Vols bounce back again, but hope for sustained success after beating South Carolina

Vols improve to 7-1 in games following a defeat

ADAM LAU/NEWS SENTINEL
Tennessee forward Jeronne Maymon grapples for a rebound against South Carolina during the second half on Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena. Tennessee won 72-53.

Photo by Adam Lau

ADAM LAU/NEWS SENTINEL Tennessee forward Jeronne Maymon grapples for a rebound against South Carolina during the second half on Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena. Tennessee won 72-53.

Cuonzo Martin recaps win over South Carolina

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Jarnell Stokes talks about how the Vols' bounce back

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Shortly after the rubber band Vols snapped back again, Jarnell Stokes tried to explain this trend.

The Tennessee men’s basketball forward had scored 17 points and pulled down eight rebounds. His teammate, Jordan McRae, posted a game-high 24 points. And UT dismissed South Carolina in blowout fashion, 72-53, at Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday.

That the Vols would bring their A-game to their meeting with the SEC’s bottom-dwelling Gamecocks was perhaps the most predictable thing about this perpetually confusing team. UT was still stinging from its 64-60 loss to rival Vanderbilt on Wednesday. Properly motivated, it improved to 7-1 this season in games that followed a loss.

“When we lose, we come back, we gather up and come out with a lot of fire,” Stokes said. “We play hard the next couple of games.”

The Vols (15-8, 6-4 SEC) avoided the dreaded “flat start” that doomed them in Nashville thanks to a 10-0 run to start the game. South Carolina (8-15, 1-9) didn’t score until its star freshman point guard Sindarius Thornwell (15 points) hit his first jumper five minutes in. It was too late by then. Soon, McRae was holding three fingers in the air after swished 3-pointers (he made six of eight), and Stokes was making the rim shake with one- and two-handed slams. Forward Jeronne Maymon was a quiet contributor. He finished with 10 points and eight boards.

“We’ve done a solid job bouncing back after a loss, especially ones that are really tough losses, physical and mental losses,” UT coach Cuonzo Martin said.

UT notched a season-high in first-half points and led 45-22 at intermission. When South Carolina took advantage of UT turning to its bench in the second half and cut the Vols’ lead to 13 (54-41) with nine minutes to play, Martin sent the starters back in. They snapped off an 11-2 run. The Vols shot 52.8 percent from the field. They’re yet to lose a game under Martin when they shoot 50 or better. When shots don’t fall, it’s a different story.

“In a lot of games we come out not shooting as confident,” Stokes said. “We may miss two or three shots and all of a sudden it’s a bad shooting night.”

Those nights will be the black marks on UT’s NCAA tournament resume. The hardest to explain are UTEP, North Carolina State, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. Tennessee held winning streaks entering three of those games. The only time its lost back-to-back this season was against Wichita State and N.C. State.

“I wouldn’t go that far, to say we can’t handle success,” McRae said. “I can’t point to a reason why. Our focus has to be better, all the time. Playing South Carolina, our focus was there all practice, all week. I think our focus has to be there all the time, no matter who we are playing, last place team or first place team.”

That’s exactly the switch the Vols will make on Tuesday, when No. 3 Florida comes to Thompson-Boling Arena. The Gators thumped UT 67-41 in Gainesville on Jan. 25. McRae scored a season-low five points in that game. He made one of his 15 shots.

“Did I know Florida was after this one?” he said. “Yeah. Was I thinking about the game plan versus Florida? No. I’ll think about it now. Me being an older guy, I know that if we would have dropped this game, that’s when it turns into people start pressing. ‘We must win. We must win.’ Getting a nice win today, everybody’s spirits will be high going into tomorrow’s practice.”

Yes, the Vols got back on track Saturday. They’ve been able to do that all season. The bigger question is: What happens now?

“My concern is coming out, playing hard and avoiding those flat games that we have,” Stokes said. “History tells (us) we may have a flat game coming soon, when we have been playing well. We have to understand our history. We have to know any game, we could lose.”

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Comments » 8

OrangePride writes:

Well...the bipolar Vols are at it again. Play like chumps one game and champs the next. And of course, underneath all this is the question about whether CMM is the right coach going forward. But in addressing that question there is an 800 lb gorilla waiting in the wings with a possible answer...next year. Next year will tell us if we are growing or declining. Let's say CMM is back. Where are the post players? How do we replace the shot makers? Who supplies the court leadership? It ain't apparent on the bench or roster I'm currentlky looking at; nor do I see any five star talent in the recruited class to light me up. In fact I think recruiting might be the weakest link in the CMM armour. I might even suggest if you were a bit disappointed this year, you are in for a real shock next year. So maybe I better just watch the end of this season and enjoy. Could be a while before we reach this lofty level again.

underthehill writes:

in response to OrangePride:

Well...the bipolar Vols are at it again. Play like chumps one game and champs the next. And of course, underneath all this is the question about whether CMM is the right coach going forward. But in addressing that question there is an 800 lb gorilla waiting in the wings with a possible answer...next year. Next year will tell us if we are growing or declining. Let's say CMM is back. Where are the post players? How do we replace the shot makers? Who supplies the court leadership? It ain't apparent on the bench or roster I'm currentlky looking at; nor do I see any five star talent in the recruited class to light me up. In fact I think recruiting might be the weakest link in the CMM armour. I might even suggest if you were a bit disappointed this year, you are in for a real shock next year. So maybe I better just watch the end of this season and enjoy. Could be a while before we reach this lofty level again.

