Postgame Quotes: Vols 60, #11 UConn 57

Jan. 21, 2012

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Tennessee Head Coach Cuonzo Martin
(Opening Statement:)
"I thought it was a great atmosphere. I thought the crowd did a great job supporting. They had great energy. It was also a good night to support Pat, what she brings to the table in that house and what she's done in the last 30-plus years. I thought it was a wonderful night across the board.

"From a playing standpoint, I thought we did a good job defensively again. We've gotten a lot better in that area and are taking pride in defending, holding a team like that with really good guards and physical bigs, the way they rebound and the way they score. I thought we did a good job of really challenging shooters and boxing out, which wasn't an easy task because you look at those guys. They've got some big guys when you get up close to them.

"I thought Trae (Golden) probably had one of his better games all season. Even though he didn't score much, I thought he did a great job of running our team in a lot of areas. He was communicating with the guys ... I thought he did a tremendous job of really executing.

"One major concern I thought we did a good job of was not turning the ball over. I think we had eight in the first half and finished with 10. That's where you give yourself a chance to win, by taking care of the ball and be under control.

"I thought Jarnell (Stokes) did a good job once again. He had some breakdowns defensively, which is expected because he's learning as we go, but I thought his energy, his toughness, his will to receive the ball and desire to score the ball really helped us get over the hump. I think our bigs are really playing some good basketball right now. It was just a good win for us and our program."

(On decision to start Jarnell Stokes:)
"Well, it was easy from a standpoint of what we needed because I don't want to take anything away from the other guys and what they've done. But it was easy from the standpoint that the guys have embraced him and that helps, makes the transition easy. But also, he's a likable guy and you want to see him be successful. It wasn't a big deal. It wasn't a shock to our guys. He's just what we needed in the starting lineup to get us going."

(On Stokes making in-game adjustments:)
"One thing he does is that he's a very intelligent basketball player and we're continuing to work with him as far as the feel to make those adjustments. You're talking about a guy who on his high school team was shooting the ball over guys who were 6-5, 6-6 at best. Now you're going against this level of talent and you haven't had a chance to really go up against it every day in practice. And just to make those adjustments, use his body, his hip, his shoulder to get that shot up was a major adjustment for him from that standpoint."

(On Stokes' rebounding:)
"I almost chewed him out a couple times on those boxouts. He did a good job going to get those rebounds, being physical, using his body. Those guys had length on him, so they were still coming over the back. I think the refs didn't do a bad job of calling because they were getting up over our guys' backs. It was legit. I thought he did a good job putting bodies on guys, especially when he wasn't getting winded."

(On if Vols' defense was their best of the season:)
"Close to it, but once again, this is where a Tennessee team will defend. They way we hold them to 30, 40, this is the way Tennessee will defend as long as I am a part of this program. I think it's very important for them understand it's how you win big if you play defense at a high level. I tell our guys, `Let's hang our hats on the defensive side of the ball because you never know which shots will fall.' We ready this team for that level. I don't know how many times you're going to shoot 50-plus percent from the field. They have guys who can play and make plays as well."

(On focusing defensively on Shabazz Napier and Jeremy Lamb:)
"The thing we talked to our guys about is those guys will make shots, they will make plays. They'll shoot a high volume of shots. They're very talented guys and they'll make a lot of money. The thing is: you've got to make them work for catches, make those guys work for plays, work to get in rhythm, not being able to catch and shoot, just flowing to their shot. I think we did a good job making those guys work for every shot but also work for touches."

(On getting Connecticut into foul trouble:)
"The thing about it, we just starting to see it right now. Once again, you have a new coach, new system, guys trying to find their way. Whether we have great low post guys or not, we want to be able to pound the ball inside. We want to get inside to the free throw line and make those bigs defend. We want to go on the blocks and we want to go on the sides to make plays. We're going to do it the whole night for our guards to be able to have space, set up and make plays when the opportunity presents itself. We want to go inside."

(On his first career start)
"I was just pushing. The one thing I hung my hat on was defense. I was actually a horrible defender in high school, but somehow Coach Martin worked that out."

(On what this game did for his confidence)
"It definitely grew. I'm getting more adjusted to the college game and I'm getting in better shape game-by-game. I'm just looking forward to Vanderbilt."

