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Cuonzo Martin Press Luncheon Transcript



Jan. 9, 2012

Practice (1/9/12) Photo Gallery

Opening Statement
"Before I get started I would just like to congratulate Tobias Harris. He had 15 points last night; I think it was a team high. I thought he did a really good job; it was fun to see him have success. He is a wonderful young man and he has done a lot for our program in such a short period of time. I am really happy for him."

On Florida
"Our guys did a good job against Florida. It was probably our best effort all season against a very talented opponent on both ends of the floor. We were executing offensively, defending at a high level and executing defensively as well. We played hard, competed, got the ball inside, made big plays and more than anything sustained the blows. They are the type of team that even on our scouting report can rail off 12 quick points on you in transition, shooting threes, attacking the rim. We did a really good job of slowing those guys down and making them work for catches. Extending their offense was probably the best effort all season, switching the ball screens and making them make adjustments. It was a great team effort as well as the atmosphere."

On word from the SEC office regarding Jarnell Stokes
"He is actually cleared and today will be his first day of practice."

On Cameron Tatum's and Jordan McRae's motivation coming off of the bench
"I would like to think more than anything that they were just ready to play. As far as motivation, they have had 14 games to be motivated to play basketball. But you are also talking about two guys who are very talented players that didn't play a lot of basketball last season. So just to be hungry to play basketball more than anything, whether or not you are starting, it is also who is finishing the game."

On limiting Florida's bench contributions
"When you look at the bench, they are solid role guys. (Mike) Rosario is the one guy who really scores for them off of the bench. The other guys, its put-backs, transition baskets, diving off ball screens. But Rosario is the one guy off of the bench who really makes plays for them and I think he only played two minutes. But their stars get the ball for most of the offense on most given nights."

On sticking with the same lineup against Mississippi State
"Indeed, unless somebody gets injured. Unless somebody gets injured or we have a really have a bad couple days of practice, but I don't see that happening.

On Stokes playing against Mississippi State
"No, I don't know if he is eligible to play. But I think more than anything with Jarnell it is a matter of when physically he is ready to play. He is so far removed from playing five-on-five contact, physical, running, jumping - so when we feel he is ready to play we will make that decision."

On Stokes being ready to play
"Oh, he has been ready to play. But once again it is my job as a coach to put him in the best situation to be successful."

On Stokes' adjustment to learning the Tennessee system
"We brought him in with a couple of other guys to go over some of the terminology, some of the things that we do offensively and defensively. But it is really one day at a time. We will really try and simplify things for him. The most important thing for him is to demand the basketball and play as hard as he can play, but we will never put him in situations where he is not successful. We will shorten the plays - we probably only ran about four plays against Florida because with our motion offense, our ball screen offense, we try and stay away from running a lot of set plays, just in case we will run them if we need them. We will put him in situations where he won't have to remember a lot of plays early."

On Stokes' ability to improve as the season progresses
"I think so when he is ready to play, because he is a power forward type of guy who can step out and make shots, he can score on the blocks. Just really having the right pieces on the floor at the right time is the most important thing. You can also move Ronaldo (Woolridge) to the small forward position in some situations with Jarnell being out there."

On how the team handles success after the big win against Florida
"Really it's a different ball game on the road, especially in the first 10 minutes of the game. You have to set the tone, how you play, you have to move the ball. At home, it is one or two passes and a shot; on the road, it is maybe four or five passes and really executing your offense to make those guys work. Most home teams run off rhythm, they play off runs, quick shots, transition baskets, so we really have to make those guys bog down and defend for a long time."

On the Florida result being a buy-in for the team defensively
"I struggle with the buy-in part because it is either or. I don't think the guys are saying, `Coach, I am not defending.' I don't think they have been defending at the level they have needed to be. I don't think some guys took pride in defending. I think the guys have really bought in and been very receptive and really responsive to what we are doing. I don't get caught up in buying in, it is either or. You have to make a decision, or I will make it for you."