Interesting and enlightening post..I think it very possible CMM will be back for his final year..I say this because attendance usually dictates changes and it may not be at a point that it demands a change..my take is CMM will not be the right coach going forward..and he has been given the chance to prove he can coach..if there was a Vandy game plan ..it was bad..I watched Vandy run a 2 1 2 zone most of the game yesterday and lose to Ark on a 3 point shot with seconds left..Vandy would have won if that 3 pointer had missed..Stallings is not predictable on offense or defense and it is hard to prepare for his teams..opposing coaches seem to know the Vols are not going to do anything to keep them from getting to the basket so they isolate the weakest defender and take him when it hurts the most..the Vols have to improve their help defense or this will continue..whether they do it with zone or tweaking the man defense..this coaching staff needs to make it apparent they are at least willing to try something..It seems to me Martin has surrounded himself with a bunch of buddies instead of coaches to help him with some stategy..and it ain't working..

OrangePride writes:

in response to OrangePride:

Well...the bipolar Vols are at it again. Play like chumps one game and champs the next. And of course, underneath all this is the question about whether CMM is the right coach going forward. But in addressing that question there is an 800 lb gorilla waiting in the wings with a possible answer...next year. Next year will tell us if we are growing or declining. Let's say CMM is back. Where are the post players? How do we replace the shot makers? Who supplies the court leadership? It ain't apparent on the bench or roster I'm currentlky looking at; nor do I see any five star talent in the recruited class to light me up. In fact I think recruiting might be the weakest link in the CMM armour. I might even suggest if you were a bit disappointed this year, you are in for a real shock next year. So maybe I better just watch the end of this season and enjoy. Could be a while before we reach this lofty level again.

CMM? Who's CMM? What a dolt. I meant, "CCM." Sorry about that. Need new glasses.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to OrangePride:

Well...the bipolar Vols are at it again. Play like chumps one game and champs the next. And of course, underneath all this is the question about whether CMM is the right coach going forward. But in addressing that question there is an 800 lb gorilla waiting in the wings with a possible answer...next year. Next year will tell us if we are growing or declining. Let's say CMM is back. Where are the post players? How do we replace the shot makers? Who supplies the court leadership? It ain't apparent on the bench or roster I'm currentlky looking at; nor do I see any five star talent in the recruited class to light me up. In fact I think recruiting might be the weakest link in the CMM armour. I might even suggest if you were a bit disappointed this year, you are in for a real shock next year. So maybe I better just watch the end of this season and enjoy. Could be a while before we reach this lofty level again.

Thought I would help you with that acronym for Martin you are missing. It's "CCM", for "Coach Cuonzo Martin". Hope that clears it up.

While your opinion of the roster going forward is shared by many, you are wading into quite a swamp if you think fear of what MIGHT happen NEXT year is a reasonable basis for canceling a contract. Of course, if enough deep-pocket boosters convince the administration that Martin needs to go, I'm sure that will happen, no matter how much it will cost the school or how inexplicable such an action will look around the country.

However, since people like that feel more responsibility for all aspects of the program than we casual fans reasonably can, they WILL consider things like the cost of a buyout, what it would cost to get somebody "better", and whether any such person would come to work at a school that fired a coach with a winning record. Let's see how the season plays out before we start out on a path with no clear objective. Some of what is being said about Martin has echoes of the situation with Fulmer, and we all know how well that hasty firing worked out for the Vols.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to OrangePride:

CMM? Who's CMM? What a dolt. I meant, "CCM." Sorry about that. Need new glasses.

I should have known you would figure this out before I reminded you. Sorry about that. I do stuff like that more and more these days myself.

murrayvol writes:

in response to OrangePride:

CMM? Who's CMM? What a dolt. I meant, "CCM." Sorry about that. Need new glasses.

On the upside we knew who you were talking about.

OrangePride writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Thought I would help you with that acronym for Martin you are missing. It's "CCM", for "Coach Cuonzo Martin". Hope that clears it up.

While your opinion of the roster going forward is shared by many, you are wading into quite a swamp if you think fear of what MIGHT happen NEXT year is a reasonable basis for canceling a contract. Of course, if enough deep-pocket boosters convince the administration that Martin needs to go, I'm sure that will happen, no matter how much it will cost the school or how inexplicable such an action will look around the country.

However, since people like that feel more responsibility for all aspects of the program than we casual fans reasonably can, they WILL consider things like the cost of a buyout, what it would cost to get somebody "better", and whether any such person would come to work at a school that fired a coach with a winning record. Let's see how the season plays out before we start out on a path with no clear objective. Some of what is being said about Martin has echoes of the situation with Fulmer, and we all know how well that hasty firing worked out for the Vols.

No, indeed I do not think next year's prospects or the lack thereof is any legitimate grounds for canceling the man's contract. I only point out 2015 to suggest two things. First, I do not think we have been very successful in the recruiting department. If I am right, that paints a dim future and a flaw that ultimately will need to be considered. Second, this year's team, with all its flaws, may well be the best one we will see for a while. All of this said, I hope I am dead wrong and CCM pulls our Vols together for a great finish.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to OrangePride:

No, indeed I do not think next year's prospects or the lack thereof is any legitimate grounds for canceling the man's contract. I only point out 2015 to suggest two things. First, I do not think we have been very successful in the recruiting department. If I am right, that paints a dim future and a flaw that ultimately will need to be considered. Second, this year's team, with all its flaws, may well be the best one we will see for a while. All of this said, I hope I am dead wrong and CCM pulls our Vols together for a great finish.

I have no problem with any of this. It could still go either way as far as this year's team is concerned. As for the future, who knows? I'm not one to go overboard on "stars" but I agree that the Vols' current known recruits are not high on such lists. However, with today's liberal transfer rules, you never know who might show up all unbeknownst to casual fans like us. Besides, my own limited playing and coaching experience shows me that a team can come together at almost any moment from the most unlikely collections of spare parts. On the other hand, teams made up of "superstars" sometimes never come together. In between those two ends of the continuum are all the rest of the possible outcomes.

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