Turnovers hurt Tennessee Vols in SEC road games

Turnovers hurt Tennessee Vols in SEC road games

February 5th, 2013 by Patrick Brown in Sports - College

Tennessee guard Cameron Tatum (23) pounds his chest before pointing to the rafters while teammate Jordan McRae looks on.

Photo by The Knoxville News Sentinel /Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE - Only a quick glance at the box score was needed in analyzing another road loss for the Tennessee men's basketball team.

The Volunteers turned the ball over 20 times and lost by 13 points at Arkansas on Saturday.

That has become a theme for them away from home this season.

"Our biggest problem right now is turnovers," senior forward Kenny Hall said Monday. "We talk about that a lot. We really stress on taking care of the ball, especially unforced turnovers.

"It doesn't make sense in throwing the ball away. A lot of teams are going to see that and probably going to trap or press us a lot more. We've got to keep that in mind and keep working on it."

In four SEC road games, Tennessee has committed a whopping 70 turnovers, including 21 and 20 at Ole Miss and Arkansas, to just 40 errors in the same numbers of games at Thompson-Boling Arena this season.

Home teams are scoring nearly 19 points per game off the Vols' turnovers, and the Razorbacks scored more than a third of their points (27 of 73) courtesy of 13 steals and other turnovers.

"We definitely played against a good team at forcing turnovers and definitely played in that type in environment [and] they play very well at home, but I think we made a lot of careless turnovers," said Vols forward Jarnell Stokes, who had 18 points, 10 rebounds and four turnovers.

"I don't think I handled double teams well in the first half of that game. I think I made a lot of careless turnovers that I wouldn't normally make."

Hall had three turnovers with his 14 points and five rebounds, and Tennessee's starting backcourt trio had two turnovers apiece. Yemi Makanjuola coughed the ball up twice in six minutes. Many of the mistakes weren't even forced by Arkansas' trademark full-court press.

"You spend a lot of time working on breaking the press and you do a good job breaking the press, but you get the bulk of your turnovers when you're trying to execute your offense -- turnovers that are just uncharacteristic that you shouldn't have," Vols coach Cuonzo Martin said. "It's hard to really get into a flow. Just can't have it.

"We spend a huge amount of time on skill work, ball-handling, passing, cutting and moving."

Despite his struggles, the Vols missed Trae Golden (strained right hamstring) on Saturday. They again could be without the point guard, who didn't practice Monday, when Georgia visits Knoxville on Wednesday night. Though averaging only seven points in 33-percent shooting in SEC play, Golden has just 12 turnovers in seven conference games.

The increased ball-handling responsibilities on Jordan McRae (29) and Josh Richardson (16) have led to high turnover rates for those two players. Stokes averages two turnovers per game. Tennessee is 12th in the SEC in turnover margin in league play.

Many of the mistakes are sloppy, whether it's a poorly thrown pass, a bad decision to make a pass in traffic or simply stepping out of bounds.

However the turnovers are coming, Tennessee must cut down on the giveaways, especially when it goes back on the road to South Carolina on Saturday.

"We've just got to take care of the ball and be more mentally tough and not get caught up in some of the things surrounding the game," Hall said. "It's just really on the road where we struggle. I can't really put a finger on it."