Cuonzo Martin answers questions about individuals on his team
Tennessee won't be at full force for 40 minutes of hell.
In preparing to face the up-and-down, stop-till-you-drop style of Arkansas on Saturday (TV: ESPN2, 4 p.m.), Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin received results of an MRI on junior guard Trae Golden's injured right hamstring.
The good news, Martin said, is that it's only a strain and not a tear.
The bad news, Martin also said, is that Golden is "very doubtful" for the meeting with Arkansas.
"There are three things: a pull, a strain, a tear," Martin added. "How much difference there is between a strain and tear, I don't know, but when it came back, the MRI said it's a strain."
Golden's official status is "day-to-day."
The injury occurred late in the first half of Tennessee's 58-57 win over Vanderbilt on Tuesday.
Golden is not expected to join the Vols (11-8, 3-4 SEC) on their trip to Fayetteville. He is averaging 10.0 points and 3.9 assists per game for the Vols.
"It's tough for our team," Martin said. "I thought he had really been assertive (lately) with the ball. So it's tough for our team, but more importantly, it's tough for Trae. He wants to be out there. He's upset about it. But we have to keep moving."
Martin wasn't ready to project a return for Golden, saying fans could "possible see him (next) Wednesday" against Georgia. He was on crutches Thursday at the afternoon practice and received treatment from associate director of sports medicine Chad Newman.
Returning to the Road: Still winless on the road with the calendar flipping to February, the Vols are heading to Bud Walton Arena, where Arkansas is 11-1 this season.
The Razorbacks (12-7, 3-3), who rank 13th nationally in scoring at 78.3 point per game, most recently beat Mississippi State 96-70 at Walton Arena. That was followed, though, by a 75-54 loss at South Carolina.
UT is 0-5 on the road this season and 3-13 overall under Martin.
"I think the next phase is obviously winning games on the road," Martin said. "When you're fighting for the top spot and you're fighting for leverage in the league, you've got to be able to win games on the road."
And the other next step: Against Vanderbilt, the Vols looked comfortable holding an 11-point lead with 8 minutes, 24 seconds remaining.
Two and a half minutes later, it was tied.
Martin said Thursday his team must improve "staying with what works." Against the Commodores, defensive lapses and a series of bumbled offensive possessions erased the UT lead. The advantage had been built on the back of defensive stops and offensive execution.
"There's a reason you got that (lead), so now you have to take it from 11 or 12 to 15 or 20," Martin said. "That's the next step."
Golden Out, Lopez In: Walk-on point guard and Knoxville native Brandon Lopez said Thursday he's ready to see a bump in minutes. After playing 10 second-half minutes against Vanderbilt, there will be more to come Saturday.
"There's no hesitancy about putting him on the floor, because he'll be ready to play," Martin said.
Lopez, a product of Austin-East High School, played 10 minutes as a freshman. He's earned 62 minutes this year, but didn't play in the five games prior to Vanderbilt.
"My mindset has always been the same whether I'm playing one minute or no minutes or 40 minutes," Lopez said. "You stay focused because you never know when your time is going to come."
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn