Tennessee Searches For "Open Lanes" Against Virginia On Monday

Visiting Cavaliers Present Defensive Challenge For The Vols

Sunday, December 29, 2013 - by Special to Chattanoogan.com

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Volunteers (7-4) put the finishing touches on 2013 Monday when it hosts Virginia (9-3) at 7 p.m. ET at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The game - which concludes a two-year, home-and-home contract between the Vols and Cavs - will be televised nationally on ESPN2 and also will be available via mobile devices on ESPN3 and WatchESPN.com.

Vols head coach Cuonzo Martin met with reporters prior to Saturday's practice and spoke about the challenges the Cavaliers present.

"They're physical and they play defense without fouling," Martin said. "But they make you work when they're on offense as well. They move the ball, and they might take 25 seconds of the shot clock. So you're strong-side and your weak-side defense needs to be tough. You need to be locked in.

"When the shot clock runs down, for them that's normal. They still execute their offense. For most teams, when the shot clock runs down, that's panic mode."

Virginia limits its opponents to just 62.7 possessions per game - only six teams in all of Division I allow fewer than that. The Cavs also are giving up only 54.2 points per game.

Through its first 11 contests, Tennessee is averaging 64.5 possessions per game. The Big Orange score 73.8 points per game.

Limiting turnovers and making good decisions in shot selection will be keys for the Volunteers against the Cavs' methodical style of play.

"If you come down on the offensive side of the ball and shoot it quick, they'll grind you out on the offensive end when they get the ball back," Martin said. "So you have to be mentally locked in from start to finish."

Tennessee guard Josh Richardson told reporters Saturday that getting baskets in transition may be an effective way for the Vols to score against a Virginia team that allows fewer than 55 points per game.

"They are a team that tries to make you take a whole lot of time off the shot clock and take contested shots every time down," Richardson said. "If we could get some 5-on-4 (opportunities), that would be to our advantage.

"I like when the court is real spread out, and I have lanes to drive in. I like when we get in transition. It's a lot easier because guys aren't set in their defense, and you have to take advantage."

Richardson also acknowledged, however, that the Vols are prepared to operate against Virginia's set defense in the half court.

"They like to pack the lanes a lot. They play gaps, so it will be kind of hard to penetrate," Richardson said. "We will have to spread the floor. We will have to get it inside to Jeronne (Maymon) and Jarnell (Stokes) to let them do their thing, but if they have to kick it back out, we have to hit shots."

Richardson is coming off a season-high 19-point performance in Tennessee's Dec. 23 home win over Morehead State, during which he shot 8-for-13.

FAMILIAR FOE

In addition to last season's hardwood clash in Charlottesville, Va., in which Virginia prevailed by a score of 46-38, a few members of the Tennessee program share other ties with some of the Cavaliers.

Stokes and UVA big man Mike Tobey were roommates this past summer on the USA Basketball Men's U19 National Team, which won gold at the FIBA U19 World Championship in Prague, Czech Republic. The Americans went undefeated at 9-0. Stokes started all nine games and averaged 7.2 points and 4.6 rebounds. Tobey appeared in eight games and averaged 4.8 points and 4.8 rebounds.

"(Tobey) is very skilled for his height," Stokes said of his Team USA front-court mate. "We've talked a lot of trash about this upcoming game. I don't think (Tobey) is starting, but I know they have depth on their team. They have about three of four bigs who could come in and start."

Additionally, Cavs senior Akil Mitchell joined Vols senior Jordan McRae at the LeBron James Skills Academy this past summer. Mitchell and McRae were among a small, select group of collegians invited to take part in the event.

Mitchell, who is 6-8, 235 pounds, had 13 points and 12 rebounds against the Vols last season in Charlottesville.

"Virginia has athleticism," Martin said. "They have guys who can score, they have length, they can block shots, they run the floor."

Even Martin and Virginia head coach Tony Bennett have some history together. Martin was an assistant coach for the 2011 USA Basketball Men's World University Games National Team. Bennett was one of three "court coaches" who assisted during that team's training camp in Colorado Springs, Colo., before the team departed for the Games in China.

Monday's game features three players who appear on the watch lists for both the John R. Wooden Award and the Naismith Trophy - Tennessee's Stokes and Jordan McRae and Virginia's Joe Harris.

Harris is UVA's leading scorer this season, averaging 11.4 points per game.

(E-mail Larry Fleming at larryfleming44@gmail.com)



Chattanooga Sports Personality and Collector Memorabilia At Auction

The sports memorabilia collection of Barry Young goes to auction on  Thursday, Jan. 26 . Barry was always the guy who had the “cool” sports collectibles like team jackets, jerseys with iconic mementos sewn into the pieces, opening day pins, the signed autographs and memorabilia. Things that were unique and a little harder to come by and that took years of effort and an enjoyment ... (click for more)

Chattanooga State Baseball Team Achieves Excellence Off The Field

It’s no secret that Chattanooga State Tiger Baseball Coach Greg Dennis runs a tight ship, and that his players are expected to excel both on and off the field. Included in the team GPA of 3.36, Dennis also had four players who boasted a perfect 4.0, fourteen achieve a 3.5 or higher, and 18 who achieved a 3.0 overall. “I am especially proud of the guys that are in our outstanding ... (click for more)

TN Board Of Regents To Meet Jan. 27, To Consider Search Criteria For Chattanooga State President

The Tennessee Board of Regents will meet in a special conference-call session  Friday, Jan. 27 , to consider and act on search criteria for the next president of Chattanooga State Community College. Gov. Bill Haslam, chairman of the Board of Regents, has called the special telephone meeting of the board for  3 p.m. CST  Jan. 27. Approval of the criteria for the ... (click for more)

School Board Approves 4-Year Contract Extension With Independent Bus Drivers, Who Say They Can Handle 100 Routes; Extension Given On Custodial Contract

The county school board on Thursday night extended the contract by four years of school bus owner operators, who said they could deliver on 100 bus routes. The board delayed until a special meeting at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday at Central High School the issue of whether to accept the offer of 100 contract routes. That would be handled by many of the current 49 owner operators taking ... (click for more)

Bakewell Mountain Community Thanks Commissioner Fairbanks

The residents of Bakewell Mountain want to formally thank Commissioner Randy Fairbanks for standing up for our community in protecting our property rights and families. He personally made several trips to our properties and homes to see how the proposed gun range would affect our daily lives with noise, traffic, and a decrease in property values. Sometimes the little guys need ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Just One Year Later…

If I hadn’t actually seen it happen, I would never have believed it. Not only did I wonder if it could ever happen, more often than not my disgust and dismay of such rampant disorder has filled me with more gloom and doom than you’ll find in a liberal Democrat on this, Donald Trump’s Inauguration Day. But I have got to proclaim that Thursday night I have never been as proud of the ... (click for more)