We warned you about this winning phenomenon that was about to sweep over SECJams on Mondays, and today we bring you the third. There are a lot of factors we considered before giving out this award each week. They include the following; magnitude of the story, the impact on the community, the impact to the university, and most importantly did the program, university, or person WIN.
This week’s award goes to the University of Tennessee Men’s Basketball Team and first year Coach Cuonzo Martin. Martin in his first year is taking over a team that many analyst say does not have very many talented players. We would have to disagree with that assumption. Bruce Pearl was good at three things, advertising, finding ways to win, and recruiting two and three guards. He left Tennessee with a team full of two and three guards across the board, and a team that has players playing out of position. That does not make the team Coach Martin took over not very talented. It means it is going to be harder for to them win games unless they play together, play tough, and play hard. This group of young men did just this on Saturday January 7, 2011 to get an upset over the 14th ranked Florida Gators.
The Volunteers bought into what Coach Martin has been selling, and picked up a big victory 67-58 over the number #14th ranked Florida Gators at Thompson Bowling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee. It has been Jekyll and Hyde all year for the Volunteers. The team went to Hawaii and stood toe to toe with some of the best teams in the country; Duke and Memphis, and were defeated in close losses. Since their return to the mainland they have been hit or miss, and were coming in to this game off a terrible loss to Memphis for the second time. I am not sure what was said on the ride back to Knoxville from Memphis, but Coach Martin’s players must have heard there coach loud and clear.
The Volunteers got out of the gate fast and took an early lead against the Gators, and the teams went back and forth in the first half. It was the Vols however that held the Gators to just 41.4 percent from the field, and outscored the Gators bench 11-0 in the first half of the game. It gave the Vols a 33-29 halftime lead over the Gators.
The second half started like the first ended for the Vols, and they expanded their lead with Josh Richardson’s three pointer in the first minute of the second and never looked back. The Vols finally played the team defense that Martin was looking for from day one, and held the Gators to only 35.7% from the field and 31.8% from three point land. The team also started feeding the ball to the post in the second half, and outscored the Gators in the paint 32-20.
The group effort for the Vols paid off to get the win and finished with four guys in double figures. Kenny Hall came off the bench to lead the team in scoring with 13 points and 5 rebounds. Point guard Trae Golden and forward Jeronne Maymon both had 12 points and 9 combined assist for the Vols, while teammate Jordan McRae came off the bench with 10 points and 3 rebounds.
The Vols started SEC play in the heart of the schedule, and needed to win this game early. The Volunteers open SEC play with three straight ranked opponents. This weekend they bought in and played great team defense to get the win over the #14th ranked Florida Gators. The same toughness and togetherness will give the Vols a chance against #15 Mississippi State on Thursday night, and #2 Kentucky on Saturday. Right now Coach Martin has his talented bunch just WINNING!