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Cuonzo Martin Press Luncheon 1/21



Jan. 21, 2014

(Opening statement)
"We are coming off a tough one at Lexington. I thought the guys played well, for the most part. We had some breakdowns in the second half, but I thought we did the things we need to do to give ourselves a chance to win the game. We just came up short. I thought our bigs did a great job of rebounding the basketball. They kept the ball alive and kept attacking the basket. Now we are getting ready for Arkansas. They are a talented, athletic team. They are one of the few teams that you will face where they switch five different guys, put pressure on the basketball, front the post, and try to get you out of the rhythm of what you normally like to do. You have to have good spacing, move the ball, and be strong with the basketball because they do a tremendous job of taking the ball away. They pressure the ball and trap the ball. They are one of the few teams with a lot of guys who can make 3-point shots. I think they are shooting 36 percent from the 3-point line as a team. They spread you out. Jeronne (Maymon) or Jarnell (Stokes) might be on a guy that is 6'4" and 200 lbs who plays on the perimeter. We have to be locked in defensively."

(On Arkansas' aggressive press)
"I think they are a lot more assertive with the press at home because of the way they get energy from the crowd and atmosphere. They are a tremendous team that we play at home. I don't know if they press at the same level (when they're on the road), meaning they may press 80 percent of the time at home but only 40 percent on the road. I was watching the Georgia and (Texas) A&M games, and they didn't press as much as they normally do at home."

(On teams that struggle on the road)
"I think it is from having guys play together. They lost two key players last year. They are trying to put together key guys with some talented players and talented freshmen for their team, which takes time. They have the parts, though. They are scoring the ball, getting out and running and sharing the ball. They are probably one the best teams in our league this year for basketball. They are distributing the ball and finding guys. They are a very unselfish team. I think it is a case of going through and getting over that mental hump."

 

 

(On Jarnell Stokes' game at Kentucky being his best at Tennessee)
"I think so. Obviously, he might have some games with a little better numbers. I think (Andrew) Harrison did a tremendous job of shooting and hitting the pull-ups. Jarnell stayed in front of the ball, which fulfilled his assignment, but Harrison did a great job with the floater and the pull-up. (Jarnell) did his part. I don't think we were as assertive at the guard spot as we needed to be. I think on both ends of the floor, besides maybe two box-outs, I thought (Jarnell) had a great game."

(On Stokes' consistency)
"We talk about it all the time. The big thing for him is to play each opponent the same way no matter who it is. I think the stage has something to do with his level of play. He wanted to play well against (Kentucky). You have to be consistent with that, because he is a guy who demands a double team. He is a rebounder. He is aggressive. Anytime he is aggressive out of the gates, he has a great night or good night. Just for him being active, attacking the rim, getting easy transition baskets and sprinting back on defense. He has done a good job of studying film and conditioning his body to play extended minutes."

(More on Stokes' consistency)
"I hope so. We will see. You have to stretch it around. You have to add LSU, Kentucky, the tough Texas A&M home game, Arkansas here, and then at Florida. We will see. That is the key for him because he has done a great job of positioning himself and making free throws. Now teams don't want to foul him. It's because he puts a lot of time into it. His 15- and 17- foot shot is falling. He puts a lot of time into that, but he only shoots one or two a game. I think having Jeronne Maymon on the side of him helps. Jarnell gets a lot of accolades for playing a great game against Kentucky, but Jeronne was the guy guarding Julius Randle and Johnny O'Bryant. (Jarnell and Jeronne) work hand in hand, but it is understood that Jeronne takes pride in doing that. It allows Jarnell to be the guy that he is capable of being."

