published Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Tatum, Woolridge lead Vols over UNCA

KNOXVILLE -- Cameron Tatum and Renaldo Woolridge have been to three NCAA tournaments and an Elite Eight during their Tennessee basketball careers.

Neither senior had a four-game losing streak until this month.

They've still yet to see one reach five.

Tatum scored 14 second-half points and Woolridge poured in a career-high 17 as the Volunteers rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit Tuesday night to beat UNC-Asheville 72-68 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The win snapped the Vols' four-game losing streak and was their first against a Division I opponent in more than a month.

"It's great just to have a different vibe in that locker room after the game instead of coming in there and it's quiet and somber," said Tatum, who had scored just three points in UT's last two games -- losses to Austin Peay and College of Charleston.

It certainly looked like the losing streak would reach five most of the night. The Big South Conference favorite Bulldogs jumped to a 13-5 lead and led by 11 with 4:38 remaining in the first half. If not for Woolridge's surprising scoring burst, Asheville's 35-32 halftime lead might have been larger.

The 6-foot-9 senior, who didn't even play in two of the last four games, scored 13 first-half points with three 3-pointers, a total that was just one less than his previous career high. Woolridge scored 14 as a freshman against Siena and as a sophomore in the memorable win against Kansas.

"The key for me is on and off the court, if you catch my drift, taking care of business and doing the things necessary to be successful," UT coach Cuonzo Martin said. "I think he's doing those things now, but he's a very talented player. I think the key with Renaldo is having confidence within himself and understanding he can be a player.

"He can do a lot more for us. I've always been in programs with a big guy that can pick-and-pop and make plays, and it really stretches the defense so you can do a lot of different things."

Asheville's J.P. Primm, a former Dickson County (Tenn.) High School standout and veteran of the Rocky Top summer league, scored nine quick points early in the second half to push the Bulldogs' lead to 51-42.

With UT down 53-45, Tatum made his mark. He made three second-half 3-pointers, the second of which gave the Vols a 56-55 lead. Tatum added another trey and a pair of free throws to put them up for good with five minutes left.

"Cam has really been doing a good job," Martin said. "The last two games he hadn't shown it from a scoring standpoint, but I thought he's been assertive and tried to do a better job defending, trying to communicate with the guys. That's not an easy thing to do when you're trying to find your way.

"I just tell him to keep shooting the ball. Don't look over to me on the bench -- I'm not going to look at you -- just go play hard and compete. That's what I tell him. I don't have any answers for him. If you miss a shot, play defense. I try to keep it that simple with Cam."

Jeronne Maymon, who played just five minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls, finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds for the Vols, and Kenny Hall scored 12 points.

Primm, who finished with 25 points, missed a free throw when a pair would have tied the game at 69 with 23.5 seconds left. Jeremy Atkinson and Chris Stephenson scored 15 and 10 for UNCA, which shot just 38 percent in the second half after making 13 of 25 first-half shots.

"I thought it was a great win for our guys, because I knew as a player and as a coach, when you get consecutive losses you start thinking about it," Martin said. "Now you're a little hesitant in everything you do. I thought our guys did a great job, for the first time, being down and finding a way to get back and win the game and really taking pride in defending."

UT hosts East Tennessee State on Friday.

"I was especially proud of Renaldo," Maymon said. "He came out there and did what he had to do. I was pumping him up the whole time and telling him to continue to shoot the ball and continue to be aggressive. In the second half with Cam, he was just confident and he was just letting it go without even thinking about it."

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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