Mike Strange: Vols make the plays, get the reward

Mike Strange
Tennessee's Trae Golden, left, is congratulated by teammate D'Montre Edwards, as they celebrate after defeating Alabama at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. UT won the game 54-53, bringing their SEC record to 2-4.(AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee's Trae Golden, left, is congratulated by teammate D'Montre Edwards, as they celebrate after defeating Alabama at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. UT won the game 54-53, bringing their SEC record to 2-4.(AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Shortly after 4 o'clock Saturday, evidence was converging to confirm what many have suspected: That Tennessee's athletic program has fallen under a curse.

At Thompson-Boling Arena, the Vols were trying to lock down a win over Alabama.

The more intense segment of UT's fan base was simultaneously monitoring a press conference at a Virginia high school. Superstud running back Derrick Green would pick between UT and Michigan.

With 15.4 seconds to play, Trae Golden had a chance to solidify Tennessee's tenuous 54-53 lead over Bama. But he missed the front end of a one-and-one.

In the scramble for the rebound, Golden crashed into the courtside high-roller seats and nearly took out, of all people, Jim Haslam, the university's leading benefactor.

Possession to Alabama. Timeout on the court.

During the timeout, unbeknownst to the majority of the crowd that was on its feet to sweat out the final possession, Green announced for Michigan.

Surely, a game-winning Alabama shot would follow.

But it did not. Bad news didn't come in threes or even twos.

The Vols got their win, 54-53, unleashing a celebration for both team and crowd.

Haslam, by the way, appeared to walk away unscathed. It's up to Butch Jones to find another running back.

Coach Cuonzo Martin told his team during that tense timeout:

"We've been here before. At some point we've got to pull one out.''

Boy, have the Vols ever been here before. Crunch-time failures have derailed the first half of UT's season. Two Saturdays ago in Tuscaloosa this same Alabama team escaped 68-65 when Golden's 3-point shot rimmed off.

"We haven't gotten a lot of breaks in the past couple of games,'' said Golden. "Just being able to get this 'W' we can just move forward.''

Tennessee got the break this time.

The break was a no-call by the officials when Alabama's Trevor Lacey went to the corner to launch a shot that could win the game at the buzzer.

UT's Jarnell Stokes went with him, bodied up and Lacey never got the shot off. There was contact, but not enough, apparently, for any of the three officials to blow a whistle and send Lacey to the free-throw stripe.

"I wasn't listening for a whistle,'' said Golden. "I was listening for the buzzer.''

When it came it was music to Tennessee's ears.

"Tonight,'' said Martin, "it bounced our way.''

It bounced UT's way a couple of times, in fact.

With 2:27 left, UT, leading 48-47, a Stokes toss bounced high off the rim and — as the shot-clock sounded — fell back through for a 50-47 lead.

Which Lacey promptly erased with a 3-pointer. So Jordan McRae drove through traffic and got a shot to rattle in for a 52-50 lead. That, after Stokes had extended the possession by ripping an offensive rebound away from the Tide, one of his 18 boards.

"All credit goes to Tennessee,'' said Alabama coach Anthony Grant. "They made plays they had to make.''

Haven't heard the opposing coach say that about the Vols for a while. But Grant was right. Tennessee made the plays.

"All the games we've been losing in the SEC have been really close games,'' McRae said. "And those are the games that hurt you the most, when you know it's on yourself.''

They won this close game. That's on them too. It should feel good.

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 » 18

Orangethrunthru writes:

I read alot of really upseting discouraging comments earlier this morning.... hmm wonder where those guys are??? Coaching is such a fickled profession. When the coach makes a call or a decision and the "man child" does it he is a genius and is given a ton of recognition for his genius. The caoch can make the same call andthe player in the midst of pressure fails and the coach is worthless and couldnt coach a upward bound team at the nearest baptist church... It was a great win some boys are becoming men.... wished that would happen with a few of our fans.....

alfrizzle097 writes:

in response to Orangethrunthru:

I read alot of really upseting discouraging comments earlier this morning.... hmm wonder where those guys are??? Coaching is such a fickled profession. When the coach makes a call or a decision and the "man child" does it he is a genius and is given a ton of recognition for his genius. The caoch can make the same call andthe player in the midst of pressure fails and the coach is worthless and couldnt coach a upward bound team at the nearest baptist church... It was a great win some boys are becoming men.... wished that would happen with a few of our fans.....

This is still a team which has multiple players that seem to have regressed and there are few people that can PUT THE BALL IN THE BASKET.

It certainly isn't enough of a track record to judge Martin on, especially with the loss of Maimon, but this year has not been encouraging thus far. People sure have forgotten about the overachieving last year though....

