published Saturday, February 25th, 2012

UT seeks second road win

KNOXVILLE -- From Arkansas to Florida, Tennessee senior Cameron Tatum has seen them all.

Jarnell Stokes, the Volunteers' talented freshman, is in the early stages of his tour of the SEC.

For the veteran wing, the fresh-faced forward and the rest of the Vols, though, road games this season have been tests that have ended in losses. Most weren't close, but all were frustrating.

"I never understood the [impact] of playing on the road until I got to college," said Stokes, who joined the Vols in January. "It's an adjustment that you have to make. Just looking at numbers and results, it definitely plays a part into it."

Tatum, on the other hand, has made the rounds inside and outside the SEC. He's making his fifth and final trip to South Carolina as the Vols visit the Gamecocks tonight, looking to remain in the race for a first-round SEC tournament bye heading into the season's final week. UT is tied for fourth at 7-6 with Alabama, which plays at 6-7 Mississippi State, and LSU, which plays at Ole Miss.

"It'd probably have to be a toss-up between Kentucky, Florida and probably Vandy," Tatum said in listing his toughest venues. "And I don't rule us out at the top three, of course, or the top two for that matter."

Whether it's been top-ranked Kentucky or 11th-place Georgia, the road has been unfriendly to the Vols, who are 1-8 away from Knoxville this season. The Vols followed up the lone triumph at Florida by falling on their collective faces at Alabama last Saturday.

Turnovers have been the Vols' biggest problems in other teams' gyms. UT has averaged nearly 16 per game on the road, fewer than 13 in its 16 home games.

First-year coach Cuonzo Martin sounded confident before Thursday's practice that the Vols could find the cure for their turnovers.

"If we continue to do the things in practice to get better at taking care of the ball," he said. "More than anything it's making the right decision, not taking the ball for granted, not taking offensive possessions for granted. That's the biggest key."

Oustide of Jeronne Maymon, who has scored at least 12 points in each of UT's 13 league games, the Vols have struggled individually on the road. Trae Golden had five turnovers at Mississippi State and six at Alabama, and three of the sophomore point guard's seven single-figure scoring performances were road games.

Skylar McBee scored 13 points in a career-high 38 minutes at Florida, but the junior 3-point specialist went scoreless at Alabama.

Stokes had 11 points and eight rebounds in the first road game of his career, and the sturdy 6-foot-8 Memphis native has averaged more than six points and six rebounds in his five road appearances.

"The first couple of games were a bit of adjustment and took some getting used to," Tatum said, recalling his own freshman season. "But after a while they just came as another game to get ready to play. All the games are big in the SEC. It's just about how you approach it once you step across that line."

Tatum said his routine doesn't change when he plays on the road, though he admitted with a smile and a laugh that his mindset might need an adjustment. Since his 19-point game at Oakland, Tatum has shot 7-of-46 (15 percent) in the last seven road games. He hasn't made a shot in an opponent's building since the loss at Vanderbilt more than a month ago, though he continues to provide value in other areas.

"It probably should, just from certain aspects from an individual standpoint," he said. "As a team, it doesn't really change. One thing that needs to change is our turnovers, and I think that's been a common denominator that's been hurting us on the road. We play such good defense on the road, and we're not giving ourselves much of a chance win we turn it right back over.

"South Carolina as a team in that arena is not to be overlooked. We have to go down there with a great mental focus and be ready to get a road win."

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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