KNOXVILLE, TENN. -- Junior Josh Richardson scored a season-high 19 points Monday night to lead the Tennessee Volunteers to a 82-67 victory over Morehead State at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Tennessee (7-4) snapped its two-game losing streak by posting team season bests in made field goals (32), rebounds (49), assists (20) and blocks (11).
Richardson led the Vols in scoring for the first time this season, finishing just one point shy of his career best. He also had eight rebounds.
Sophomore Derek Reese provided a spark off the bench in his season debut. After missing the first 10 games of the season, Reese returned to score a career best 12 points to go along with a career-high and team-leading 10 rebounds in 19 minutes.
Morehead State (8-6), coached by Sean Woods, who played at Tennessee from 1989-92, was led by Angelo Warner and Brent Arrington, who each scored 16 points. Drew Kelly, nephew of former Tennessee and Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Chad Clifton, had 13 points.
After taking a 41-30 lead into halftime, Tennessee kept rolling ahead to start the second half, putting together a 11-0 run in the first three minutes. Senior Jeronne Maymon providing seven points during that stretch, completing a 3-point play to expand the Vols' lead to 54-30 with 16:52 left to play.
The Vols led by as many as 26 points in the half on their way to victory.
Maymon led the Vols in second-half scoring. After scoring just two points in the first half, he scored 14 points after halftime to finish with 16 points and eight rebounds.
Tennessee controlled the basket the entire game. The Vols out rebounded Morehead State 49-28. While Reese got his double-double, junior Jarnell Stokes just missed out on another one, scoring 13 points and nine rebounds.
The Vols started pulling away midway through the first half. Leading early 16-12, Tennessee scored 11 unanswered points while Morehead went 0 for 6 from the field during that time. Derek Reese capped the UT run by driving through traffic for a layup to give the Vols built a 27-12 lead with 5:17 remaining in the half.
With team scoring leader Jordan McRae picking up two fouls early, Richardson led the way in the points column in the first half. He scored 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field. He also had four rebounds.
The Vols pushed through Morehead State's frequent press defense and shot a solid 61 percent (17 of 28) from the field in the first half, while holding Morehead State to 38 percent shooting (11 of 29). UT outrebounded the Eagles 21 to 12.
The Vols recorded 11 blocks, the most in the Cuonzo Martin era. Reese accounted for four blocks and McRae had three.
Tennessee continues its home stand Dec. 30 by hosting Virginia at 7 p.m. It is the third of four non-conference home games before the Vols open Southeastern Conference play Jan. 7 at LSU.
TENNESSEE HEAD COACH Cuonzo Martin
"Great team win tonight after coming off of two tough losses mentally and physically. I thought our guys did a good job of carrying out our defensive assignments tonight except for maybe three possessions late in the first half. Probably the last two minutes we allowed outside lane drives, but we did a good job of accepting the challenge. They are one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the country. I thought Jeronne and Jarnell did a good job of keeping their place off the glass. They made their moves tough and were physical without fouling. I thought we did a good job of getting long rebounds. I thought Derek Reese
came in and gave us a great spark. That is a case of a guy being ready on time, continuing to work on his game, and continuing to lift weights. He got himself ready. He has been consistent with that. Our best effort was passing the ball. We did not have a very good effort in taking care of the ball. We had 15 turnovers, but we did a good job of moving the ball and getting good looks. Antonio Barton
did a good job of pushing the ball in transition and getting us easy baskets and moving the defense. It was a good team effort, and one of our biggest keys in the first half was Josh Richardson
. The thing that I talked to him about was to be aggressive, attack the rim, play defense, and he did that."
(On why this is Derek Reese's first game playing)
"He had to continue to play hard and get better. He had to continue to get mentally and physically tough. He always there as far as approaching getting better. He is lifting weights extra and continuing to work on his game. His shot wasn't falling. He wasn't at the level that he needed to work at. He started working and put the time into it, and he didn't get discouraged. These are the results. You have ups and downs. He is capable of shooting the ball, which can stretch the defense. He has gotten strong. That was one of the areas that he had to work at coming into this year. He needed to be physical enough to guard other big guys. He has done a good job of that. He is also mobile enough to play the small forward position."