RashaadSalabeb writes:

It's always fun to beat Alabama!
Go Vols!

oldster writes:

Every one who has complained about how Coach Martin interacts with the officials should note how much more able Stokes was able to play in the game immediately following his public complaint. He is quiet and boring, I admit, but the man knows what he is doing (I just do not like the style that he knows about). Stokes actually played like his hype for the first time. Did you see that one armed rebound that he pulled away from two Bama players? That may be the greatest rebound I have ever seen! Keep it up, Jarnell, and improve that free throw shooting.

BruisedOrange writes:

in response to oldster:

Every one who has complained about how Coach Martin interacts with the officials should note how much more able Stokes was able to play in the game immediately following his public complaint. He is quiet and boring, I admit, but the man knows what he is doing (I just do not like the style that he knows about). Stokes actually played like his hype for the first time. Did you see that one armed rebound that he pulled away from two Bama players? That may be the greatest rebound I have ever seen! Keep it up, Jarnell, and improve that free throw shooting.

The complainers will just complain, "Then why didn't CCM do it sooner?"

I'm not homo... but I sure liked men better when they acted like men instead of women.

SouthPaVol writes:

Mike, you nailed the two things on my mind at 4PM: beating Bama and signing DG. Today, 50% is ok, since we beat Bama. Not too disappointed about Green, although a stud RB would have been nice. Our two seniors, however, have worked hard in a previous losing effort--they should be fine this year. This stud OL is so good, they will probably put one of these backs in the NFL—it’s wait-n-see which one puts in the work and like cream on fresh milk, rises to the top.

As for BB, I HATE seeing our guys get beat inside and on the boards. Rebounding is hard work, and our new starting freshman brings his lunch pail. Moore is a stud basketball player that works hard and is a joy to watch play the game. He can score off the bounce and defends well. Glad CCM is getting him in the game, so he can iron out freshman mistakes.

The energy Moore brings is what wins games. Nothing against our two stars: Stokes had maybe his best game; McRae shot well in the 2d half. Moore's steal with about 4 minutes remaining, however, was the play of the game. He took what was a Bama rebound, started the break, and Stokes got a layup 90' away. The play put the Vols in the lead.

My left-handed comment: The Vols don’t make the NCAA tournament without winning the SEC tourney, which is a long shot. Moore is a catalyst; he makes it possible.

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to I_STILL_OWN_MANY:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

We know, you "own many" troll posts on GoVolsExtra.

It's what trolls do.........especially those who just joined this site a few days ago.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

My girlfriend thanks the Vols for the win..First Saturday night in a while I wasn't walking around the house pouting or being a POed jerk because we gave the game away

philgreen5#410561 writes:

This team misses Maymon, but they keep fighting. They have a down Vandy bunch next, maybe a win there will help turn this season positive!

underthehill writes:

in response to SouthPaVol:

Mike, you nailed the two things on my mind at 4PM: beating Bama and signing DG. Today, 50% is ok, since we beat Bama. Not too disappointed about Green, although a stud RB would have been nice. Our two seniors, however, have worked hard in a previous losing effort--they should be fine this year. This stud OL is so good, they will probably put one of these backs in the NFL—it’s wait-n-see which one puts in the work and like cream on fresh milk, rises to the top.

As for BB, I HATE seeing our guys get beat inside and on the boards. Rebounding is hard work, and our new starting freshman brings his lunch pail. Moore is a stud basketball player that works hard and is a joy to watch play the game. He can score off the bounce and defends well. Glad CCM is getting him in the game, so he can iron out freshman mistakes.

The energy Moore brings is what wins games. Nothing against our two stars: Stokes had maybe his best game; McRae shot well in the 2d half. Moore's steal with about 4 minutes remaining, however, was the play of the game. He took what was a Bama rebound, started the break, and Stokes got a layup 90' away. The play put the Vols in the lead.

My left-handed comment: The Vols don’t make the NCAA tournament without winning the SEC tourney, which is a long shot. Moore is a catalyst; he makes it possible.

If you don't see the undeveloped talent Moore has to play this game..you don't know basketball..quick hands and feet..point to point quick passes..amazing perception where a missed shot is coming off the rim..7 rebounds against bama..sees the floor better than any current Vol..just has to learn how to use his talent..I am enjoying watching this guy develop his skills..and can't believe Martin is the only D 1 coach to see it...

hikerdude writes:

Good to get a win. BBB

ROCKYnROCKFORD writes:

Happy that Coach Martin finally stumbled onto Einstein's definition of stupidity. How many times would Ringling Bros. trot out a 'one trick pony' that had pulled up lame?

I had always hoped McBee would develop into a Lee Humphrey type player. At Florida, he was a big part of their back-to-back. How many times, in big games, did he bury a couple of 3s to open the second half. HUGE.

