John Adams: Win or lose, games take toll on Vols

John Adams
Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes (5) reacts after losing his headband after being covered by Vanderbilt guard Josh Henderson (40) on a basket in the second half at Thompson-Boling Arena Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. Tennessee won 58-57 over Vanderbilt. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes (5) reacts after losing his headband after being covered by Vanderbilt guard Josh Henderson (40) on a basket in the second half at Thompson-Boling Arena Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. Tennessee won 58-57 over Vanderbilt. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

An usher turned to the media-types behind him and wondered aloud if the Thompson-Boling Arena scoreboard was fully functional Tuesday night.

His concern could be traced to the "12" beside Tennessee and the blank space next to Vanderbilt about five minutes into the game.

Not to worry, though. The athletic department won't have to dip into its depleted surplus fund to fix a scoreboard.

The scoreboard was working. The Commodores weren't.

In fact, Tennessee's 12-0 start was achieved so easily, another question arose: Could this be a laugher?

The question itself was laughable 35 minutes of game time later as Vanderbilt missed two shots from point-blank range and handed UT a 58-57 SEC victory.

From a 12-0 start to what was almost a last-second defeat, the journey was at least familiar to the Vols, who improved their record to 11-8.

They don't do laughers. They struggle. They grind. And if the opponent is as accommodating as Vanderbilt was, they prevail.

The outcome merely confirmed what so many of the first 18 games did. Seldom will anything come easy for the Vols.

No matter how hard they might play or how relentlessly they might defend, a 12-0 start won't necessarily enable them to run away from even the least capable of their conference opponents.

The offense isn't dependable enough for that.

UT's most dependable offensive player proved unreliable on this evening. Jordan McRae, the SEC's second-leading scorer in conference play, made two of 10 shots from the field and finished with seven points.

On an average night, that might have been disastrous. But Skylar McBee snapped out of a prolonged shooting slump with three 3-pointers in five attempts, and Jarnell Stokes often overpowered the smaller Commodores on his way to a game-high 19 points.

No other Vol scored more than six points. That's UT's offense.

No wonder, Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said, "Those wins are taking a toll on me."

And no wonder, he never expected the early, easy 12-0 advantage would lead to anything other than an exhausting finish.

"Any rival game, it doesn't matter the score, the situation, the personnel," he said. "There's a lot of fight.

"I knew those guys wouldn't roll over. They run that Princeton-style offense. Not something you normally see.

"Three games in six days, I was impressed at how (his team) competed."

The schedule has been exacerbated by the demands of a coach who might as well have "effort" emblazoned on his forehead.

"Playing three games in six days is tough on

anybody, especially the way Coach Martin wants you to play," McBee said. "Playing as hard as you can play the whole time you are out there."

If the Vols had played three times in six weeks, it's unlikely the game would have followed a different course. They won the previous game in the final seconds against Alabama. They lost the game before that in the final minutes against Ole Miss.

The first five minutes of the Vanderbilt game suggested there would be no suspense in the last five minutes. But UT's games just aren't that easy.

Win or lose, they take their toll.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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Comments » 26

alfrizzle097 writes:

Painful watching them barely catch the rim on wide open threes and miss multiple free throws in a row during crunch time.

Nice seeing Stokes put a couple good games together, but as a whole they need to find some focus on offense and learn to put the ball in the basket.

jack4444 writes:

Taking its toll? I'm actually getting headaches watching that offense. I swear the ball stays 15 feet behind the 3 point line for 30 seconds, if they get a shot at all often it's an off balance shot clock beater.

It's like watching Vol football defense. Regardless of the limited talent, they just can't be that bad, can they?

td writes:

This vintage of Tennessee Basketball is living proof that more games are lost by the losers than won by the winners. The games Tennessee has lost (except for Oklahoma State) they could have won, and the SEC games they've won could have been lost. Which is more unpredictable, this Vol Team or a box of Forrest Gump candy? If they can just keep winning (not losing), it won't matter.

underthehill writes:

..hope Martin continues to get the young guys on the floor more..get ready for next year..change game plan to include running the floor on offense..

