Vanderbilt loss kills Vols' momentum, invites bubble trouble

Mark Zaleski/Associated Press
Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes, front, is fouled by Vanderbilt forward James Siakam after pulling down a rebound in the second half of a game Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Vanderbilt won 64-60.

Photo by Mark Zaleski

Mark Zaleski/Associated Press Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes, front, is fouled by Vanderbilt forward James Siakam after pulling down a rebound in the second half of a game Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Vanderbilt won 64-60.

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).

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Comments » 21

wilk58 writes:

Learn from it and move on. When's the test?

scvols writes:

Vandy is a hard place to win, we can still do this.

WaitUntilNextYear writes:

Only making 61-67% of their layups, walking up the court and jacking bad shots...to some you should blame the coach, why aren't the players and their attitudes held accountable.
Don't expect much from the perseverance of this team and lacking a commitment to excellence and winning will leave them home early.

MooseandSquirrelVol writes:

“But you have experienced guys. The good thing is you will be able to bounce back, learn from it and move forward.”
========================================

Therein lies the rub.
I believe they can bounce back and move forward.
It appears to be the learning from it part that's missing.

oldster writes:

If the game plan was to walk the ball up the court, it was a stupid plan and the coach should be blamed. If they continued to play man defense with their point continually getting beat off the dribble, then the coach is at fault. Otherwise, the players screwed this one.

MichaelL writes:

Bring back Pearl.

magicbyswh#221420 writes:

Yes after every loss we will learn and move on, What we are learning is that we are again an NIT team. We have learned that over the past 2 years and we are learning that again this year. Can we now learn to win a first round NIT game. Also can we learn from Dave Hart who our next coach will be after this year?

ut_man1#1427524 writes:

Hopefully new players & new coach for next year! Why is it always next year with UT sports?

UT4prez writes:

in response to WaitUntilNextYear:

Only making 61-67% of their layups, walking up the court and jacking bad shots...to some you should blame the coach, why aren't the players and their attitudes held accountable.
Don't expect much from the perseverance of this team and lacking a commitment to excellence and winning will leave them home early.

Who should hold the players accountable? Yes it would be nice for them to hold theirselves accountable or each other but ultimately that falls to the coaching staff.

westknoxrepub writes:

We're 13-8 (Tusculum doesn't count), we're not on the bubble, we're squarely off of it and into the NIT. 3 years, no tournament, do the right thing, fire Martin, bring back Bruce.

sideline1 writes:

in response to oldster:

If the game plan was to walk the ball up the court, it was a stupid plan and the coach should be blamed. If they continued to play man defense with their point continually getting beat off the dribble, then the coach is at fault. Otherwise, the players screwed this one.

The pattern seems to be that when the players think they have the game won before they even begin to play, they play badly--Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, Xavier, NC State. When they think they will have to work to win, they play well--Virginia, LSU, Ole Miss., Alabama. Impacting how players think about any game is the coaches' job. We see the results of the players thinking when left to themselves. The Vols could have won at Kentucky if Martin had been as good at managing the game as Calipari was. Team motivation and Game management are coaches' responsibilities. McRea can score a lot of points, but he has yet to be held responsible for the lazy passes and ball handling that has cost the Vols points. More than once enough points to be the difference in winning and loosing.

underthehill writes:

in response to oldster:

If the game plan was to walk the ball up the court, it was a stupid plan and the coach should be blamed. If they continued to play man defense with their point continually getting beat off the dribble, then the coach is at fault. Otherwise, the players screwed this one.

Obviously ..you are correct..and how do you learn anything by getting beat due to lack of heart and effort..I thought there was more than a 50% chance of making the big show before this game..I now think it is less now..

irishcoffee writes:

in response to ut_man1#1427524:

Hopefully new players & new coach for next year! Why is it always next year with UT sports?

you may want to direct that question towards the former AD and current chancellor. their program of trying to get by on the cheap has brought the UT Athletic program to it's current level. thanks for the memories guys.

atnvol#283282 writes:

What is so puzzling to me is the lack of leadership....especially from McCrae. He slept walked thru the first half and took some freshman type shots down the stretch. Barton is terrible....seems like he wants to be the game hero at the end when others should be taking those shots. Our big men have no touch under the basket...hard balls off the glass. Maymon...well Maymon is just not the same player after the injury...he just cannot get off the floor and gets his shots blocked with ease. Stokes has improved...especially at the free throw line. I just don't see any sense of urgency ever with this team. I really wish this team could play "all in", but the writing looks like it is on the wall...NIT.

jandjhome#228397 writes:

Martin seems like a pretty nice guy but he is in way way over his head.

Sauce writes:

We were constantly getting embarrassed by those back door cuts and alley oops that Vandy always runs. Where was the game plan? Every game somebody buried on the bench pops out for some minutes. We should have been substituting guys in and out all night. That's watch you do to a team that has 3 or 4 stars and no bench. Wear them down physically. If this staff can't make that final 32 teams in the NCAA after 3 years, there is no hope for this program.

VibrantVol writes:

Our coaching staff is horrid. One of our former lettermen who attended the shoot around on Tuesday said that there was no gameplan mentioned the day before the game. We need to fire Martin for sure. Pearl is the answer. Cheek needs to swallow his pride & let Hart rehire him.

Sauce writes:

On further review, since Vandy had only 7 players, our top four players were forced to play at least 35 minutes...what?

ralphiefor3 writes:

in response to VibrantVol:

Our coaching staff is horrid. One of our former lettermen who attended the shoot around on Tuesday said that there was no gameplan mentioned the day before the game. We need to fire Martin for sure. Pearl is the answer. Cheek needs to swallow his pride & let Hart rehire him.

The talent on occasion masks this staffs ineptitude. Unfortunately we will see how bad they really are next year.

Snapshot writes:

in response to Sauce:

We were constantly getting embarrassed by those back door cuts and alley oops that Vandy always runs. Where was the game plan? Every game somebody buried on the bench pops out for some minutes. We should have been substituting guys in and out all night. That's watch you do to a team that has 3 or 4 stars and no bench. Wear them down physically. If this staff can't make that final 32 teams in the NCAA after 3 years, there is no hope for this program.

100% correct. They should have made it a track meet. With vandy having only 7 players on scholarship they should have pressed and been up and down the court the entire game. Remember when we played that kind of game? Now they struggle to score 60 points and get out coached in the process, pitiful.

fannotsheep writes:

You can't control the tempo when you can't force turnovers, hit jump shots, score transition baskets or even make layups. This team is more bipolar than any I have ever seen. They lack motivation. That seems to be a problem for many of today's elite athletes unless they are being paid millions of dollars to perform. Even then many of them seem to shrug off losses pretty easily.

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