense. Nor should he. McRae does need to cut some turnovers and make more stops.

But McRae IS the leader of this team as one other guard seems to either have stopped caring or is hurt or is on the take. There's no other explanations that I can think of because this particular guard has shown against some very good teams he's capable. You can't be capable on and off. You are always capable unless you have one of the aforementioned excuses. NO ONE can be as inconsistent as that other guard!!! I'm sorry but we can't have him missing layups.lol

SummittsCourt writes:

What a disappointment this year has been.

Classof72 writes:

I'm proud of our coach and our team as people. They just don't play basketball very well.

volaholic45 writes:

I beg to differ - I saw two UT scorers at the KY game - Jordan McRae and Chris Lofton.

TK writes:

Reese looks like he should get more mins. With McRae, Richardson, Reese, and Moore you have some tall guys who are pretty quick. I would like to see the team press more with those guys. Get some turnover points.

HooRay_Vol writes:

in response to TK:

Reese looks like he should get more mins. With McRae, Richardson, Reese, and Moore you have some tall guys who are pretty quick. I would like to see the team press more with those guys. Get some turnover points.

I agree. Reese was pretty impressive, but will he be consistant?

Would also like to see Moore get more mins at PG. Hate to say it, but Golden's performance was very lack-luster. Too many TO's.....

1pavolfan writes:

I can't believe D-1 players miss so many lay-ups, also do they not practice free throws ??? free throws are FREE POINTS for gods sake !!, Stokes has got to be a MAN underneath !!!and play with confidence. as always GO VOLS !!!

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to HooRay_Vol:

I agree. Reese was pretty impressive, but will he be consistant?

Would also like to see Moore get more mins at PG. Hate to say it, but Golden's performance was very lack-luster. Too many TO's.....

Reese is slowly finding his role in the offense and Moore is playing much smarter and taking better shots which is good news..At this point Martins rotation includes everybody but the towel boy so anything is possible..

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

As you all know Ive been saying McRae is the key to success but unfortunately at the same time Golden once the leading scorer has lost his Mojo..Had Golden played to his past potential we easily beat Bama and maybe KY too..Now the pressure is on Golden and his up and down play has our guards playing a different style..McRae totally took the faster Goodwin to school..Gonna need 3 players having double digit games to win games. Richardson is our most consistent player and him and Stokes must help Jordan with double digit games..As a senior Hall needs to get his head out of his b%tt..His defense against KY was awful as I watched him stand there and just watch players blow by him and do nothing..The sooner Golden returns to form the sooner we win..Martins offensive plan in the last 7 minutes against KY was awful.He basically turned the game into McRae vs the whole KY team and KY got smart and smothered him

samvol writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

As you all know Ive been saying McRae is the key to success but unfortunately at the same time Golden once the leading scorer has lost his Mojo..Had Golden played to his past potential we easily beat Bama and maybe KY too..Now the pressure is on Golden and his up and down play has our guards playing a different style..McRae totally took the faster Goodwin to school..Gonna need 3 players having double digit games to win games. Richardson is our most consistent player and him and Stokes must help Jordan with double digit games..As a senior Hall needs to get his head out of his b%tt..His defense against KY was awful as I watched him stand there and just watch players blow by him and do nothing..The sooner Golden returns to form the sooner we win..Martins offensive plan in the last 7 minutes against KY was awful.He basically turned the game into McRae vs the whole KY team and KY got smart and smothered him

most of you "Fans" are so clueless that you cant tell when a player is hurting but yet still play and do what they can. i dont care if Hall and Mcbee are seniors, they are doing what they can. its offiseve to see what is written, i played ball and i know what it feels like to try and play through. how do you know his head was up his butte...were you up there to see it?

thevoice writes:

Moore, McRrae, Yemi, Stokes, Reese look like the best lineup. Possibly Richardson for Yemi.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to thevoice:

Moore, McRrae, Yemi, Stokes, Reese look like the best lineup. Possibly Richardson for Yemi.

Sounds pretty good. But I'd really like to see Golden turn it around. He just should not be missing so many shots and turnovers and poor defense. But He shouldn't be playing so much if he's hurt that bad.
Golden every one wants to see you play...the way you can play. Quit the nonsense and do what you know you can do.lol Start enjoying the game and quit missing foul shots, play defense, and quit throwing it away at key times.lol AND "don't make me come over there"!hehe

johnlg00 writes:

in response to TK:

Reese looks like he should get more mins. With McRae, Richardson, Reese, and Moore you have some tall guys who are pretty quick. I would like to see the team press more with those guys. Get some turnover points.

I've been saying the same thing, TK. As I count them, the Vols have five guys between 6'5" and 6'8" who could be dynamite in a pressing defense or an uptempo game. I could even envision 3-to-5 minute segments where I would play them as a group. I'm talking about McRae, Richardson, Reese, Moore, and Edwards. True, none of them are polished ball-handlers and they would be a bit thin to hold up against a strong team on the boards for long, but there would be few opponents who could run with them, and as long as they were fresh, they could be pretty tough taking it to the rim on offense and slapping balls and snagging passes on defense. Put Yemi in with some of them as the defensive backstop and offensive garbage man underneath, and it makes even more sense to me. It would take more courage and flexibility than most modern coaches have to actually do that, but it is fascinating to imagine.