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Hopefully Golden isn't out long..Good or bad we need him.Lopez played okay but he is a zero threat to score and Golden usually puts up 10 PPG..One problem is every team in the SEC plays hard and fast on defense so nothing ever comes easy for us..Really need to win at Ford but Hogs are way better than Vandy..A 8 minute shooting drought will get us run out of that gym

voloffaith writes:

So did this game take it's toll on JA as well? You would think by the article's end that it did....

johnlg00 writes:

Gotta give Vandy credit for hanging in there when they got down. They changed their defense in the second half and took away the things the Vols were beating them with earlier.

The next stage in Jordan's evolution will be learning to facilitate the other guys when the defense concentrates on him. He can create miracles on his drives, but those are rare by their nature, and there is no substitute for reliably carrying out the fundamentals.

Glad to see that Jarnell has had more play at the high post in the last few games. He is much more engaged and effective when he moves and can't be mugged on the low block where the refs don't have a clear view of what is going on. His shot fakes and pivots are better but could still be smoother and more powerful. And keep working on those FTs, big fella!

Glad to see Skylar make a few last night. I'm afraid we can't count on that every night, but at least he still keeps most teams out of zones when he is in there and will draw constant attention by a defender in the man-to-man.

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Gotta give Vandy credit for hanging in there when they got down. They changed their defense in the second half and took away the things the Vols were beating them with earlier.

The next stage in Jordan's evolution will be learning to facilitate the other guys when the defense concentrates on him. He can create miracles on his drives, but those are rare by their nature, and there is no substitute for reliably carrying out the fundamentals.

Glad to see that Jarnell has had more play at the high post in the last few games. He is much more engaged and effective when he moves and can't be mugged on the low block where the refs don't have a clear view of what is going on. His shot fakes and pivots are better but could still be smoother and more powerful. And keep working on those FTs, big fella!

Glad to see Skylar make a few last night. I'm afraid we can't count on that every night, but at least he still keeps most teams out of zones when he is in there and will draw constant attention by a defender in the man-to-man.

Johnlg,

Well said. The thing about Stokes doing his thing around the basket lately is this...........it's obvious he has the green light and the instructions to make a move to the rim, which he is doing well. Also, it's obvious Stokes knows that's the game plan and several times he'll put the ball on the floor in traffic and lose control. But, that's not as often which is good.

Agree with some who said the Vols pass it around outside the perimeter and up against the clock we've seen several shot clock violations or a hurried 3 pointer as time expires. Watching Kentucky last night notice how they move well without the ball and therefore find a lot of cutters and drives to the basket. That one was hard to find a favorite since we have several immature U K trolls here ( 7 teeth etc ) but on the other hand, it was nice to see the hot dog ( Henderson ) being put in his place. Speaking of Henderson, both he and Henderson of Vandy have been tough to stop for the Vols.

tan007 writes:

I never thought I would be cheering for Ky. but I was last night. SO glad to see Ole Miss go down & Henderson didn't get to celebrate.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Gotta give Vandy credit for hanging in there when they got down. They changed their defense in the second half and took away the things the Vols were beating them with earlier.

The next stage in Jordan's evolution will be learning to facilitate the other guys when the defense concentrates on him. He can create miracles on his drives, but those are rare by their nature, and there is no substitute for reliably carrying out the fundamentals.

Glad to see that Jarnell has had more play at the high post in the last few games. He is much more engaged and effective when he moves and can't be mugged on the low block where the refs don't have a clear view of what is going on. His shot fakes and pivots are better but could still be smoother and more powerful. And keep working on those FTs, big fella!

Glad to see Skylar make a few last night. I'm afraid we can't count on that every night, but at least he still keeps most teams out of zones when he is in there and will draw constant attention by a defender in the man-to-man.

When you say "facilitate" I assume you mean passing to an open teammate, and I would agree. It often appears McRae makes up his mind to go to the rim come heck or high water. Even saw Stokes make a couple nice assists after being stymied. That is one thing I think Lopez brings to the table is that ability, willingness and intent to drive into a crowd and find the open man to pass to.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to tan007:

I never thought I would be cheering for Ky. but I was last night. SO glad to see Ole Miss go down & Henderson didn't get to celebrate.

