Jan. 6, 2014
Cuonzo Martin QUOTES
"I thought our guys did a great job in the last three games. Most important - protecting our home court. Playing better on both ends of the floor, trying to get the numbers both offensively and defensively, where we think they could and should be. Just a good all-around effort. But I think that is what happens offensively when you make shots, have good spacing, do a better job in cutting. Shooting the ball well brings a lot of confidence, enthusiasm. Somehow guys manage to play a little bit better on defensive side of the ball, so that is always good. But we have had probably two good weeks of practice and guys getting better. I think that is always a good sign for me as a coach when you have guys who don't play a lot, then get opportunities to play, they go in and play like they have played before, continue to compete and play hard, have enthusiasm. Another thing we talk about, be ready when your number is called. I think D'Montre Edwards and Derek Reese have been two great examples of that, being ready to play when your number is called. Another thing we have done well all season long is taking care of the basketball. I think we are one of five teams in the country, if I am not mistaken, that have 9.2 turnovers a game. Which is not an easy thing to do with two new point guards, they are talented, new pieces out there. I give a lot of credit to Jeronne Maymon, one of the areas that he struggled with two years ago was taking care of the basketball. Though he did a lot of things for us with the basketball, facilitating, driving the ball, he probably had just a much as our point guard but he has done a great job of getting his turnovers down. Just a great team effort."
(On Robert Hubbs III) "Hubbs is fine, he practiced yesterday, there was not a lot of contact but he was fine in the little contact that we did do. He was fine."
(On if Hubbs will play against LSU) "If he is fine today, unless something happens today, but he was fine yesterday. There were no signs of me saying he wouldn't play Tuesday."
(On Jordan McRae recognized as SEC Player of the Week) "Jordan is a guy who scores the ball. He does a good job of scoring. Again, I get on him all the time because I thought even in the last game against Tusculum, I thought he passed up opportunities to score the ball. Because he is trying to be a willing passer and get guys open, I understand that part, but there are opportunities where he has to attack the rim. I think he attacks sometimes looking to pass instead of scoring the ball. I just tell him, `you are in attack mode all the time. Let the other guys space up and the big guys be ready to catch and shoot when you pass the ball, but other than that you are looking to score.' I thought watching film that he passed up five shots in the last game. I am a guy who wants him to score, but take good shots, be aggressive, squaring his shoulders up. I thought he got off to a good start last year really scoring the ball, he had 34 against LSU. But his transition starting coming, he was catching and shooting and pulling up as opposed to a lot of leaners and floaters. I thought he did a good job of making that adjustment."
(On the team's defensive performance) "We were a C, we are probably a B now. We were a C, but I think we still need to tighten up some screws. I think guys are working towards that. But you have some cases where you have young high school guys understanding the demand of fighting through ball screens, boxing out, chasing guys off screens, that is not an easy thing to do. It really isn't, when you are getting hit with screens and you are going against talented basketball players, with some of the teams we have played thus far. But it is just learning from it. Our veteran guys coaching our younger guys, how to fight through screens. I think we have done the best job since I have been here at Tennessee as far as our ball screen defense. It is really taking pride in defending, and understanding the importance of when you are defending at a high level you get good results."
(On how to be successful on the road) "I think you look at the first two years, we got better on the road as the season went on. We got better as a team. Hopefully that is the case and we get off to a better start. I think in past years we were a better team down the stretch. For us, we have played two very good road teams in Xavier and Wichita State with great environments so we will be familiar with a hostile environment. Now it is just a matter of us doing the things we need to do to be successful on both ends of the floor. When teams make runs at home - keep your composure. We have taken a lot of stats and numbers when we have hit rough patches in games, what type of lineups do we have on the floor, where we are getting our free throws at, who is getting the ball, who is not shooting the basketball. This has probably been the first year that I have spent a lot of hours and time on statistics, lineups and numbers. I had never been a guy who really focused on that, outside the basics. Just the lineups, who we have in the game, who is playing well together. Sometime those numbers are correct."
