King visits Vols as they regroup after tough loss

FILE - In this Feb. 13, 2007 file photo, former Tennessee basketball players Bernard King, right, and Ernie Grundfeld, laugh during a ceremony to retire King's #53 jersey during halftime of the Tennessee-Kentucky game in Knoxville, Tenn.   In an ESPN '30 For 30' documentary airing Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, about the friendship between King and Grunfeld, King publicly discusses for the first time incidents of racism he says he encountered while in college. (AP Photo/Wade Payne, File)

Photo by Wade Payne

FILE - In this Feb. 13, 2007 file photo, former Tennessee basketball players Bernard King, right, and Ernie Grundfeld, laugh during a ceremony to retire King's #53 jersey during halftime of the Tennessee-Kentucky game in Knoxville, Tenn. In an ESPN "30 For 30" documentary airing Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, about the friendship between King and Grunfeld, King publicly discusses for the first time incidents of racism he says he encountered while in college. (AP Photo/Wade Payne, File)

In this Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, photo, Tennessee guard Antonio Barton leans over following the team's 57-56 loss to Texas A&M in an NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee ended its four-game winning streak in a particularly disastrous manner, blowing a 14-point halftime lead Saturday. (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, Adam Lau)

In this Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, photo, Tennessee guard Antonio Barton leans over following the team's 57-56 loss to Texas A&M in an NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee ended its four-game winning streak in a particularly disastrous manner, blowing a 14-point halftime lead Saturday. (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, Adam Lau)

In this Jan. 11, 2014 photo, Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes (5) tries to block a shot by Texas A&M guard Alex Caruso during an NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee ended its four-game winning streak in a particularly disastrous manner, blowing a 14-point halftime lead Saturday. (AP Photo/The Knoxville News Sentinel, Adam Lau)

In this Jan. 11, 2014 photo, Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes (5) tries to block a shot by Texas A&M guard Alex Caruso during an NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee ended its four-game winning streak in a particularly disastrous manner, blowing a 14-point halftime lead Saturday. (AP Photo/The Knoxville News Sentinel, Adam Lau)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Perhaps a visit from one of the greatest players in Tennessee history can provide a spark as the Volunteers attempt to recover from their most crushing loss of the season.

Hall of Famer Bernard King was on campus Tuesday as he prepares to head to Memphis to receive the National Civil Rights Sports Legacy Award next week. King, who starred for Tennessee from 1974-77, watched the Vols practice Tuesday and plans to attend their game Wednesday against Auburn (8-5, 0-2 SEC).

King said he talks or exchanges text messages with Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin "from time to time." He watched Tennessee's stunning 57-56 loss to Texas A&M on television Saturday.

"This is a special arena," King said while standing on the Thompson-Boling Arena floor before Tuesday's practice. "I wish I had the chance to play in this place when we were here, when Ernie (Grunfeld) and I were here."

Tennessee (10-5, 1-1) blew a 14-point halftime lead in a loss to Texas A&M that snapped a four-game winning streak and left the Vols with little margin for error in their NCAA tournament hopes. Tennessee led virtually the entire way before giving up Antwan Space's game-winning 3-pointer with 4.4 seconds remaining.

"We can't just dwell on a loss like that," Tennessee guard Jordan McRae said. "You've got to move forward, especially in the SEC. Games come so fast. You've just got to move forward and go on to the next."

Martin remains optimistic. He believes the Vols have played some of their best defense over the last five games. He doesn't want one bad half to overshadow the progress Tennessee made the last few weeks.

"Overall I think we're solid and I like where we are," Martin said. "(We) just have to tighten up some screws here and there."

That includes taking better care of the ball. Tennessee has averaged just 10.1 turnovers per game overall - tied for the 16th-fewest among all Division I schools - but the Vols are averaging a league-high 16 turnovers per game in SEC competition.

The Vols also have a penchant for missing free throws in their losses. Tennessee led 56-54 on Saturday when Jeronne Maymon missed two free throws with 17 seconds remaining. Tennessee has made 61 percent of its free throws (75 of 123) in its five losses and has shot 73.8 percent from the line (189 of 256) in its 10 wins.

Tennessee's fortunes continue to rest largely on how well junior forward Jarnell Stokes is playing. Stokes had six points, five rebounds and four turnovers against Texas A&M. Stokes is averaging 16 points per game in Tennessee's wins and 8.2 points per game in the Vols' losses.

Tennessee will try to recover against an Auburn team that lost its first two SEC games by a combined total of five points. Auburn boasts the SEC's top two scorers in KT Harrell (19.3 points per game) and Chris Denson (19.1).

"We have been playing extremely hard these last couple of games," Harrell said. "We just have to work on finishing and executing late in games. I think if we do that, we will win most of our games."

Tennessee will try a similar approach.

"It's just a loss," Tennessee guard Josh Richardson said. "We can come back (Wednesday) and redeem ourselves."

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Comments » 3

TNlogfire writes:

I hope that Bernard just stresses how hard you have to play in games....that guy NEVER loafed while at UT...go until you're wiped out, then go out. This guy was 6-6 and averaged 13.5 rbs a game for 3 yrs..I KNOW how hard he played....but, hey, all kids are different...8-)

Plasticman85 writes:

If any of these current players gave half the effort BK did when he played, we would not be 10-5. Jarnell could learn a think or two about effort from BK. Obviously from a talent perspective there will never be another BK but effort is all about wanting it more than the other team. Lets hope these current players take heed and start giving more effort EVERY game before its too late.

johnlg00 writes:

The other thing about King is that even at only 6'6", I'll bet 85% of his points were either on postups, drives, offensive rebounds, and free throws from constantly working in traffic underneath. In other words, the overwhelming majority of his points were scored in the same area of the floor most of Jarnell's are, i.e., 15' and in. True, King was an explosive leaper, as Stokes is not, but the point is that he knew how to score against taller opponents. There are several real "old-school" low-post scorers that were only 6'6" or less and were non-leapers who were almost unstoppable inside, specifically Adrian Dantley and Mark Aguirre. Just because post moves are largely a mystery to most young players, and apparently to most coaches these days, doesn't mean there isn't a lengthy history of success using them across eras.

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