Never cheer for Kentucky. This will be Ole Miss' best year for awhile. When Henderson departs Ole Miss, they will fall back to the middle of pack team they used to be. Andy Kennedy was lucky to get Henderson's lightning in a bottle. Kentucky will always be the team that needs to be beaten whether they are 30-0 or 0-30.

8inarow writes:

in response to tan007:

I never thought I would be cheering for Ky. but I was last night. SO glad to see Ole Miss go down & Henderson didn't get to celebrate.

Henderston to get slapped twice in a row, Saturday night in TitleTown.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

When you say "facilitate" I assume you mean passing to an open teammate, and I would agree. It often appears McRae makes up his mind to go to the rim come heck or high water. Even saw Stokes make a couple nice assists after being stymied. That is one thing I think Lopez brings to the table is that ability, willingness and intent to drive into a crowd and find the open man to pass to.

Yes, that is what I meant. Jordan has an ability to slash to the basket that isn't easily taught. However, he as well as several other Vols seem to make up their minds to score too soon on drives, as you said. I have said this often, but it REALLY helps when players learn to PICK their way inside, dribbling low but with their heads up, picking a spot they want to go to with each dribble, and being ready to either pass, go up for the short jumper, or, especially in Jordan's case, explode to the basket. Taking off from the foul line and expecting to glide all the way to the basket doesn't work nearly as often as it is tried these days.

As for Lopez, there have been a number of really effective PGs on really good teams that didn't score much, though it would help if he could develop a bit of an offensive game. He hasn't been fouled much, so I don't know what kind of FT shooter he is. My biggest concern about him in addition to the lack of offense is that he is a bit small to play really great defense. Maybe that will be the easier part of his game to improve the rest of this season, but he REALLY needs to work on his offense in the off-season.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Never cheer for Kentucky. This will be Ole Miss' best year for awhile. When Henderson departs Ole Miss, they will fall back to the middle of pack team they used to be. Andy Kennedy was lucky to get Henderson's lightning in a bottle. Kentucky will always be the team that needs to be beaten whether they are 30-0 or 0-30.

I agree. Henderson was the missing link that turned a decent Ole Miss team into a really good one. Henderson has had at least a cup of coffee at FIVE different colleges, but he may well have another year at OM unless he decides to go pro. I don't see him in the NBA yet, but he could tear it up right now overseas. OM's biggest losses next year will be Buckner and Holloway, the SEC's two top active career rebounding leaders. Those guys are what we hope Maymon and Stokes will be next year. Their ruggedness around the basket is one of their main team assets. They just kept taking it at Noel last night even when he kept swatting them. It was just bad luck and Noel's great timing that kept them from fouling him out, and whenever Noel came over to challenge a shot, one of them was nearby for the offensive rebound.

jmaples54 writes:

in response to 8inarow:

Henderston to get slapped twice in a row, Saturday night in TitleTown.

don't know where you think titletown is. maybe you have a continuous habit of sticking "t" where it doesn't belong, like "henderston", so maybe you meant "littletown."

CoverOrange writes:

in response to johnlg00:

I agree. Henderson was the missing link that turned a decent Ole Miss team into a really good one. Henderson has had at least a cup of coffee at FIVE different colleges, but he may well have another year at OM unless he decides to go pro. I don't see him in the NBA yet, but he could tear it up right now overseas. OM's biggest losses next year will be Buckner and Holloway, the SEC's two top active career rebounding leaders. Those guys are what we hope Maymon and Stokes will be next year. Their ruggedness around the basket is one of their main team assets. They just kept taking it at Noel last night even when he kept swatting them. It was just bad luck and Noel's great timing that kept them from fouling him out, and whenever Noel came over to challenge a shot, one of them was nearby for the offensive rebound.

That's my point about Ole Miss and Andy Kennedy. Buckner and Holloway are really good players and have been around for years but without Henderson their team was mediocre. Will this modicum of success raise expectations for Kennedy that he may not be able to support? Ole Miss would be the Auburn of SECBB if Auburn didn't have such a firm hold on that honor.

