published Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Tennessee Vols' coach Cuonzo Martin wants defense

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    Cuonzo Martin, hired as head basketball coach at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Announced Sunday, March 27, 2011

KNOXVILLE -- After a surprising loss to Austin Peay on Saturday, the Tennessee men's basketball team has to pick up the pieces.

Cuonzo Martin, the Volunteers' first-year coach, made it clear during his meeting with the media Monday that the repair job begins on the defensive end. UT allowed the Governors to shoot 73 percent during a second-half rally from a 12-point deficit.

"We have to have a defensive mindset, and I don't know that we necessarily have that right now," Martin said after admitting his disappointment in his team's defense this season.

"Guys are working toward becoming better defenders. But once again, more than anything, it's just personal pride when you're playing defense and wanting to be a good defender and not thinking you can outscore the opponents. We've tried that and it hasn't worked. In order for us to be successful, we have to defend."

Martin didn't disclose if he planned to change his starting lineup or rotation, but he said he and his staff would "look at every scenario."

UT has had breakdowns in a variety of ways. At one point it was one-on-one defense, against Pittsburgh it was poor rebounding and against Austin Peay it was turnovers on the offensive end, which led to 27 Govs points.

The Vols played their best defensive game against Pitt's Panthers but seemed to abandon that a week later.

"It's more focus than anything," Martin said. "We have guys right now who are built to be offensive players. Now they have to understand that in order for us to have long-term success or high-level success, everybody has to defend. You have to do your part.

"We have proven you can score points, but you have to be able to defend in order for us to be successful as a team."

Tennessee (3-5) takes a three-game losing streak into Wednesday night's game at College of Charleston (7-1). Against a Cougars team that won in Knoxville last season, the Vols must rediscover their defense.

"[It's] pretty much just focusing in on stopping your man, stopping the person in front of you," center Kenny Hall said. "[There are] not too many tricks you can learn to play defense. It's really just all about you guarding your man and manning up to your responsibilities."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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opinionmeister said...

I am a Purdue grad, and enjoyed watching Cuonzo when he played at Purdue. Gene Keady's teams were built on D. I have followed Cuonzo since he graduated from Purdue, and am glad he's been able to do the kind of job he has at his coaching stops. If his players are so focused on the offenseive end, he would be best advised to find players who will play D and sacrifice themselves into the team concept (instead of players seeking individual glory).

If I was much younger than I am now, I would want to play for a coach like Cuonzo or Coach Stallings at Vanderbilt. Those two guys know how to coach, and I respect their coaching ability very much.

December 13, 2011 at 10:49 a.m.
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