(On potentially redshirting Reese)
"No, not at all. He wasn't injured. He just wasn't at the level that he d to be. If he wasn't making shots, he had to play harder and be more competitive."
(On switching up the lineups)
"Derek Reese was a guy that I talked to and told him to stay ready because he had the ability to make a shot. That was his reputation coming out of high school. Now when he is able to make that shot, it is able to stretch that defense out. He is now a guy that will go and get his nose dirty and get a rebound, which last year it was more of a catch and shoot, and his shots were not falling. Now he is able to go in and get big rebounds. He is one of the better athletes on the team. He showed that. I knew he wasn't a guy that would come in and be a star, but he could give you regular numbers. We have also talked about changing the starting lineup with different guys."
(On approach towards the team after NC State loss)
"The one thing that I try to do, and it is a hard thing to do and takes a lot of pray, and that is maintaining a level of focus and preparation. I have seen teams crumble if you attack them the wrong way. I don't know if young guys mental make up is where it was when I grew up. I don't say that in any negative way, but you could have said anything to me, and I was ready to go the next day. I don't think young guys make up will allow you to do that consistently without them falling apart. You have to be conscious of what you are saying, and how you are saying it. You have to aggressive in your approach, and you have to coach the way you coach and attack they way you attack, but it is a fine line in what you say and how you say it. It is tough dealing with losses when you feel like you let games get away, and you let them slip. I told those guys after the first half against NC State, `that is never a game of Tennessee basketball. That should never happen.' That was painful in the first half. It was tough to deal with. You have to mustard up enough energy the next day and keep rolling."
(On the team running a lot this game)
"I always want to run, you will have to ask the point guards about that. I always want to run but you have to get out and run. The wings have to run. I thought Josh [Richardson] did his best job tonight running but the wings have to get out and run. If you run everything kind of falls in line. You have to be able to get easy baskets."
(On Jordan McRae)
"I think he has to play his game. Whatever it is on how he plays, I don't think it was a case of passing up shots. I will have to watch film and see if he passed up opportunities to score because you don't want that. Teams key on him. Teams make it tough for him. When you are a guy that scores the ball teams will make you work to get baskets. Teams will be aggressive and teams will get physical with you. Those are the things we try to prepare him for with practice. That is the level of competition you will see. They had physical guards who will get up in you but you have to be aggressive. For him it is getting to the foul line. I think he has to do a better job of getting to the free throw line. He will get looks. When you are making shots from the perimeter it opens up the big guys. With him it is just working on his shots, posting up a little bit, scoring in transition, getting to the free throw line. No body is going to let him catch the ball in the comfort level, where he likes to get it and do what he wants to do with it."
(On how the team responds when Jordan McRae is in foul trouble)
"I think it is a case of where they are not relying on him every time down or looking for him to make a play. Now they are just playing basketball. Especially on the perimeter. Obviously the big guys do what they do. But I think on the perimeter they probably rely on him when he gets the ball, they kind of watch him make plays. He is one of those guys who can break a play off and still make a play. And that is fine. I think they do a better job of, okay, maybe I need to be assertive because if the ball comes to me I have to be ready to play."
(On Derek Reese)
"Derek [Reese] is a good kid. He works at it, he continues to work. One of the great things about him is, his mom texts me with coach don't give up on him. That is it, that is the end of the conversation. He has good high school guys, good AAU guys, guys that got after him. It is not a case of, let me call home and mope and complain. He knows he has to keep his head moving forward. No excuses. Like I tell him, you do these things right here, you have the opportunity to play. It is real simple. I do not hold grudges. I am not trying to hurt a young man, I love all my guys, they are my family. These are the things I need you to do to be successful. To his credit, he continued to work. He is constantly in the gym. He has got his body strong. He has probably picked up about 15 pounds. He lifted weights today, three hours before the game. Not many guys do that in college basketball. That says I want to be a ball player, I am going to do whatever it takes to be successful."
