KNOXVILLE -- There was good mixed with bad on the box score.
Trae Golden scored eight points to keep Tennessee in the game late in the first half of Saturday's loss at Alabama, but the Volunteers' sophomore point guard turned the ball over six times and admitted after the game he didn't control the game like he should.
First-year UT coach Cuonzo Martin said Monday that Golden's accountability wasn't required.
"Not necessarily for sound bites," Martin said. "If you truly believe that and you feel that, that's one thing, but not necessarily for the media to write in the paper. I was never one to beat myself up over a loss. I knew what I did wrong; I didn't have to speak about it all day long. I didn't feel like talking after a loss anyway.
"I think in [Golden's] case, he understands that it's just carrying out assignments. It doesn't necessarily have to be talked about. It's understood: When you know you played bad or you felt like you played bad, just deal with it and keep moving."
Since his one-game removal from the starting lineup, Golden averaged 14 points and nearly six assists in UT's four-game win streak that ended against the Crimson Tide. He responded to Martin's call for better defense and more intensity with an elevated level of play, which included controlling UT's offense and being more vocal on the floor.
Those two items were what drew Martin's praise, but they also were two elements both player and coach said were missing against Alabama, though he wasn't the only Vol who played poorly.
"I definitely think I think let the game get away from us from a point guard standpoint," Golden said. "It was at a pace where I didn't control it, and a lot of that is on me. We were taking quick shots and bad shots and turning the ball over, things that really aren't a recipe for success. As long as things like that are happening, we're not going to be successful, so I've got to do a better job in that aspect.
"I have to make sure that I have everybody under control. I have to make sure that we get the shots that we want to get when we want to get them, get the ball to who we need to get it to, and I don't think I did that against Alabama."
Center Kenny Hall remains under indefinite suspension, which began before UT's win against Arkansas last week. The junior's punishment stems from conduct detrimental to the team.
"His status is, once again, day to day," Martin said. "It's whenever I decide to bring him back, if I bring him back this season."
The Vols are allowing just 61 points per game through a dozen SEC games, the lowest total since the 1968-69 season. Though UT held Alabama to 62, Martin and his players certainly wouldn't call it their best performance.
"I don't think we defended well at all," the coach said. "But that's the great thing about our guys. They understand it before I say it, and I didn't have to say it after the game. They felt like we didn't defend well, which those are the strides we've made as a team.
"We're still working on being an elite defensive team. We're not there yet."
Jordan McRae might be an offensive-minded guard, but that's not stopped him from making an impact defensively. The skinny, long-armed sophomore is second on the team with 21 blocked shots this season. The 6-foot-6 McRae has seven swats in the last eight games.
At that rate, he should surpass Hall's team-leading total of 25 blocks, which would make him the first guard in program history to lead the Vols in that category.
"In high school I probably averaged eight or nine blocks," McRae said. "It was a lot easier. Playing at this level is harder, but I don't think people really know how long my arms are until I block a shot.
"In college you have to do it smarter. That's something that I know for a fact that I can do on the defensive end, and if I buy into what [Martin's] saying with his defense and I keep that mentality of blocking shots, I think it'll go hand in hand."
Contact Patrick Brown at email@example.com or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.