Cuonzo Martin discusses the Vols' 64-60 loss to Vanderbilt
The Tennessee men’s basketball team is back in an uncomfortable, yet common, place.
Another loss, this time a 64-60 defeat at the hands of rival Vanderbilt on Wednesday, unearthed the same old questions the Vols had recently hushed. Whatever promise that sprouted from wire-to-wire wins against Ole Miss and Alabama died in Nashville.
“That part is tough,” UT coach Cuonzo Martin said of his team’s tendency to go from great to gruesome. “But you have experienced guys. The good thing is you will be able to bounce back, learn from it and move forward.”
For UT (14-8, 5-4 SEC) to achieve its ultimate goal this season — becoming the first Martin-coached UT team to make the NCAA tournament — the forward motion must start now. And it has to stay out of the ditches the Vols keep digging themselves in.
Wednesday’s crash came after Vanderbilt forward Rod Odom and point guard Kyle Fuller gave a clinic on how to score using ball screens. Odom notched a career-high 26 points. Fuller scored 12, and his 10 assists tied UT’s total as a team.
“They ran some plays during the game we felt like there was nothing we could do about it,” UT forward Jarnell Stokes said. “Those alley oops they kept throwing. It was almost like we knew what was coming. But we just couldn’t stop it. So, back to the drawing boards I guess.”
If the season had ended Tuesday, UT seemingly would have been on the right side of the bubble. The Vols entered Memorial Gym with the 39th spot in the NCAA’s official RPI. A loss to Vanderbilt (74th) is going to cause a tumble. ESPN’s daily RPI tracker has moved the Vols to 48, and ESPN bracket expert Joe Lunardi is now projecting the Vols to claim a 12th seed.
This, by definition, is the bubble, a place that hasn’t been good to UT the past two seasons.
“You have to put that farthest back in your mind,” Jeronne Maymon said. “You still have one opponent in front of you. You have to knock him out to get to the next. That’s how we think of it.”
UT’s next opponent is South Carolina (8-14, 1-8). The Gamecocks come to Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday (TV: ESPNU, 3 p.m.).
No Call: The tail of Martin’s orange blazer flapped as he stomped his feet then turned, palms up, toward the nearest referee.
Where was the foul?
“I was locked in right on it, as close as I could get, I imagine,” Martin said. “It was a tough one.”
A replay of Josh Richardson’s drive to the basket with three seconds left in Wednesday’s game and the Vols down 62-60 showed Martin, who believed a foul should be called, was correct. Vanderbilt guard Dai-Jon Parker hit Richardson across the left arm.
That said, Stokes got away with a foul on the same play. An Associated Press photograph of Richardson’s potential game-tying drive shows Stokes’ hand wrapped firmly around the wrist of Vanderbilt forward James Siakam, who was trying to cut off Richardson.
Near Misses: Missed layups have plagued UT more than once this season. Wednesday was no different, and the Vol who has at times struggled mightily within arm’s reach of the rim had an especially rough time.
UT made just 10 of 19 shots at the rim compared to Vanderbilt’s 16 of 22. Maymon accounted for five of the Vols’ misses.
According to hoop-math.com, UT acquires 40.4 percent of its points from layups, dunks and put-backs. That’s higher than the Division I average of 38.3 percent. The Vols miss plenty, though. They make 63.3 percent of their point-blank looks.
Maymon leads UT with 121 at-the-rim attempts. He’s made 74 (61.1 percent). Stokes has made 79 of 117 (67.5 percent).