On Mississippi State
"Very talented. Dee (Bost) is a quick point guard. He's physical, he scores it. He's 6-2, gets to the rim and shoots the three-point shot. (Arnett) Moultrie demands a double-team on the blocks and is a physical presence. It's one of those deals where you have to get him off the blocks; you can't let him get in a rhythm. But when a shot a shot goes up, you've still got to keep him off the glass. And one of the most talented guys on the floor, (Renardo) Sidney is 7-for-12 from the three-point line, can score on the blocks and really pass the basketball. And Rodney Hood, I've seen him play a lot of AAU basketball and he's just as talented as any young guard in the country at 6-8. They have so many weapons."

On Deville Smith scoring 24 points at Arkansas
"He's talented. I saw him in high school quite a bit. They have a lot of pieces, a lot of weapons. But once again, it's about not letting those guys get into a rhythm or a comfort zone."

On State's preferred style of play
"Mississippi State wants to run. I think they probably run a little bit more when Sidney's out of the game. When Sidney's in the game they want to pound it inside and get him into the flow offensively. But they will definitely run."

On knowing Rick Stansbury
"Not at all. Outside of watching his teams play, I've never coached against him - even as an assistant coach."

On Josh Richardson's contributions and progress the last few weeks
"He's done it from Day 1 as far as his approach. There was a spurt of maybe two weeks where he wasn't at the level he should have been, playing hard, competing and defending. But he continued to work and continued to compete. I don't think there's a question that he's earned it. This is not a situation to get somebody else motivated to play. He's earned his way and it's his job to lose."

On offensive patience leading to better defense
"Sometimes when you run a motion offense it leads to quick shots. It also leads to a guy with the ball in his hand having to make a decision with the basketball. Most of the time when you run set plays, you know what Plan A, B and C is. With a motion offense, there's a lot of reads, so you have to be able to make good decisions with the basketball. For us, we did a really good job - probably our best job all season of really handling pressure, putting the ball in position to score in the right guys' hands and also making good decisions with the basketball. And that helps with our transition defense. With quick shots, teams get down and don't get back - especially against teams like (Florida) the way they score and the way they shoot the ball. You don't want quick shots that lead to their quick outlets."

On the team's transition defense and ball-screen defense against Florida
"We probably did our best job all season in those two areas: transition defense and ball-screen defense. But once again when you take good shots and your patient on offense, that's the result. And when I say good shots, I don't our guys are really taking bad shots because it's my job as coach to allow guys to play with freedom. But there's a fine line between freedom and also being aware of the situation and not just shooting the ball because you are open. Sometimes there's a reason why you are open."

On what led to the team's sense of urgency defending the home court
"Just going through it more than anything. I can talk it all day long, we can talk about it as a staff all day long, but I think you have to go through it and have a sense of pride of who you're playing for. Obviously you represent your family, but they play for the University of Tennessee and that is the most important thing they have to understand. That's who they play for and that's who they represent. If you do that, you don't worry about all the other things. Ultimately, the bottom line is winning games and they did that."

On the road struggles
"Inexperience and just really going through it. It's a different type of play on the road - not that you change the style of your system, but it's a mindset you play with on the road. One or two passes at home, it's a good shot; on the road, four or five passes. The first 10 minutes of road games you have to set the tone. In the second half when you are in the game and you're executing your offense, you'll be fine. We didn't do a good job our last road game against Memphis in the second half. First of all, we didn't do a good job scoring and then we broke down defensively. You have to give those guys credit for that. But there's a certain way you play and a certain mindset you have to have on the road.

On coaching differently on the road
"Not at all, not at all. It's really our guys understanding the importance that in a road game the score can be 51-50 - that's a win. It doesn't have to be 90-88, exciting. You have to be able to grind that thing out on the road. You have to make it ugly for the home team. They want to play it exciting. They want to get up and down and the fans want to see a show. From that standpoint, you have to slow that thing down and make those guys work."

 

 

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