Florida was best defense Cuonzo Martin has seen at Tennessee

Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin (5) and center Patric Young (4) tie-up Tennessee guard Jordan McRae (52) as he tries to move the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 in Gainesville, Fla. Florida defeated Tennessee 67-41.  (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)

Photo by Phil Sandlin

Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin (5) and center Patric Young (4) tie-up Tennessee guard Jordan McRae (52) as he tries to move the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 in Gainesville, Fla. Florida defeated Tennessee 67-41. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)

Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin shouts out to his team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Florida Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)

Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin shouts out to his team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Florida Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)

Tennessee men's basketball coach Cuonzo Martin dubbed the Florida defense that stifled the Vols in a 67-41 loss last Saturday the best he’s come across this season while on the SEC coaches teleconference Monday afternoon.

Then, during his weekly media luncheon moments later, he increased his praise.

“I thought it was the best defense I’ve seen since I’ve been a part of Tennessee basketball, against any team,” Martin said. “They did a great job as a team, defending. They were ready for the challenge. We didn’t play well, and we will bounce back.”

UT (12-7, 3-3 SEC) hosts Ole Miss (14-5, 5-1) on Wednesday (TV: MyVLT, 8 p.m.) at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Rebels are third in league standings.

The last time star guard Marshall Henderson came to Thompson-Boling, he exploded for 32 points and led the Rebels to their first win in Knoxville since 1991. Martin winced when reminded of that game last season.

“He’s going to do his thing,” Martin said. “He makes shots. He takes tough shots. The thing about Marshall’s shots, whether he makes or misses them, his shots impact the game.”

Henderson averages 18.7 points per game and shoots 36.4 percent from behind the arc.

Other updates:

Martin said several players worked out as soon as the team returned from Gainesville on Saturday. One of those was Jordan McRae, who scored a season-low five points on one of 15 shooting against the Gators.

Martin said he doesn’t plan on changing his starting lineup before the Vols play the Rebels

Martin addressed the status of freshman forward A.J. Davis, who hasn’t played in UT’s last four games. The explanation centered on the idea that Davis is getting used to the physicality of conference play. Martin has said previously that Davis is healthy.

A UT spokesman said players will not speak to the media before the Vols play the Rebels.

Ben Frederickson covers UT men’s basketball. Follow him at twitter.com/Ben_Fred

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Comments » 9

wigmeister writes:

Unless they win out, I just don't see the "Big Dance" in our future. The coaches and players must realize that by now. Let us see if they are good enough to pull it off. We cannot afford any more bad games. Period! Forget the excuses. They don't count anymore.

rocket22 writes:

Florida's defense had a remarkable resemblance to the defenses Tennessee used to have with Bruce Pearl as coach. UT got embarrassed by a team that played Bruce Pearl offense and defense. As long as UT has a coach that cannot adjust his game plan during the game, we will continue to be humiliated by mediocre teams, much less by good teams. It is evident that it is time to start considering a change in basketball coaches, preferably bringing back Coach Pearl.

wigmeister writes:

in response to rocket22:

Florida's defense had a remarkable resemblance to the defenses Tennessee used to have with Bruce Pearl as coach. UT got embarrassed by a team that played Bruce Pearl offense and defense. As long as UT has a coach that cannot adjust his game plan during the game, we will continue to be humiliated by mediocre teams, much less by good teams. It is evident that it is time to start considering a change in basketball coaches, preferably bringing back Coach Pearl.

I agree with much of what you said. However, CBP also did not recruit shooters. The game is still won by the team that puts it through the hoop the most.

johndavid writes:

We will be lucky to get Bruce back. We probably are not willing to pay the extra 300k to match what other schools are going to offer him. We barely matched some offers when he was here. Of course, we don't have to worry about offending the women's athletic dept over paying him more than Pat this time!

Who are we going to hire ( at 1.4 mil) that has a chance to bring in top recruits that can play with the basketball big boys? None of the other SEC schools have succeeded except Florida. We can pay a big name coach 3.5 mil ( wise investment, will return millions on investment, only a handful would accept and has the name to recruit) or Pearl 1.7 million and has a good chance to out recruit everybody except the Rookie league in LEX. Pearl IS THE BEST BARGAIN FOR THE $. What do we have to lose?
An Nit berth and getting beat by MTSU AGAIN?

ThirdCreek writes:

in response to johndavid:

We will be lucky to get Bruce back. We probably are not willing to pay the extra 300k to match what other schools are going to offer him. We barely matched some offers when he was here. Of course, we don't have to worry about offending the women's athletic dept over paying him more than Pat this time!

Who are we going to hire ( at 1.4 mil) that has a chance to bring in top recruits that can play with the basketball big boys? None of the other SEC schools have succeeded except Florida. We can pay a big name coach 3.5 mil ( wise investment, will return millions on investment, only a handful would accept and has the name to recruit) or Pearl 1.7 million and has a good chance to out recruit everybody except the Rookie league in LEX. Pearl IS THE BEST BARGAIN FOR THE $. What do we have to lose?
An Nit berth and getting beat by MTSU AGAIN?

Why would Pearl want to return to UT after they treated him so shabbily?

underthehill writes:

Martin did a good job of recognizing Fla played a great game on defense..I have no reason to think he will learn anything from that lesson..

NoIncomeTax writes:

Unless I read the standings wrong, Ole Miss is not in 3rd place--they are tied for 2nd with Kentucky.

Golferdocvol writes:

I think it would really help if Coach would teach our players how to break a " Press " and score . It's really not that hard. Excuses continue. How long ?

johnlg00 writes:

Florida's defense, like Syracuse's zone or any other really great defense, is what I call an "organic" defense. The initial alignment of the players may vary, but the constant object of everyone's attention is the ball and the lines and positions that open up as the ball is moved. The players are, as it were, connected by invisible cords so that they move in harmony as the ball is moved. It should be a bungee cord to allow players to adjust to opponents' movements, but the idea that everybody pays attention to the ball and everybody moves when the ball is moved is essential.

The problem in my mind with the man-to-man defense is that the focus is on the other man. It is more like a martial-arts contest than a set-piece battle. If each man holds his man down, we win--clean, simple, accountable. But it is just not possible for one man to hold down another man indefinitely if, for example, the offensive player has teammates screening for him and looking for him. Or if the guy is way bigger or faster than the defender.

If you have to chase a guy all over the court, you are wasting probably 90% of your energy compared to the amount they are putting in to produce a decent shot. Yes, I know that the off-ball defenders in man-to-man defense are supposed to be paying attention to the ball as well as their men, but if they too are chasing guys all around the court, they are going to be dragged away from the optimum help positions. They are going to be tired late in games. Key players may be in foul trouble. A defensive philosophy that puts stopping SCORING ahead of stopping a MAN offers all kinds of possibilities for alignments and personnel packages, the very mixture of which will be confusing to opponents, as long as one's own players know what it is the defense is trying to do.

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