(On the team's performance when Stokes is playing at a high level)
"I think he's one of the best in the country regardless of what league (or) what level. It doesn't matter what the rankings are, because when he's playing at that level, everything kind of falls in line, but I think this was one night where we didn't get the shots to fall from the perimeter. Maybe a couple more shots falling from the perimeter changes the game, but they started scraping a little bit more when he got the ball in the post and forced our perimeter guys to make some shots. That's part of it. Shots aren't going to fall all the time, so that means that we have to tighten up defensively when that doesn't happen. "

(On Stokes being one of the best big men in the country)
"There's no doubt in my mind. We're talking about one of the big guys, the way he rebounds the basketball and the way he's moving and scoring the ball like that, there's no doubt in my mind I would take him up against anybody. Then, when you've got the guy alongside him (Jeronne Maymon) that defends the way he defends with other big guys, I mean, those guys together playing at that high level are tough to guard."

(On if there's a game he can point to this season in which the guards and the bigs both were playing at a level near their best)
"I think one or two games, Virginia and LSU, on both ends. And we had some good outings in the Bahamas. They've got to go hand in hand. You've got to take what the defense gives you. That night it was Jeronne and Jarnell attacking around the rim, so our perimeter guys could be ready to spot up and shoot. Don't necessarily need to force anything, but take what they give you. And there are other nights where they're doubling the post aggressively... perimeter guys have got to make shots. Or one-on-one, your bigs have got to make plays. And that's part of it; it's just being ready to play, being active and being locked in."

(On Stokes' future)
"Well, his goal is to be a pro, and that's my goal for him. But no, we don't talk about it through the course of a season. We sit down at the beginning of the season, just talk about what he needs to do to be that, because that's my goal for him without a doubt. Hopefully, if he is going (to leave early and turn pro, he'll) eventually come back and get his degree, which he is on pace to do that, But we don't talk through the course of a season about that type of stuff."

(On Stokes' motivation against Kentucky)
"I just think it was the stage. I think another thing is that the Auburn game, his shoulder was a little bit better, and it was a lot better for the Kentucky game. That was an issue for him. He's not a guy who's going to complain about it, but it was a serious issue. I think he's feeling a lot better with his shoulder. I think as any player, you want to be the best, so you go against the best. I imagine you hear what Julius Randle does as a ballplayer - he works hard, blocks shots - and you want go against the best. I thought (Jarnell) did a great job of performing and staying locked in."

(On Stokes' shoulder injury)
"A guy came down on his shoulder in the Tusculum game."

(On if he expects to see more out of point guard Antonio Barton defensively)
"Indeed. Both of them, Barton and (fellow point guard) Darius (Thompson). I think what happens is, when you do such a good job in defending a team - and I think Jeronne accepted that challenge in the second half and did a tremendous job on Randle - when (Kentucky) went to their point guard and that ball screen, they figured this was an opportunity. We took a lot of their sets away, and so that was an opportunity for them to score (in other ways) and they took advantage of it. So, we've got to get better up top (stopping the ball defensively). I think that's the biggest key. You've got to take that away, because when you do a tremendous job in battling a very tough opponent on the road, you've got to take (the dribble-drive penetration) part of the game away. But not just Antonio; it's also Darius at the top. They've got to do a better job."

(On the frontcourt's performance at Kentucky)
"Yes, I thought our bigs did a good job in this particular game, because they corralled the ball and brought it to where you want to bring it. The one thing about playing a team like Kentucky is if you help too much up, they'll throw the lob pass behind you. I thought Jarnell probably did his best job since he's been in the program of not really helping out running at the ball and then getting the lob on the backside. He was solid enough where the guy had to shoot a pull-up. You've got to credit that point guard for making the shots, because there was really one guy in the second half who made the shots and made the plays and got to the rim and also got fouled. But I thought we did a lot better job (overall)."

(On if teams have done anything special recently to take Antonio Barton out of his game)
"I don't know if they're doing anything to take him out. There's no box-and-1 or anything like that. Auburn came out in that for the first couple possessions of the game, but I don't think there's anything going on. I think he has opportunity to score. I think the next phase for him going through it is being our point (guard) consistently, as opposed to being that role guy and coming off the bench who gave some spark minutes at his previous university. Now it's the case of that production is needed up top. The way teams are defending other guys, you have opportunities to score the ball. You have to be aggressive and look to score. (He just needs to put that pressure on himself,) in a positive way. Step up and knock the shot down. Because he can shoot it and make shots."

