KNOXVILLE -- Trae Golden proved Wednesday night he's got a good memory.
The University of Tennessee freshman backup point guard had his last meeting with Memphis freshman point guard Joe Jackson on his mind as the Volunteers hammered the visiting Tigers 104-84.
"It was one of my last tournaments in AAU," Golden recalled after UT (10-4) finished practice Thursday evening at Pratt Pavilion before flying to Fayetteville, Ark., for Saturday afternoon's SEC opener against Arkansas (10-3).
Jackson's Memphis Magic knocked Golden's Atlanta Celtics out of a tournament in Las Vegas. The 6-foot-1 Golden admitted that loss was some motivation for Wednesday.
"[Assistant] Coach [Steve] Forbes was joking around with me, saying I couldn't guard [Jackson]," said Golden, last year's Mr. Basketball in Georgia. "I wanted to make sure I tried my hardest to play defense on him and go at him on the offensive end."
Golden, who came to UT as more of a shooting guard, played one of the better games of his brief career, scoring eight points and dishing out a career-high eight assists with just one turnover in 19 minutes.
"I think I've progressed a lot," the Powder Springs, Ga., resident said. "I've had to really be an anchor for the second team and be a leader [as] a point guard and get better every day.
"I just try not to turn [the ball] over and to make solid, efficient passes."
Golden is tied for second in the SEC in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.2) with Auburn's Josh Wallace behind Georgia's Dustin Ware.
But Golden, who's averaging 4.5 points in 16 minutes as senior Melvin Goins' backup, demonstrated he is still a freshman late in Wednesday night's first half. He forced the issue when he shouldn't have.
"You've got to look at the shot clock ahead of you. It's right there on the rim," UT coach Bruce Pearl said after the game. "The shot clock was off, and you've got to take the last shot. Fortunately we got it back, and then Trae set the offense way too soon and took it to the basket again, got it [blocked].
"When our guys were going to the basket, Memphis was just beating everything. They had seven blocks [and] they were just rotating, coming off and beating it down.
"Those are plays that point guards can't make."
But Golden is capable of making the plays point guards are supposed to make, including hitting free throws. He made all six he took Wednesday and is shooting 80 percent from the stripe this season.
He's also shown his maturity. He scored eight points in 15 minutes in his collegiate debut, made four free throws to ice a win over Missouri State with Goins out with an injury and had seven assists in the win over Virginia Commonwealth on the big stage at Madison Square Garden in New York.
But Golden also knows two specific areas where he can improve to help the Vols as the SEC schedule begins.
"Right now," he said, "I need to make sure I knock down open shots and be able to finish around the basket much better."
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