UT's Lopez not changing focus with bigger role

UT's Lopez not changing focus with bigger role

February 1st, 2013 by Patrick Brown in Sportscollege

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KNOXVILLE - With Trae Golden unlikely to play when Tennessee visits Arkansas on Saturday afternoon, Brandon Lopez's minute count figures to change.

Just don't expect the approach to change for the Volunteers' walk-on point guard.

"My mindset's always been the same whether I'm playing one minute or no minutes or 40 minutes," Lopez said Thursday afternoon before practice. "I just always stay focused because you never know when your time could come. I don't really like to say I'm real ready or I'm real pumped about this.

"I'm just coming into the game with the same mentality and staying real focused."

Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said Golden is "very doubtful" to play against the Razorbacks, who lost at Alabama on Thursday night. Beyond the weekend, it's unclear how long Golden's right hamstring injury, suffered late in the first half of Tuesday's home win against Vanderbilt, will keep him on the shelf. An MRI taken Wednesday revealed a strain, and the severity of the strain dictates the injury's timetable.

Martin declared Golden "day to day."

"I think it is [discouraging] for our team, and I thought he had really been assertive, especially on the offensive side of the ball, so it's tough for our team," said Tennessee's second-year coach. "More importantly it's tough for Trae Golden, because he wants to be out there. He's upset about it.

"We've got to keep moving."

The Vols will do so against the Razorbacks' full-court press awaiting them in Fayetteville. Jordan McRae has taken on the role as Tennessee's primary ball-handler. Lopez, a Knoxville native, may be the most natural point on Tennessee's roster.

After not playing for five games, Lopez was a hero in Tennessee's defeat of Vanderbilt with three second-half assists and his defense on Kedren Johnson on the game's final play.

"He's always prepared to play, and that says a lot about a young man who goes five games not getting on the floor," Martin said. "His preparation is always at a high level. There's no hesitancy in putting him on the floor, because he'll be ready to play."