(On facing UConn's frontline)
"I definitely have struggled with taller defenders in the past. I think watching film and a lot of techniques that you don't learn in high school just pushed me through."

(On whether he was nervous before his first start)
"I think any player has butterflies before the game. I think it was a little more special for me (going from) high school and working out by yourself to being in front of 20,000. It's different. It definitely gave me more adrenaline."

(On when he found out he was going to start)
"The next day in practice after the Georgia game, I think that's when I found out I was going to start. I had been taking reps with more of the players and Coach said he was going to play me and Jeronne (Maymon) more together in practice to get us more accustomed to played with each other."

(On having faith that the Vols would prevail)
"I just kept pushing that I believe that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I just kept thinking that throughout the game. I really believe that. I knew we were going to eventually get over the hump because the last three games I felt like we should've won."

(On getting over the hump)
"I think that last game, guys started getting more down about themselves, including myself. We were right there and we were ready to get over the hump. But you stay in the fight and this is what happens."

(On what he was thinking before his clutch free throw conversions under a minute to play)
"You're probably going to laugh, but I just think of Carmelo (Anthony). I know he always hits his free throws. If you see the way I dribble and bounce the ball, I do it like Carmelo."

(On being compared to Karl Malone)
"I've been compared to Karl Malone a lot. I like his game. He's a hall of famer, of course I like it."

(On earning the confidence of Coach Martin)
"Coach didn't call plays to anyone. Whoever wants the ball gets it, the more aggressive you are. He never told me not to take a shot or `Don't do this. Don't do that.' He allows me to be aggressive. Even though I came out of high school, I've proved to him that I can score the ball."

(On Coach Martin's demeanor in the huddle as UConn made its comeback)
"He doesn't change. He's always calm, win or lose. The huddle really was the same. It was always `One more stop.' They would come down and knock down a shot. `Now you have to hit free throws.'"

(On Tennessee's preseason work showing in its current play)
"If you had been there every day of preseason and (saw) the things that we did, it's a whole lot easier to understand. I honestly don't think there's any college basketball team in the nation that outworked us in the preseason, especially on the defensive end. We put in the work, so we're confident in what we're doing. We've stressed defense so much that I think everybody has a really good understanding of what we're supposed to do."

(On the level of defense Tennessee is playing)
"I think our defense gives us a chance to play with anybody. You play a lot of guys, especially in this league, that are really talented offensively. I think if we can neutralize them like we're doing, we're going to have a chance to win a lot of games. As long as we keep it low score, keep teams under 40 percent, we're going to give ourselves a chance to win."

(On his free throws in crunch time)
"I think you can't be scared. We've been in that situation so many times. I've played basketball all of my life. That's a situation that I've practiced all the times so I had a little bit of confidence going to the line. Even though I haven't been there much this season, you practice that scenario so many times that it makes it a whole lot easier to have the confidence when you go up there."

(On the significance of beating UConn)
"They're a really talented team. I think they're ranked 11th. They're talented and they're going to win a lot of games, so that's a good win for us, especially here at home after we thought we gave one at Georgia. It was good getting this win over a really talented team and we look to just take it to Vanderbilt."

(On Jarnell Stokes adapting to college basketball quickly)
"It's extremely tough. I'm still sort of surprised at how really talented he is and how well he is doing. I know he has the talent behind it, but to go from high school and not even being here for preseason to understanding the offense and defense, that's a tough thing. I've been here three years and I still don't get it all the time. He's doing a tremendous job. As he gets to where he understands things more, he's only going to get better and better."

(On what Jarnell Stokes brings to the team)
"I think just a presence inside. When a guy drives by, you know he's there to help. He does a great job scoring and rebounding. Something I think that's overlooked is he's a great passer. When they double team him, he finds guys. He's doing a tremendous job."

(On the atmosphere at Thompson-Boling Arena)
"It was a good crowd. I thought when the game got really close, they kind of pushed the noise level up. It really helped us and brought us a lot of energy. We have one of the best crowds in the nation. It's usually pretty packed for games like this. It was today, so it was no surprise."

Senior guard Cameron Tatum

(On bouncing back from the overtime loss to Georgia)
"The good thing about the game of basketball is that you play so many games. We had a tough one Wednesday, and I did not have the night I wanted to shooting. So, I wanted to come out here and be aggressive and make sure I put that behind me. I understand that I have to play my game and just shoot."

