Cuonzo Martin channeled his inner mechanic on Monday.
After the Tennessee men’s basketball coach had a chance to dissect how his team let a 14-point halftime lead turn into a 57-56 loss to Texas A&M at Thompson-Boling on Saturday, he gave a list of problem areas that need to be fixed before the Vols (10-5, 1-1 SEC) can run smoothly once again.
“Overall, I think we are solid,” Martin said in his weekly press briefing. “I like where we are. We just have to tighten some screws up here and there.”
Martin called for key stops on defense and better movement on offense, but focused on taking care of the ball. A strength for his team has turned into a weakness.
“We’ve got to get our turnovers down,” Martin said. “The last two games, 16 turnovers a game. We have to get that down. We are a better team than that. We’ve got to take care of the basketball to give ourselves a chance to win games. Whether you are at home or on the road, you’ve got to take care of the basketball.”
Martin also challenged junior forward Jarnell Stokes to play through foul trouble. Stokes scored six points and pulled down five rebounds after a couple of early fouls on Saturday.
“He’s always a different player when he gets those fouls early,” Martin said. “For him it’s just staying aggressive, not getting consumed. I wouldn’t say it’s how the game was officiated from his standpoint I think he needs to stay locked in from start to finish. Whether he is posting up or facing up, I didn’t think he was as aggressive.”
Martin was asked why he didn’t call a time out after Texas A&M forward Antwan Space hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds. Instead UT used its last 4.4 seconds to come up with an errant 3-pointer by senior guard Jordan McRae.
“When I saw where Jordan had the ball, I thought he had a great opportunity to attack with 4-plus seconds on the court to get to the rim,” Martin said. “I thought he was hesitant and probed the defense with his dribble as opposed to attacking.”
Martin was also asked about the referees’ tendency to call moving screens on the Vols during the game.
“I thought maybe one or two was moving,” he said. “But five of them. I didn’t think that was the case.”
The Vols don’t have much time to get things tweaked. They host Auburn (8-5, 0-2) on Wednesday (TV: CSS, 7:04 p.m.). The Tigers’ last two losses were heartbreakers. They fell 65-62 at Ole Miss then lost 70-68 to Missouri at home.
“They’ve done a good job as a team,” Martin said. ‘They’ve gotten better throughout this short season.”