published Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Basketball Vols expect face lot of zone

  • photo
    Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes warms up before an NCAA college basketball game
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE -- Jarnell Stokes put on his coaching hat before Tennessee's basketball practice Monday afternoon.

The forward knows what defensive game plan he'd use if he were any opponent remaining on the Volunteers' schedule.

"I feel like Virginia's going to try zone," he said of the Cavaliers, who host Tennessee tonight.

"If they watch the Georgetown game, they should try it."

Against the Hoyas' 2-3 zone, Tennessee was bad, and that might be putting it nicely. The Vols shot just 32.6 percent and made only 15 shots and three of 16 3-point attempts. The bad shooting carried over to the free-throw line, where Tennessee made three of 11 attempts.

The 36 points were the Vols' second-lowest scoring output in the shot-clock era and lowest since a 43-35 loss to Auburn in 1997.

"I think you just have to be brave to drive into the zone and trust yourself and trust your natural instincts," Stokes said. "I feel like we sort of beat ourselves. People were being sort of timid as far as getting the ball inside or attacking the zone.

"I feel like we forced a lot of dumb shots, I guess."

Fortunately for Tennessee, the Cavaliers are primarily a man-to-man team that Vols coach Cuonzo Martin said has shown a 1-3-1 zone twice all season. Yet given Tennessee's glaring trouble against that particular type of defense, the Vols can expect to see plenty of zone in future games. It's true, though, that the upcoming zones might not match the Hoyas'.

"You've got to recognize that not many teams can play a zone like Georgetown does," shooting guard Skylar McBee said. "How many teams do you know that can go 6-foot-9 across the board? It's going to be tough.

"We've got to get it inside more, we've got to get to the high post more and we've got to make some shots."

In Martin's view, a successful zone is a team's brand as opposed to something that can be installed in a couple of practices before a particular game. His own team provides an example. The Vols occasionally work on a zone and looked into during the preseason, but they have embraced the brand of being a hard-nosed, man-to-man defensive team.

"You can try to put together a zone," said Tennessee's second-year coach, "but you have to be good at it."

Stokes did indicate that the Vols had spent some more time on their zone offense in practice and video study since the Georgetown loss.

"We work on our penetration against man and zone," Martin said. "You have to have the ability to attack and be aggressive. That has to be your nature.

"But ultimately you've got to be able to make shots. I don't know how many teams that stay in a zone the whole time outside of Syracuse. You have to be able to make perimeter shots."

Tennessee is shooting 33 percent from 3-point range in six games this season. Until that number improves, or All-SEC forward Jeronne Maymon, who's out indefinitely with a knee problem, returns to help Stokes and center Kenny Hall inside, the Vols might see opponents play increasingly more zone against them.

As Stokes said, the Vols now expect to see it.

"It depends," he added, "on how we respond to these next couple of games."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.

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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