(On Josh Richardson)
"I think so. Josh has to be aggressive. I always tell him he has to be aggressive. One thing I tell Josh is not settle for three-point shots. Even though he has improved is shot, don't settle for three-point shots. An opportunity like tonight, they were open, his feet set, they present themselves. Don't aggressively hunt down three-point shots, because he is a guy when he slides to the rim and attacks he gets to the free throw line and the defense breaks down he is able to find other guys. I just think his mental approach was, I need to be aggressive."
(On the team's 40-minute effort)
"I liked it. I think the last minute/minute and a half of the first half and the last two or three minutes in this game they just kind of attacked our young guys off the bounce. I have to tell the guys that game is never over, you have to finish the game. Those guys just continue working at it, they put forth the effort in practice but you have to continue to work at it. I liked the overall team effort."
(On the holiday break)
"We are off now, guys will go home. We will practice December the 27th at 5 PM and get ready for a physical Virginia, very talented team. 5 PM - that is the evening. I had to make sure I wrote that on the board. Some guys might say, I thought that was the next day AM. 5 PM December 27th - we get back at it."
(On enjoying the time off)
"Time off. Shut the mind down. That is your family time, that is the most important thing. This is a tough hustle and bustle. Once we come back there is no let up until the season is over. So enjoy what you enjoy now, then we get back at it and don't let up."
TENNESSEE JUNIOR GUARD Josh Richardson
(On mindset for this game)
"I was calmer. Coming into the game I was real calm. I just knew we had to get a win. We were on a two game skid and I just knew we had to play well. They were giving me looks early and coach is always telling me to be aggressive, be aggressive, be aggressive. Nobody stopped me when I was going, so I just kept going."
(On his performance against NC State)
"I don't really look at the box score anyway. It was just another game. I was trying to play good defense on T.J. Warren because he is a great player. So that is where all my energy was going."
(On adjustments after NC State game)
"We just put a little bit of different tweaks and different plays; on how we start, because teams were scouting us and figuring us out. So we just changed the little stuff."
(On having a good offensive game)
"It felt nice. I was glad we were winning at the half and I was hyped about Derek's (Derek Reese) dunk. That was pretty much the big thing in the locker room at half time."
(On his nerves)
"I am the type of guy; I don't let the pressure bother me at all. Nothing really bothers me, I just cruse. So usually I get all hyped up before the game, but today I was just normal."
(On Derek Reese)
"I didn't really talk to him before the game, so I don't know. He just stayed ready all year, and he played a great game for us. It was big. He has played well for us in practice all year. I was glad to see him come out and play well for us. He has definitely been playing a lot tougher and hitting a lot of shots in practice. I think he has been in the gym a lot more lately. I am glad he got his edge back."
(On Coach Martin reiterating to be aggressive)
"He called me back just before the tip and said be aggressive, and I said alright, and he said no, be aggressive! So more so than other games."
(On running set plays)
"We run plays, but we huddled up before the tip and since we haven't been running much this year and coach is always telling us to get out and run. So before the tip we said if anyone gets it we're just out and taking off. I told Antonio (Barton) if me or Jordan (McRae) get the ball to run and we will bring the ball up. We brought it up as fast as we could and they just weren't able to get back fast enough."
(On it being the guards fault that they don't run a lot)
"I think it is everybody's fault if we aren't running the ball. Before games he is always telling us to run, but if it isn't working he will tell us to slow down."
(On whom the coach tells to be more aggressive)
"I just remember him pulling me back to the sideline before the tip and telling me to be aggressive and to start off aggressive."
(On team's performance this game)
"It shows how balanced we can be. We have different guys who can go out on any night. Derek (Reese) had a double-double tonight. That was out of nowhere. So that just shows how deep our bench is and how talented we can be."
(On how they started the second half on a 13-0 run)
"Running, just getting the ball and running. People were getting to the rim in transition. We weren't pulling it back out and slowing it down. Everybody was in attack mode."
(On if the run was necessary)
"Definitely, because we were only up 11 at the half. We sat down in the locker room, after we had calmed down a little bit, and me and Jordan (McRae) said we are only up 11 points and we should be up by more than that. So we came out the second half and jumped on them."