When Skylar regains his health...his stroke...his confidence, he will have a roll. I hope he lights up the month of March.

Go Vols.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to ROCKYnROCKFORD:

Happy that Coach Martin finally stumbled onto Einstein's definition of stupidity. How many times would Ringling Bros. trot out a 'one trick pony' that had pulled up lame?

I had always hoped McBee would develop into a Lee Humphrey type player. At Florida, he was a big part of their back-to-back. How many times, in big games, did he bury a couple of 3s to open the second half. HUGE.

When Skylar regains his health...his stroke...his confidence, he will have a roll. I hope he lights up the month of March.

Go Vols.

The thing is, especially now that Skylar isn't hitting the three-pointer, he doesn't have anything else that works for him or the team. Opponents still play him tight for the outside shot, but he has never learned to use the shot fake to set up a penetrating move. Faking a guy up and then taking a couple of dribbles to set up a good PASS would be more effective than rushing to put up an outside shot that he doesn't believe he is going to make anyway.

tennlions writes:

Given the talent level and the style of play, this team is bound for the NIT. Next year's lineup: Richardson, McRae, Stokes, Maymon and a solid PG. That puts Reese, Lopez and Moore as productive options off the bench. That should be a team that can do some damage in the NCAA tourney. GO VOLS!!

golfman1975 writes:

in response to I_STILL_OWN_MANY:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You don't own jack.......

johnlg00 writes:

in response to tennlions:

Given the talent level and the style of play, this team is bound for the NIT. Next year's lineup: Richardson, McRae, Stokes, Maymon and a solid PG. That puts Reese, Lopez and Moore as productive options off the bench. That should be a team that can do some damage in the NCAA tourney. GO VOLS!!

The NCAA tourney looks out of reach for the Vols this year if only because the low RPI of the SEC means they don't have many more opportunities for "quality wins". No reason for anybody to stop working hard and trying to win as much as they can because, as you say, they should be hard to handle next year, and a taste of success the rest of the season will help them develop the depth and experience they will need to really capitalize then.

Lizardgrad89 writes:

in response to SouthPaVol:

Mike, you nailed the two things on my mind at 4PM: beating Bama and signing DG. Today, 50% is ok, since we beat Bama. Not too disappointed about Green, although a stud RB would have been nice. Our two seniors, however, have worked hard in a previous losing effort--they should be fine this year. This stud OL is so good, they will probably put one of these backs in the NFL—it’s wait-n-see which one puts in the work and like cream on fresh milk, rises to the top.

As for BB, I HATE seeing our guys get beat inside and on the boards. Rebounding is hard work, and our new starting freshman brings his lunch pail. Moore is a stud basketball player that works hard and is a joy to watch play the game. He can score off the bounce and defends well. Glad CCM is getting him in the game, so he can iron out freshman mistakes.

The energy Moore brings is what wins games. Nothing against our two stars: Stokes had maybe his best game; McRae shot well in the 2d half. Moore's steal with about 4 minutes remaining, however, was the play of the game. He took what was a Bama rebound, started the break, and Stokes got a layup 90' away. The play put the Vols in the lead.

My left-handed comment: The Vols don’t make the NCAA tournament without winning the SEC tourney, which is a long shot. Moore is a catalyst; he makes it possible.

You are kidding yourself about your offensive line. It's an elite PASS blocking unit. But even with the threat of the pass opening up running lanes, UT was pedestrian running the ball last year. This year, passing game will regress significantly, people will crowd the box, and the run game will go nowhere.

Your Oline is finesse guys, not maulers. Elite finesse guys.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Lizardgrad89:

You are kidding yourself about your offensive line. It's an elite PASS blocking unit. But even with the threat of the pass opening up running lanes, UT was pedestrian running the ball last year. This year, passing game will regress significantly, people will crowd the box, and the run game will go nowhere.

Your Oline is finesse guys, not maulers. Elite finesse guys.

Well, we'll just have to see how they do next year, but the rushing game doubled in production last year from the previous one, despite the absence of game-breaking RBs. It was also clear that passing was the emphasis of the offensive staff for understandable reasons. Now that the "gunslingers" on both the team and the staff are gone, it stands to reason that the team will get more work on the running game, and the O-line's experience should make that transition easier. Also, whoever emerges as the starting QB will have all the practice reps with the first team and should vastly improve over what they have had a chance to do before. Finally, the receivers may be young and inexperienced compared to the last group, but that doesn't mean they have no talent and they will also be anxious to make their own marks. Nobody is predicting a championship, but there is no reason why the team as a whole can't be more competitive than they often were last year. As a fan, that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

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