UT Vols trying not to dwell on 'real difficult' loss to Texas A&M

photo Texas A&M guard Alex Caruso (21) defends against Tennessee guard Josh Richardson (1) Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville.

KNOXVILLE - Josh Richardson took the low-key approach for moving past Tennessee's last-second basketball loss to Texas A&M.

Losing on a late 3-pointer after letting a 14-point halftime lead slip away Saturday required such action.

Or inaction, perhaps.

"It was difficult," Richardson said before the Volunteers practiced Tuesday in Thompson-Boling Arena. "It was real difficult, losing like that. I don't know what everybody else did, but I just kind of slept all [Sunday]. Went to church, slept and tried not to think about it."

With what's ahead on the schedule and what's at stake, it's imperative Tennessee doesn't let the loss to the Aggies linger.

Following tonight's visit from Auburn, the Vols play at Kentucky to start a stretch that includes trips to Florida, Alabama and Vanderbilt and home games against Arkansas and Ole Miss.

The Texas A&M loss further shrank any margin of error Tennessee had left regarding its postseason hopes, and the Vols already have taken a seat on the NCAA tournament bubble, a chair they've become familiar with the past two seasons.

"We can't dwell on a loss like that," said Jordan McRae, the Vols' leading scorer. "You have to move forward, especially in the SEC -- the games come so fast. You've just got to move forward and on to the next."

"You don't have a choice. It's basketball," coach Cuonzo Martin said Monday. "It's an 18-game schedule in league play. I'd like to think the guys were hurt and upset about a loss, but now you've got to bounce back and play the game. It's part of it."

While the loss was certainly crippling, the Vols are trying not to overreact to it.

Richardson said the "small stuff" has been the emphasis for Tennessee since Saturday night. The Vols are looking to "redeem" themselves after the unexpected loss, he added. Richardson told his teammates when they gathered before Monday's practice not to dwell on the defeat, and they responded.

"In the second half, our defense, it slacked off a lot," Richardson said. "It's just going back to putting two halves together. We can't lose any intensity coming into this next game.

"It was tough, but we came out and had a good practice yesterday. Everybody practiced hard, and we got better. I think we'll be all right."

McRae and Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee's two best players, will be looking for bounce-back performances after sub-par games against the Aggies. Both sat out most of the first half, when the Vols built a 32-18 lead.

Stokes nearly had as many turnovers (four) as points (six) and rebounds (five) and took only five shots, and McRae scored just nine points -- it was the second time this season he didn't reach double figures -- on 2-of-8 shooting.

McRae shrugged when asked Tuesday what the Aggies did to slow him down and said simply, "I had a bad game."

"We just treated it like any other day," Richardson said. "We're not going to come out in practice and [say], 'Get them the ball; try to get them going again.' They know they're two of the best players in the SEC. We don't really have to do any extra pushing for them. They know they've got to come out and play better."

Tennessee will need that to replace the loss in the rearview mirror with a win heading into Rupp Arena on Saturday.

"Overall I think we're solid, and I like where we are," Martin said. "Just got to tighten up some screws here and there."

"When you have tough losses -- for me, I go back to my days as a player -- there's not a lot to say. It's emotional. It's not like the guys didn't put forth an effort; we just didn't play well in the second half. Learn from it; talk about a few things that took place throughout the course of a game; obviously stick together as a team.

"You don't want this feeling to happen again -- you don't want to feel this again -- so more than anything, learn from it."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.