Efficient version of Vols appeared against Mississippi State, can it continue?

Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes (5) and forward Kenny Hall (20) pressure Mississippi State forward Roquez Johnson (25) as he goes up for a basket at Thompson-Boling Arena Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes (5) and forward Kenny Hall (20) pressure Mississippi State forward Roquez Johnson (25) as he goes up for a basket at Thompson-Boling Arena Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Which player is most vital to the success of UT men's basketball the rest of the season?

See the results »

View previous polls »

Grind. Battle. Struggle.

The adjectives often used to describe Tennessee offensive possessions were, at least for a moment, casually swept away in Saturday's 72-57 win over Mississippi State.

About eight minutes into the game's second half, the Vols' motion offense looked fluent and self-assured on a series of possessions.

Trae Golden found Jordan McRae cutting backdoor for an uncontested dunk. Then Golden found Jarnell Stokes on the blocks for another dunk. Those two plays followed back-to-back 3-pointers by Derek Reese, who bookended the series with another 3 to cap a 13-2 run.

The 17,584 onlookers at Thompson-Boling Arena glanced at each other. Who is this team?

But it was the Vols. The same team peppered with inquiries about the meandering production of Golden and Stokes, along with never-ending questions about offensive continuity, found balance.

This is the Tennessee basketball coach Cuonzo Martin envisions. Seventy-two points on 63 possessions. An efficiency rating of 114.3. An assist-to-turnover rating of 1.73 thanks to a season-high 19 dimes.

Not to mention a win —UT's first in the SEC this season.

The sigh of relief sweeping through Thompson-Boling blew the tumbleweed off the Vols' offense.

"We've been in situations like this before, it's just us maturing mentally — locking down on defense, moving the ball offensively, setting good screens, all the things we work on," Martin said. "Once you're able to get a win you can breathe a little bit and move forward, play the way you're capable of playing."

But keep in mind, Tennessee (9-7, 1-3) was far from perfect and Mississippi State is the same team that lost to Loyola-Chicago and Alabama A&M.

Martin wants more.

"I still don't think we played great basketball, I just think we were good enough to win the game," he said. "We had the talent level in certain areas — Jarnell dominated around the rim, Trae penetrated and pitched, but I don't think we played at the level we're capable of playing."

They'll need to on Thursday. Traveling to Oxford, Miss., the Vols will face an Ole Miss team riding a seven-game winning streak, sitting atop the SEC standings at 4-0 and holding a lofty 15-2 record overall.

That Tennessee offense? It's going to have to hang with a Rebel attack ranking fourth nationally in points per game (82.4).

Less than two weeks ago, Ole Miss dropped 92 points in an 18-point romp over UT. The Vols say they're looking ahead, not behind, however.

"Today was a great opportunity, but Thursday is even more of an opportunity to turn things around," Stokes said.

To do so, he and Golden will have to continue their play from Saturday. Avoiding foul trouble and playing 28 minutes, Stokes scored 18 points, his most since a win over Presbyterian on Dec. 18, and grabbed 11 rebounds. Golden, who had missed 32 of his last 42 shots, scored 10 points on 4 of 8 shooting and dished a season-high nine assists.

"We just have to play well and have our team end on a positive note," Golden said after the game. "I needed this today. The past few weeks have been tough and I'm just glad we got the win. Our team has been getting good rhythms."

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

© 2013 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 22

BrassMonkey writes:

First. Fingers crossed it can continue so we have a product worth watching. Time will tell.

td writes:

Overall, best effort to date with significantly more intensity on both ends.

As for Ole Miss, if the Yogi Rebs get 44 free throws again, we probably get the same result again.

alphadog writes:

"I OWN MANY" is an idiot. It is interesting how Vols haters creep on this site that is supposed to be for Vol fans.

Now, I am all for fair constructive criticism, but to say that the Vols don't belong in the SEC with men's sports is ridiculous.

First of all, they have never been a men's basketball powerhouse. They only enjoyed real success during Pearl's tenure.

Second, our baseball team has been pretty formidable.

Third, our football program has a great track record. They have hit a slump in the last few years.

There are ebbs and flows in other football programs too. Alabama has won 3 championships in the last 4 years. However, they were in a lull for sometime before this success. In fact, they have not had such success since the days of Bear Bryant.

