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.
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