(On his 3-pointer to push the lead to nine points with 4:02 to play)
"The team needed a bucket, and I wanted to come off the screen and deliver."

(On his 3-pointer to start the second half to give Tennessee a lead it would not relinquish and spur a 9-0 run)
"It was big to get us off to a good start and help propel us into a great second half. We said the first five minutes of the second half were the most important so we wanted to come out there and set the tone."

(On retaining the lead despite not scoring for a 6:08 stretch in the second half)
"Our motto is if we are struggling to score then they are going to struggle to score as well. We are going to make sure we stay in the game in one form or fashion. We hang our hat on defense and that is our calling card. It kept us in the game against a good team. Guys kept their heads high, played defense and played team ball."

(On the crowd)
"The crowd was awesome. It was like an old school crowd when I first got here as a freshman. I definitely commend them for that, and I hope we delivered. The crowd is definitely a booster for us. When we hit a shot or get a defensive stop, the crowd just gives us more momentum."

Freshman guard Josh Richardson
(On holding Connecticut to 36.4% shooting)
"Our defense was a huge catalyst tonight. We picked up our game and our intensity on defense. We have picked up our effort in practice and games. Our mentally is if we don't get a bucket, you are not going to get a bucket."

(On scoring the team's first four points)
"It felt nice to hit a couple of shots and get us going early. I know when I get in the lane and have a shorter guy guarding me coach probably wants me to shoot it."

(On Tennessee's offensive dry spell in the second half)
"We went through that in the Kentucky game. If it did happen again, we wanted to continue to just play hard defense. We held them to, I think, 30-some percent shooting. We wanted to play defense no matter how our offense was looking."

(On facing UConn's big frontline)
"They gave me trouble early in the first half. I was trying to go up-and-under them. In the second half, Coach told me to just shot-fake and go over them. I had a little success with that in the second half."

(On Jarnell Stokes)
"I see him every day in practice. We talk a lot. I know what he's capable of. He's a go-getter and he's exactly what we need on this team."

(On the significance of beating UConn)
"It's definitely a big game because they're the defending national champions. We're going to take a lot from this game. We're also going to watch the film and try to correct some things that we made mistakes on."

(On the importance of Tennessee's defense)
"We're at the point now where we know how to play defense and we know we need to get consistent stops. It's just a point of us keeping our mental focus sharp and ready so that we don't have mental breakdowns."

(On Tennessee's road game at Vanderbilt on Tuesday)
"We have to get back in the gym tomorrow, re-focus on them and get our head right."


(Opening statement)
"First thing, congratulations to Cuonzo (Martin), who I recruited. He was a great kid and, obviously, he's evolved into a coach. He's done something we haven't done - he's gotten his kids to play hard. We're not playing very hard.

"It was a physical game, very well-officiated in my opinion. I had no problem with the officiating whatsoever. It was very good. They allowed the game to be physical and they were more physical than us and, thus, they won the game.

"We have no post setup. I've been talking about that. They made some big plays and defended us pretty well. Mainly they just dug, scratched and clawed, which was exactly what we said they were doing. The first thing a coach needs when he gets a program - I don't think Cuonzo needs my advice; I'm not very much in a position to give advice about teams playing hard - his culture is developing. We thought on tape they played very hard and they played harder than we did. That's how they won the game."

(On 50-50 balls and hustle plays))

"I'm not sure about 50-50 balls but getting knocked off the post all the time - those are physical plays. It's a battle of will in basketball. The rebounds were fairly close to even, so somewhere along the line I guess we're getting a couple of loose balls. No, just the actually physical play. You get bumped on a screen or you're going to set a screen and you stay on it or you back off and it's not worth it - those kinds of plays. Boxing out on a foul shot, not posting.

"We talked about getting the ball in the post but who are you going to throw to? Alex (Oriakhi) occasionally made a presence known but no one else made a presence in there. They had plenty of presence in the post. They out-worked us, they were tougher than we were and they won the basketball game.

"You can win a lot of games that way. He's obviously got something going. They are a young team. (Jarnell) Stokes was terrific today. Their team, though, was terrific. Their team stayed together, they ran their stuff and they were much more physical than we were in a game that was equally officiated. So we had just as much right to be physical on them and we weren't."





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