Outside of Alabama, UT has the most bowl appearances and victories of any other SEC program. Get your facts straight before you start trying to trash any program. Also, if you hate UT so much, stop visiting this website.

SouthPaVol writes:

Thought our passing was much improved, but Miss St seemed to be a bit slow on defending the inside pass. Saw more dunks than in most other games, especially Stokes was more aggressive; McRae had another crowd-pleasing dunk. Good production in the paint.

Shot selection was more to my liking. This game, the points was more distributed and it didn't seem as if one player had the team on his back. We hit a couple of outside shots and everyone smiles. Macy said something to this effect at halftime, everything goes smoother when the team is shooting over 50% from the field.

I know our Vols are working hard in practice, trying to fix problems and gel as a team. It's easier, however, to gauge improvement over time by playing a previous opponent. We'll know more about the Vols' improvement when we venture into Oxford.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Going forward we must have double digit scoring from 4 players to keep winning..Pretty much everybody in the SEC plays good defense including MSU so this team has been tested..One problem worth fixing is blowing leads and momentum. Had Bama and KY on the ropes but blew it with turnovers

brod writes:

this was not a good win. mississippi state is a bad team. there are issues with this team. hall should be scoring, high number of turnovers, giving up too many dribble drives. hope we're not 1-5 int he sec at the end of the week.

JonGrudensAgent writes:

Beat Ole Miss on Thursday and you may be something.

The Vols beat a team that went seven deep with a team that goes ten deep by pulling away midway through the second half.

McBee logging 27 minutes is inexcusable at this point as he brings nothing offensively or defensively to the table.

He has taken 7 shots inside the 3 point line this season and shooting at a 31% clip outside of it while getting progressively worse as the season wears on. 8 of his 26 3pt makes were against Kennesaw and Presbyterian. SEC teams have shut him down.

He averages 0.9 rpg and has 4 steals on the season. The only thing he doesn't do is turn the ball over because he does nothing but hang out on the wing. He never handles the ball for any length of time.

Bizarre that he is logging so many minutes for a coach that preaches defense and rebounding.

TheEffect writes:

It was Mississippi State....at home.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I agree that McBee doesn't bring much at this point...but he still draws a defender. He also may get hot? Who knows? He reminds me a little of swiper now.hehe

Ironcity writes:

in response to JonGrudensAgent:

Beat Ole Miss on Thursday and you may be something.

The Vols beat a team that went seven deep with a team that goes ten deep by pulling away midway through the second half.

McBee logging 27 minutes is inexcusable at this point as he brings nothing offensively or defensively to the table.

He has taken 7 shots inside the 3 point line this season and shooting at a 31% clip outside of it while getting progressively worse as the season wears on. 8 of his 26 3pt makes were against Kennesaw and Presbyterian. SEC teams have shut him down.

He averages 0.9 rpg and has 4 steals on the season. The only thing he doesn't do is turn the ball over because he does nothing but hang out on the wing. He never handles the ball for any length of time.

Bizarre that he is logging so many minutes for a coach that preaches defense and rebounding.

I am a big fan of Mcbee but I agree with everything you said. The kid is hurt and it clearly effects his shot, he brings little defensively and this teams needs more players on the court that can attack the rim. makes no sense to continue to play more then 12 minutes a game unless he gets hot.

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to I_OWN_MANY:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

No, here you go again. No one said they thought the Vols were great. Just happy to get a win. I'm sure you instigate and stir the pot in your life. Much like a couple of my co-workers, a big jerk that no one can stand. Yeah I know you own your own business blah blah blah

hikerdude writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

They won because they were playing MSU.

JonGrudensAgent writes:

in response to Ironcity:

I am a big fan of Mcbee but I agree with everything you said. The kid is hurt and it clearly effects his shot, he brings little defensively and this teams needs more players on the court that can attack the rim. makes no sense to continue to play more then 12 minutes a game unless he gets hot.

Yeah, I am not knocking him as a person in the least as he seems to be a fine student-athlete and model citizen off the court.

If a players is going to get starter's minutes, then they need to produce like a starter. Reese and McBee's minutes need to be switched IMO.

SevenT writes:

in response to Ironcity:

I am a big fan of Mcbee but I agree with everything you said. The kid is hurt and it clearly effects his shot, he brings little defensively and this teams needs more players on the court that can attack the rim. makes no sense to continue to play more then 12 minutes a game unless he gets hot.