NashvillePreds writes:

Much better to have to toll taken in the form of a W verus and L.

smokeygrowl writes:

your coaching is taking its toll on us fans

wigmeister writes:

Unfortunately, the offense is just plain boring to watch except for a few short stretches in each game.

Lizardgrad89 writes:

in response to jmaples54:

don't know where you think titletown is. maybe you have a continuous habit of sticking "t" where it doesn't belong, like "henderston", so maybe you meant "littletown."

Haven't won a football or basketball title in 4 years, so the Titletown moniker is fading a bit. However, basketball looks like a good bet to win it all this year, and football is primed for several serious runs in the next few years, Titletown might become entirely appropriate for Gainesville once again.

Probably shouldn't call ourselves that around here, though. Considering the sorry state of athletics in Voldom, it would just make you feel bad.

murrayvol writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Gotta give Vandy credit for hanging in there when they got down. They changed their defense in the second half and took away the things the Vols were beating them with earlier.

The next stage in Jordan's evolution will be learning to facilitate the other guys when the defense concentrates on him. He can create miracles on his drives, but those are rare by their nature, and there is no substitute for reliably carrying out the fundamentals.

Glad to see that Jarnell has had more play at the high post in the last few games. He is much more engaged and effective when he moves and can't be mugged on the low block where the refs don't have a clear view of what is going on. His shot fakes and pivots are better but could still be smoother and more powerful. And keep working on those FTs, big fella!

Glad to see Skylar make a few last night. I'm afraid we can't count on that every night, but at least he still keeps most teams out of zones when he is in there and will draw constant attention by a defender in the man-to-man.

Good post john. McRae is a born off-guard. Even though his mind (and coach) says "facilitate", his body says score. Other teams note this tendency making him and our team much easier to defend.

TheEffect writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Never cheer for Kentucky. This will be Ole Miss' best year for awhile. When Henderson departs Ole Miss, they will fall back to the middle of pack team they used to be. Andy Kennedy was lucky to get Henderson's lightning in a bottle. Kentucky will always be the team that needs to be beaten whether they are 30-0 or 0-30.

We love being hated. Everywhere we go, the home team has some special event.....hat night, t-shirt night, free pizza night, raise an "NIT Appearance" banner night. We are your Super Bowl.

Kentucky Basketball.....We Invented Swag!!

brod writes:

taking it's toll on the fans too.

calvolfromkingsport writes:

in response to Lizardgrad89:

Haven't won a football or basketball title in 4 years, so the Titletown moniker is fading a bit. However, basketball looks like a good bet to win it all this year, and football is primed for several serious runs in the next few years, Titletown might become entirely appropriate for Gainesville once again.

Probably shouldn't call ourselves that around here, though. Considering the sorry state of athletics in Voldom, it would just make you feel bad.

"it would just make you feel bad", never figured a skank lizard would care about anyone's "feelings", guess things are changing at the sh**h@le swamp.

golfman1975 writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Yes, that is what I meant. Jordan has an ability to slash to the basket that isn't easily taught. However, he as well as several other Vols seem to make up their minds to score too soon on drives, as you said. I have said this often, but it REALLY helps when players learn to PICK their way inside, dribbling low but with their heads up, picking a spot they want to go to with each dribble, and being ready to either pass, go up for the short jumper, or, especially in Jordan's case, explode to the basket. Taking off from the foul line and expecting to glide all the way to the basket doesn't work nearly as often as it is tried these days.

As for Lopez, there have been a number of really effective PGs on really good teams that didn't score much, though it would help if he could develop a bit of an offensive game. He hasn't been fouled much, so I don't know what kind of FT shooter he is. My biggest concern about him in addition to the lack of offense is that he is a bit small to play really great defense. Maybe that will be the easier part of his game to improve the rest of this season, but he REALLY needs to work on his offense in the off-season.

Remember...Lopez is a walk-on.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to golfman1975:

Remember...Lopez is a walk-on.

Oh, I know that. For that reason, I give him a LOT of credit for how much he has helped the team. It's always nice to see a local kid make good. I'm just saying that if he intends to earn a scholarship and be a real asset to the team, he will need to develop some kind of offensive game.

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