(On Arkansas)
"I think it'll be great. What Arkansas does is they do a great job with their transition offense. Where it gets tricky is they switch five different ways. The point guard may be guarding Jarnell in the post. When they come in transition, Jarnell will have to find the guy. It might not be the man he's normally guarding. It may be somebody different. That's where you have to get back and be locked in with your transition defense."

(On Bobby Portis)
"He's a good player. He was a McDonald's All-American. He's a talented basketball player. He's playing center for them, but he's a guy that can step out and knock shots down. He can shot fake and get to the basket. He plays with a motor... good energy. He's a good one."

(On running and playing faster)
"We'll run. The key with us running is to not turn it over. That's the most important thing. You have to capitalize when you're running in transition. You have to get those easy baskets, but you can't turn it over. You have to take what your defense gives you. If there's something obvious, you have to take it. If not, set your offense up and move the ball."

(On what has caused the team's increased turnovers in recent games)
"Watching film, I think a lot of turnovers are our mistakes. It's not necessarily people trapping and people putting pressure on us. It's our mistakes. I think Jordan has 15 in SEC play. Jarnell has 13. Those are two key guys that need to slow down and take care of the basketball. (I don't see anything specific on film that teams are doing differently to us). It's us taking care of the ball and not being careless with it."

(On rebounding)
"That's what we do - rebound the basketball. It's not something where we're going into practice saying, `This is what we have to do to win this game.' That's just something we do. We count on our offensive rebounding for production. I think for us, again, we have to get our small forward doing a better job in rebounding. Armani Moore did a good job in the Kentucky game. We have to do better in that area of rebounding."

(On the possibility of expanding the bench against Arkansas because of their depth)
"We just play. Like I said, I expect Armani Moore, with the way he played last game, to play more. Hopefully I can get D'Montre (Edwards) out there. But it is not a case of what somebody else does. Obviously you do a scout, and you gameplan for your opponent, but it is really about what we do as a team. That is the most important thing for us."

(On Jordan McRae possibly forcing shots)
"I wouldn't necessarily say a scoring guy is forcing his shots. Obviously teams are defending him, being aggressive, getting up in him, forcing him to get his catches out of his comfort zone. We are talking to Jordan about setting his cuts up better, getting the ball where he's ready to score it. Because obviously defenders are trying to figure out where he is going to get the ball. So you set it up getting him where you want to attack then make plays. But I think for him, just getting to the free-throw line (is important). He is doing a better job with his cuts when we get in the bonus to try to get to the free-throw line. But really, with him, it's setting his cuts up, being aggressive. That's the way it is when you are one of the best scorers in the league. Just being strong with the basketball, making tough moves, getting to the free-throw line, scoring a couple in transition. That is part of it. He understands... he knows where he gets his shots at. Just capitalize on the opportunities."

(On McRae leading the team in assists)
"For me it really doesn't matter. It could be McRae, Jarnell or Jeronne. But what I would like for him to do is cut his turnovers down. That is the first thing. I think what happens when he gets assists is how teams are defending him. They force him to make the pass, they force him to make the extra play, and he is doing a good job of passing the ball. But we need him to score the ball and look to score."

(On the importance of playing good on both defense and offense)
"It is very important, and I would take the defense first. That's the biggest key, because we have guys who can score the ball. When opportunities present themselves to those guys offensively, take your opportunities because Antonio can make shots, Darius can make shots, Darius is more of a guy who likes to facilitate, and that's fine. But we have to get better at that position at guarding and defending and being physical and being tough. I think that is the biggest key, because everything else is falling in line, guys are doing a better job of defending. Jarnell is doing his best job defending since he has been in the program. Jeronne is back to his old ways and defending, and Josh (Richardson) does what he does. So I just think that that spot right there, we have to get a little bit better."

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