McBee needs to cut his nasty hair and shave.

Just Saying

johnlg00 writes:

There is certainly no reason to say the Vols have turned the corner on the season just because they beat an out-manned opponent at home. However, there is no reason to assume that they can ONLY win that kind of game. The best thing about this last one is that nearly everybody was doing the things they have to do to have a chance to win against anybody. The fact that they did it Saturday is no guarantee at this point that they will keep doing it, but it is certainly better than playing BAD and winning, or playing bad and LOSING, for that matter. If everybody will just do what they do well, not make careless mistakes, and continue to work hard on defense, the wins will come. The Vols could have easily beaten both Alabama and UK if they had made the plays at the end. They let Ole Miss mess with their heads and they couldn't get out of their own way. I'm not predicting a win there--I was surprised at how good the Rebs seem to be this year--but I do expect the game to be a lot closer than it was here and see no reason why they can't finish the season strong. It's all up to them if they just come to understand what they are doing when they play well and just keep doing it, no matter who they are playing. I think they are better than they realize right now, they just have to understand what "better" is for each of them. It is a confidence issue even more than a talent issue.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to SevenT:

McBee needs to cut his nasty hair and shave.

Just Saying

You need to brush & floss your 7 teeth, but that's beside the point.

FeelVol writes:

in response to johnlg00:

There is certainly no reason to say the Vols have turned the corner on the season just because they beat an out-manned opponent at home. However, there is no reason to assume that they can ONLY win that kind of game. The best thing about this last one is that nearly everybody was doing the things they have to do to have a chance to win against anybody. The fact that they did it Saturday is no guarantee at this point that they will keep doing it, but it is certainly better than playing BAD and winning, or playing bad and LOSING, for that matter. If everybody will just do what they do well, not make careless mistakes, and continue to work hard on defense, the wins will come. The Vols could have easily beaten both Alabama and UK if they had made the plays at the end. They let Ole Miss mess with their heads and they couldn't get out of their own way. I'm not predicting a win there--I was surprised at how good the Rebs seem to be this year--but I do expect the game to be a lot closer than it was here and see no reason why they can't finish the season strong. It's all up to them if they just come to understand what they are doing when they play well and just keep doing it, no matter who they are playing. I think they are better than they realize right now, they just have to understand what "better" is for each of them. It is a confidence issue even more than a talent issue.

Agree with your post John and as always appreciate your level headed approach to our team and its progress.Go Vols!!!

dcap8424 writes:

in response to I_OWN_MANY:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

ALL sports... really? Lady vols, tennis, swimming, track, etc. are all pretty respectable. Yeah, football sucks and the men's bball team is underperforming, but ALL sports? Also, geographically is not a reason. Geographical location might be a reason. Go back to 3rd grade.

voloffaith writes:

in response to dcap8424:

ALL sports... really? Lady vols, tennis, swimming, track, etc. are all pretty respectable. Yeah, football sucks and the men's bball team is underperforming, but ALL sports? Also, geographically is not a reason. Geographical location might be a reason. Go back to 3rd grade.

Wait just a darn minute! You can't tell him to go back to 3rd grade when it hasn't even finished 2nd........

eye_own_mini is like Dolly Parton and Anelda(SP) Marcos in that he/she owns many shoes.....Hey"these boots are made for walking...c'mon boots start..."

wilk58 writes:

in response to FeelVol:

Agree with your post John and as always appreciate your level headed approach to our team and its progress.Go Vols!!!

Great Post!

JonGrudensAgent writes:

in response to SevenT:

McBee needs to cut his nasty hair and shave.

Just Saying

It must be a sad pitiful life to know that your own team's website wants nothing to do with you so you resort to coming here.

Just sayin'.

decades_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to TheEffect:

It was Mississippi State....at home.

Point well taken, TE. MSU is not Ole Miss. Tenn got schooled in TBA against the Rebs. They gave up too many fouls, too many free throws (38-44), didn't get to the line enough themselves (15-23), and just got beat. But hopefully this will be a lesson for the Vols. They'll correct a lot of mistakes and hopefully come out lean and hungry. They can beat this team. Problem was, they took too much of a business approach in their first meeting with the Rebels. Ole Miss was the team that came out snarling, and owned Tenn for the entire game. Let's just see if Tenn can come to out to play on Thursday. They can come strong. Question is, will they?

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