Basketvol writes:

in response to johnlg00:

I've been saying the same thing, TK. As I count them, the Vols have five guys between 6'5" and 6'8" who could be dynamite in a pressing defense or an uptempo game. I could even envision 3-to-5 minute segments where I would play them as a group. I'm talking about McRae, Richardson, Reese, Moore, and Edwards. True, none of them are polished ball-handlers and they would be a bit thin to hold up against a strong team on the boards for long, but there would be few opponents who could run with them, and as long as they were fresh, they could be pretty tough taking it to the rim on offense and slapping balls and snagging passes on defense. Put Yemi in with some of them as the defensive backstop and offensive garbage man underneath, and it makes even more sense to me. It would take more courage and flexibility than most modern coaches have to actually do that, but it is fascinating to imagine.

I agree and have been calling for the same thing, especially when we are down and the game is on the line! I like the lineup you suggested but would like to see a re-energized Stokes in there too, or Makenjoula if Stokes isn't up for it. I sure hope they can turn things around and this might be the way to do it. More pressure!

abnerPeabody writes:

in response to 1pavolfan:

I can't believe D-1 players miss so many lay-ups, also do they not practice free throws ??? free throws are FREE POINTS for gods sake !!, Stokes has got to be a MAN underneath !!!and play with confidence. as always GO VOLS !!!

I believe Stokes ,as well as everyone else is playing to their potential.Stokes may improve somewhere down the road but the potential has all but been met. He will never play up to his billing.That goes for most all of them. Coach Martin is a really good person it seems,but he has not proven himself as a recruiter or as an SEC coach.
I am a strong Tennessee fon calling as I see things while hoping I need glasses.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to johnlg00:

I've been saying the same thing, TK. As I count them, the Vols have five guys between 6'5" and 6'8" who could be dynamite in a pressing defense or an uptempo game. I could even envision 3-to-5 minute segments where I would play them as a group. I'm talking about McRae, Richardson, Reese, Moore, and Edwards. True, none of them are polished ball-handlers and they would be a bit thin to hold up against a strong team on the boards for long, but there would be few opponents who could run with them, and as long as they were fresh, they could be pretty tough taking it to the rim on offense and slapping balls and snagging passes on defense. Put Yemi in with some of them as the defensive backstop and offensive garbage man underneath, and it makes even more sense to me. It would take more courage and flexibility than most modern coaches have to actually do that, but it is fascinating to imagine.

I've been thinking about this a little since this dialogue began. The phrase that sticks out to me here is, "True, none of them are polished ball-handlers". You're obviously correct here. But they aren't that bad either and might improve with play. Plus on another phrase of yours I'd say we can get rebounds in transition or just good positioning otherwise. 5 minutes might be all it'd take to make the necessary gains when down or trying to increase a lead. I've seen it done!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to samvol:

most of you "Fans" are so clueless that you cant tell when a player is hurting but yet still play and do what they can. i dont care if Hall and Mcbee are seniors, they are doing what they can. its offiseve to see what is written, i played ball and i know what it feels like to try and play through. how do you know his head was up his butte...were you up there to see it?

Golly samvol! I understand defending against rants on players and coaches. But I've learned that on these "blog sights" you can't be too defensive. Most of us on here are just here when we're not doing anything else important. Except maybe the ones who are PAID to disrespect the Vols.

samvol writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

Golly samvol! I understand defending against rants on players and coaches. But I've learned that on these "blog sights" you can't be too defensive. Most of us on here are just here when we're not doing anything else important. Except maybe the ones who are PAID to disrespect the Vols.

its only when the players a being demeaned by fans. players do not place stars beside thier names, fans put all these expectations on players based on what someone thats probable never even played college ball says about them, then the players are being bullied when they dont live up to the fans expectations..its stupid.

brokendownoldvol writes:

I keep wondering if this team is plagued by the same problem that has hurt TN BB since the late seventies when I was up there? Marijuana.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to samvol:

its only when the players a being demeaned by fans. players do not place stars beside thier names, fans put all these expectations on players based on what someone thats probable never even played college ball says about them, then the players are being bullied when they dont live up to the fans expectations..its stupid.

Actually I agree mostly. but they are getting a free ride. I got a free ride in band. Ended up losing it because I never practiced my instrument. I deserved to lose it. Simple comparison I admit. We don't know all the details of the underachievers.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

I've been thinking about this a little since this dialogue began. The phrase that sticks out to me here is, "True, none of them are polished ball-handlers". You're obviously correct here. But they aren't that bad either and might improve with play. Plus on another phrase of yours I'd say we can get rebounds in transition or just good positioning otherwise. 5 minutes might be all it'd take to make the necessary gains when down or trying to increase a lead. I've seen it done!

My thoughts exactly. I was thinking of this mainly as a way to give the starters some rest, shake up the game a bit, give opponents something else to have to practice for, maybe wear down the other team a bit, give the subs more playing time and experience, and perhaps steal a few buckets. But, again, I really don't expect to see this under CCM. Like many "program" coaches, he seems reluctant to turn the game over to the players, perhaps with good reason. For now, it's just amusing speculation.

fabiofive148 writes:

Why is Mcbee even playing, worst defense I have ever seen.

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