UT-MTSU on Monday

UT-MTSU on Monday

March 16th, 2012 by Patrick Brown in Sports - College

KNOXVILLE -- Needing an extra day or two for one of its most important players to get healthy, the Tennessee men's basketball team got an assist from television.

The Volunteers won't play their second-round National Invitation Tournament game until Monday, when Middle Tennessee State visits Knoxville for a 7 p.m. game on ESPN. The NIT announced the dates, times and television assignments for its second round late Wednesday night after the last first-round game ended.

Tickets are $10 and general admission, and parking is free.

Despite the proximity of the two schools, six days will separate the Vols' and Blue Raiders' first- and second-round games. UT fought off Savannah State and MTSU edged Marshall on Tuesday night. It's a break for the Vols, who are hoping Jeronne Maymon can return to the court.

The junior forward missed the NIT opener with a bruised knee that's been bothering him for nearly three weeks. Coach Cuonzo Martin said after Tuesday's game that his most consistent scorer and leading rebounder was day to day. Martin will address the media before practice this afternoon.

"It's tough," Martin said. "You're talking about an all-league player, a guy who rebounds, a guy who really posts strong, a guy who helps facilitate the offense. You're talking about really your team leader. You can't lose a guy of that magnitude and think you're going to click on all cylinders right out of the gates.

"There were some major adjustments, and some other guys had to step up."

With center Kenny Hall still suspended, freshman Yemi Makanjuola made his first start against Savannah State. The 6-foot-9 Nigerian responded with 10 points and eight rebounds on 6-of-7 shooting from the foul line in just 16 minutes. UT missed Maymon on the boards, where it had just a one-rebound advantage and allowed 14 offensive rebounds to a smaller Tigers team.

"Missing a player like Jeronne, he's always somebody you can get it to down on the block," guard Skylar McBee said. "You know you're either going to get a bucket or a foul.

"I thought Yemi did a great job picking us up. That's from the work he puts in. He's in the gym every day and you saw it tonight."

If Maymon can't play, it would mean more minutes for Makanjuola and Dwight Miller, two players who have bounced in and out of the rotation all season. It'd also mean the Vols would play more four-guard lineups, though it would also make the matchup with MTSU's LaRon Dendy more difficult. The league player of the year for the Sun Belt Conferece regular-season champions averages 14.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.

"They're not going to invite any bad teams," McBee said. "Any time you're playing in March, I think it's special."

The UT-MTSU winner would advance to play either Minnesota or Miami, who also play Monday night, in the NIT quarterfinals Wednesday night with a trip to New York City at stake.