published Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

Vols try again to limit Caldwell-Pope

KNOXVILLE — Cuonzo Martin may have tossed the tape in the trash can, but the Tennessee basketball coach still reminds his team what was on it.

Not that the Volunteers needed the reminder.

What happened in Thompson-Boling Arena 24 days ago again will be fresh on the minds of the Vols when they visit Georgia and high-scoring guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who hung 24 points on Tennessee and closed out the Bulldogs' win in Knoxville seven games ago.

"[Martin] still talks about him scoring 24 on us to this day," Jordan McRae, the Vols' leading scorer, said before Thursday's practice.

Caldwell-Pope, the smooth-shooting guard who's a legitimate NBA prospect, is just one of the many high-scoring guards who have lit up the Vols this season. Tennessee also couldn't stop Ole Miss's Marshall Henderson twice and Arkansas' B.J. Young once and lost each time. The Vols overcame a 38-point game from Texas A&M's Elston Turner.

Martin rattled off those names to his team during Wednesday's video session.

"The message," McRae said, "was basically we've just got to stop letting their best players do what they want."

The coach's instructions of how to do that haven't changed.

"We've got to accept the challenge at some point on really talented guys," Martin said. "We've got to be able to stop those guys. It's real simple: You've got to accept the challenge and get it done."

The Vols didn't listen the last time they faced Caldwell-Pope and paid dearly. The efficient 6-foot-5, 205-pounder made nine of his 12 shots, drained five 3-pointers and scored nine of Georgia's final 14 points, including two dagger 3s.

"He can't be a guy that beats you," Martin said. "He beat us at our place. It's one of those games where you try to erase the tape and keep moving."

Said Josh Richardson: "We knew we shouldn't have lost that game. We just didn't play very well. We've put a lot more focus on the small things on the court."

The Vols haven't lost since, and to keep the surge going they'll have to do what they couldn't just three weeks ago: Stop Caldwell-Pope, the SEC's second-leading scorer.

Richardson, Tennessee's sophomore defensive stopper, likely will start the game on the player many call "KCP," though it'll take a team effort to stop a guy who's scored in double figures every game this season. McRae and Skylar McBee also figure to draw some of the assignment. Tennessee's forwards will have to pay attention to Caldwell-Pope when he comes off screens.

Typically charged with defending the opponent's top scoring guard, Richardson -- who faced Caldwell-Pope on the AAU circuit -- was not interested in ranking the players he's faced this season.

"There's a lot of tough guys in this league, a lot of guys that can score the ball at any time," he said. "He's just real athletic and he's always looking for his shot. He can come off a screen and shoot it, or he can get to the rack, so he's a real versatile player.

"We know all five guys on the floor are going to have to chip in and help stop him."

Asked if his team would be more eager to stop Caldwell-Pope in the second try, Martin simply replied, "Marshall Henderson." The Ole Miss guard scored 32 points against Tennessee in Knoxville and poured in 28 in the rematch in Oxford 15 days later.

McRae said simply avenging Georgia's win in Knoxville and continuing the Vols' late-season surge toward a potential NCAA tournament bid -- rather than any vendetta against Caldwell-Pope -- provided enough motivation for a streaking team that's playing its best basketball of the season.

But the two go hand in hand.

"I think if we do a good job on him," he said, "then we have a really good chance of winning."

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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