Tennessee Hopes To Use Auburn As Bounce-Back Medicine

Vols Have To Shake Tough A&M Loss To Get Back On Track

Tuesday, January 14, 2014 - by Special to Chattanoogan.com
John Richardson (1) will try to lead Tennessee back to its winning ways Wednesday night when Auburn invades Thompson-Boling Arena for a Southestern Conference basketball showdown.
John Richardson (1) will try to lead Tennessee back to its winning ways Wednesday night when Auburn invades Thompson-Boling Arena for a Southestern Conference basketball showdown.
- photo by Tennessee Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- For the Tennessee basketball team, Wednesday's home game against Auburn (7 p.m. ET, CSS) can't come soon enough.

The Volunteers (10-5, 1-1 SEC) are eager to put last Saturday's heartbreaking, last-second loss to Texas A&M behind them and regain their footing in the Southeastern Conference race.

"You can't dwell on a loss like that," Vols senior Jordan McRae said. "Especially in SEC play. The games come so fast, you just have to look forward."

For third-year UT head coach Cuonzo Martin, a focal point since Saturday's setback has been protecting the basketball. The Vols had excelled in that area for much of the season, occupying a spot in the top 10 nationally for fewest turnovers per game. But in its first two conference outings, Tennessee has averaged a very uncharacteristic 16.0 turnovers.

The Aggies made the Vols pay for their sloppiness, scoring 20 points off turnovers en route to the upset.

"We've got to take care of the basketball to give ourselves a chance to win games," Martin said. "Whether you're at home or the road, you've got to take care of the basketball. We've got to tighten it up there."

Tennessee junior guard Josh Richardson acknowledged as much while visiting with reporters Tuesday.

"We've been getting loose with (the ball) the last couple games," Richardson said. "We like to play fast, and we kind of got out of control the last couple games. We've got to fix it (Wednesday)."

Making the most of every possession will be key for both teams Wednesday night, as Auburn (8-5, 0-2 SEC) and Tennessee rank second and third, respectively in field-goal defense in league games (.381 and .382).

VOLS LOOK TO CONTINUE WINNING WAYS AGAINST AUBURN

Tennessee leads its all-time series with Auburn 72-37, dating to 1927.

The Volunteers enter Wednesday's meeting riding a five-game overall win streak over the Tigers and a seven-game win streak vs. Auburn in Knoxville.

In addition, Martin owns a perfect 3-0 head coaching record against Auburn, and no player on Tennessee's roster has ever suffered a loss to the Tigers.

While the Tigers have opened SEC play 0-2, those losses have come by an average margin of just 2.5 points. The Tigers had rattled off four straight wins heading into conference action, including victories over ACC stalwarts Clemson and Boston College.

Auburn's starting backcourt boasts the league's top two scorers in junior KT Harrell (19.3 ppg) and senior Chris Denson (19.1 ppg). The duo is responsible for 51 percent of AU's scoring this season.

Center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, a senior seven-footer, gives the Tigers a potent shot-blocker (2.1 bpg) and rebounding presence (6.1 rpg) in the paint.

ROYALTY ON ROCKY TOP

One of the greatest players in Southeastern Conference history, three-time All-American Bernard King (1975-77) visited the Volunteers Tuesday and will attend Wednesday's game.

King, who was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September, spent time with the Tennessee coaching staff Tuesday morning and later attended practice at Thompson-Boling Arena. He spoke to the team after practice and offered some inspiring thoughts on proper preparation and the quest for excellence.

"It's a blessing to have a guy like Bernard King as a part of our program," Martin said. "In just a short amount of time being around him, you can learn so much about the commitment and work ethic it takes to be great."

King visited briefly with reporters prior to UT's practice and went out of his way to mention his love of Thompson-Boling Arena, which opened a decade after the conclusion of his career at Tennessee.

"This is a special arena," King said. "I wish I had a chance to play in this place when Ernie (Grunfeld) and I were here."

Following his visit to Knoxville, King will make his way to West Tennessee this weekend.

On Sunday, King will and fellow former NBA star JoJo White will be presented with National Civil Rights Sports Legacy Awards at the FedEx Forum in Memphis before the Memphis Grizzlies play the New Orleans Pelicans.

The awards pay tribute to athletes who have made significant contributions to civil and human rights and who have laid the foundation for future leaders through their careers in sports in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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


UT To Implement New Bag Policy For All Athletic Venues

To enhance safety and expedite fan entry to athletic events, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is implementing new safety policies for fans bringing bags into all athletic venues, including Neyland Stadium, beginning in August. Only one clear plastic bag no larger than 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches or a one-gallon clear resealable plastic storage bag per person will ... (click for more)

Fair Announces Class 6A Preseason All-State Team

Murphy Fair has announced the Preseason All-State 6A football team in his magazine, Tennessee High School Football. When coaches were completing their survey for Fair's annual preseason high school football magazine this past spring, they were asked to vote for players in their own classification who were the best at what they do on the football field. To order a copy ... (click for more)

County Schools Receive Community Gift For Almost $1 Million To Fund Public School Bible History Program

Bible in the Schools presented a community gift for nearly $1 million to the Hamilton County Department of Education (HCDE) to reimburse 100 percent of the costs of funding a Bible history program in 18 public schools for the 2015–2016 academic year. Enrollment data for 2015–2016 reported 3,582 students in grades 6–12 elected to take a Bible history classes. “This gift from the ... (click for more)

DA's Office Defends Suspended Sentence In School Bus Driver Rape Case

The District Attorney's Office defended a controversial suspended sentence in a rape case involving a substitute county school bus driver. Prosecutor Jason Demastus said the victim, who was 15 years old at the time of the March 2015 incident, was in agreement on the plea and refused to testify against Alexander Rodriquez. Rodriguez, 34, last Thursday pleaded guilty to ... (click for more)

Make America Good Again - And Response

“No people can be great, who have ceased to be virtuous.”   Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784) Last week I witnessed first hand the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. As I observed the happenings within the Quicken Arena, the one theme that continued to pop up again and again, was  Make America Great Again .  Of course, that being ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Jerika’s Last Dance

There is a horrifying disease called spinal muscular atrophy type 2 that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. What happens is the nerve cells in a person’s brain stem and spinal cord slowly die and, without the ability to voluntarily control your muscles, your body withers away in one of the most painful ways you can imagine. Jerika Bolen, age 14, can’t stand it any longer, nor ... (click for more)