(On opening SEC play) "For us, I try to keep it one game at a time. That is the most important thing. You are playing a very talented LSU team. Our guys understand what they are bringing to the table, we watched film on them, we know who they are. It is trying to win our road games, not necessarily what SEC play is about, it is about winning a basketball game. Again, we play talented teams in the preseason. I just think the focus changes to league play. I think the one plus, if there is any plus, when you go into league play is you are familiar with your opponent. Even though teams have new guys, they have some talented some talented young freshman, they have experienced guys returning. At least you are somewhat familiar with the style and what they present, how they do it. So going into that game there are not as many unknown as opposed to the preseason."
(On what is impressive about LSU) "One of the few teams, they are very similar to us from the standpoint of they have talented perimeter guys, they have big guys that score on the blocks, physical bigs on both sides of the ball, guards who can go on transition, make three points shots they can drive the ball. They have a strong bench, they have guys who started in games last year who come off the bench now. Just one of those games, certain teams you can say, these two things we need to do to beat them, these are the two guys we need to stop offensively. These guys have five guys on the floor that can make plays. That means you have to be good at boxing out, you opposed defense has to be good, if you help down in the post they have guys who can make shots from the perimeter. You have to be able to close out, stop the three point shot but also contain the dribble. Which is easier said than done."
(On Johnny O'Bryant) "Very good player. Johnny is a very good player. 6'8" or 6'9" - can score around the rim, can face up and make shots, scores in the post with jump hooks, left and right hand, he shoots it off the glass, turnaround jumpers, he faces up and make shots, he can drive the ball. He is a big guy that can do a lot of things. And he is strong. That is the about it. He is not a guy that set around the perimeter; he is strong around the rim, you have to box him out."
(On Jordan Mickey) "Talented. Watching him out of high school, he was hovering around, I don't know exactly, 35 to 50/60 in the country. But he has proven he is one of the best freshman in all of college basketball, having around 14 points a game, 7 or 8 rebounds and 3 blocks a game. As a true freshman, those are really good numbers against the teams they have played against. But a talented basketball player."
(On if Antonio Barton was affected by his injury early in the season) "I do. I think so. But I also think the fact that he is running the point guard as a starter consistently as opposed to playing off the ball more so than being a starter. Now he is running the team but he is also running the team with experienced guys that have been in the program. He is trying to find his way. That is not easy until you get a feel for it. But I do think the leg injury and the finger injury did effect his shot, his mobility to attack the rim and spot up and make shots and make plays."
(On Darius Thompson) "His high school coach coached college basketball, so he understood it. His dad has coached college ball for years and his dad has also let him know there are a lot of things that you have to work on. If you want to play and be a part of that team, you have to work and get better. So he has heard it from a standpoint of you are not the best player in high school basketball, it is not always a pat on the back, it is a case of you have to work to get better every day. But you are also talking about a young man who spends hours in the gym working on his craft, working on his shot. He has maintained his weight, he is 183 pounds, he has really maintained his weight from the time he got here. But a guy that wants to be a great player, not just talk about it, I think he wants to be the best."
Jordan McRae QUOTES
(On the game against LSU) "It's big for us. It's the kind of game you want to have; being on the road with your first game against a really good team. I think everyone is excited for it."
"We are playing good on both sides of the ball. That's just trusting each other and moving the ball and making extra passes."
(On winning the SEC Player of the Week) "It's cool but we have a big game this week. That's really my main focus right now. I can look back on everything else after the season is over."
(On watching LSU) "They are a really good team. Their freshmen are really good. They are helping them out a lot. Just having a guy like Johnny O'Bryant, a guy that can give you 25 and 15 every night... they are just a good all-around team."
(On what the key is to winning away from home) "The biggest thing is we have to worry about ourselves. You can't have turnovers especially on the road. You have to knock down free throws. It's just the small things like that when you're playing on the road wins games."
(On the emergence of the offense) "We're definitely playing on the offensive end how we're capable of playing. I think we're moving the ball really well. We're getting out a lot better than we were and getting easy points. Jeronne [Maymon] and Jarnell [Stokes] are getting doubled and throwing it out of the post well. As long as we're shooting wide open shots then we're fine."
(On last year's game versus LSU when McRae scored 34 points) "I remember the game was tight throughout the whole game. I remember before O'Bryant fouled out he was playing really well. It was a close game and we expect the same this year."