(On making people guard him)
"It is big. Guys can't double off of me on Jarnell (Stokes) or Jeronne (Maymon), and that makes it a lot easier on them. I just have to be active."
(On how it felt to start off in a rhythm)
"It felt good, it definitely felt good. It got my blood flowing a little big."
(On the on-court leader for the team)
"I would say that pretty much anybody can step up and be a leader. I would probably say that I am the guy to step up. If they go on a little run, I calm everyone down. Or if someone scores, I ask what happened. I just hash it out with everybody to try to keep everybody levelheaded."
TENNESSEE SOPHOMORE GUARD Derek Reese
(On being player of the game and the Tennessee getting the win)
"It's a good feeling. It's been a lot of hard work and I can't stop now. I have to keep working and keep doing whatever I can to make sure the team wins."
(On the difficulty to stay focused throughout the season when Reese wasn't getting minutes)
"It was really tough, but it goes back to what Coach Martin was saying. I've been in situations like this before... with my AAU team. I knew I was going to be the type of person that had to keep working. I kept working hard and praying. That motivated me to work hard every day. I listened to Coach Martin. He said he wanted to see more consistency with me in practice. So I just keep working at it in practice."
(On if Reese knew he would get his first playing time tonight)
"He gave me hints and he just kept telling me to be ready, my name would be called and that's what I was going off of. So I just made sure every day in practice I was ready for my opportunity to come."
(On if Reese was surprised when Coach put him in the game)
"It wasn't surprising. I was just ready when he called on me. I knew I had to go out there and be aggressive. I made sure I was ready to go in."
(On if there was an urgency to make something happen when he was playing)
"No I just tried to go with the flow of the game and just do what I could do."
(On if teammates were helping during his stretch of not playing)
"Everyone was helping me out and telling me to be ready. They told me to keep working hard. We are a team. When one person is feeling down, everyone has to help each other up."
(On the first double-double of his career)
"I just went out there and did what I could. I played as hard as I could and did what Coach Martin wanted me to do. If that is a double-double, that's fine. If it's a zero points and we win, I'm happy with that."
(On how satisfying it is to finally get in the game and play so well)
"It's a good feeling, but I can't stop now. I need to keep being more consistent and move on from this. I need to keep going up from here."
(On his work ethic, particularly in the weight room)
"It helped a lot. When I first got here, it was really hard for me to defend down low against bigger guys and box them out and actual grab rebounds was really tough for me. So mentally, I had to tell myself to get in the gym and work harder. I needed to get in the gym and also in the weight room. I had to keep working hard and getting stronger. I'm thankful to Nicodemus Christopher because he helped me out with that."
MOREHEAD STATE HEAD COACH SEAN WOODS
(On the rebounding)
"They just out-toughed us. You know, Maymon and Stokes are very good, that's what they do. Our guys didn't, for whatever reason, didn't maintain. Billy (Reader) injured his shoulder and can't raise up his right arm. They wanted to concentrate on making sure Chad (Posthumus) didn't have a great rebounding night and they did a couple of things to keep him away from the basket, I thought that was key. Our guards didn't rebound like I wanted them to. In order for us to have success, we have to win the rebounding deal and we didn't and that's the reason why we lost."
(On Derek Reese getting a double-double after not playing all season)
"We were shocked, he's a pretty good player. We really didn't plan on him coming out and playing significant minutes, but he did, played 19 minutes and had 12 points and 10 rebounds. I think Tennessee is going to be very good. They're getting better and better game by game. This was a good contest for us on the road, we didn't stop fighting. We just didn't make enough shots and they really kicked our butts on the rebounding."
(On Drew Kelly)
(On fighting back in the second half)
"I like where Drew is right now. Once we get into conference, Drew is going to be key for us. We're not going to play teams this tough. We've dominated everyone except for this team. This team just had our number tonight. I think he really challenged them and that was really the key."
"I tip my hat to them. We played hard, now we have to play smart. We played hard enough, but we've got to play smart enough to win games, to win these types of games. I like where we're at. It's not the end of the world. It was an opportunity for us to knock off another BCS school before the conference starts and we didn't get it done. I'm liking where our team is as a whole."