Vols bounce C-N

Jordan McRae

The first 16 minutes of the Cuonzo Martin era were not pretty. With Tennessee trailing Div. II Carson-Newman 28-30 Thursday night at Thompson-Boling Arena, Vol fans saw a disaster in the making. Tennessee's point guard, conversely, saw a golden opportunity.

Sophomore Trae Golden bagged a 3-pointer and three free throws as the Vols scored the final 11 points of the half to grab a 39-30 intermission lead. Another 11-0 spurt late in the second half sealed a 73-52 exhibition victory in Martin's Big Orange debut.

Golden finished with 14 points, 5 assists and just 1 turnover in 25 minutes. He also grabbed 3 rebounds and recorded a steal.

Fellow sophomore Jordan McRae had a productive evening, as well. The 6-foot-5 wing led both teams in points (17) and blocked shots (3), chipping in a rebound and a couple of steals. Once considered a defensive liability, he even drew praise from Martin for doing "a solid job defending."

McRae returned the compliment, noting that the Vols' head man helped him relax.

"Ever since Coach Martin got here, he told me I was a scorer, and scoring is what I do," McRae said. "So there wasn't really any pressure on me at all."

Junior power forward Jeronne Maymon made his first career start a memorable one. The 6-foot-7, 255-pounder recorded 10 points and a game-high 15 rebounds, seven of them coming off the offensive glass.

"I thought Jeronne did a good job of crashing the glass on both ends of the floor," Martin said. "Fifteen rebounds is very impressive. He was active, he was aggressive, he was attacking."

The defensive-minded head man thought the game turned Tennessee's way once the Vols' pressure began to wear on Carson-Newman late in the first half.

"The way we defend -- putting pressure on the ball -- eventually they'll start giving us the ball," Martin said. "You have to be solid with your pressure on defense. Get in the passing lanes and every time they catch the ball there's a hand in their face.... They'll eventually have to start making plays off the dribble, and not many teams in the country have five guys that can make plays off the dribble consistently. And that's where you get 'em."

Tennessee's defense must have done an excellent job of grinding down the visiting Eagles, who shot just 16.7 percent (4 of 24) from the field in the second half. Still, Martin was nowhere near satisfied.

"I think I'd grade our guys a C-plus on the defensive side of the ball," the coach said.

Tennessee's offense might be lucky to get a passing grade. The Vols shot just 36.2 percent (21 of 58) from the field and 63.6 percent (21 of 33) from the foul line. They also committed 22 turnovers. None of this seemed to upset their coach, however.

"Shooting 36 percent didn't discourage me," Martin said, noting that Carson-Newman's decision to play a zone defense all game "caught our guys off guard. Even though we practice against the zone we don't practice at that level because we don't play a zone."

Although the zone gave Tennessee fits for much of the game, Martin figured facing it for 40 minutes will help the Vols in the long run.

"I wouldn't have said it at the beginning of the game but I thought it was the best thing for our team to go through," he said. "When you go up against a zone you have to find your spots and look for shots."

Tennessee missed its first six field-goal attempts and its first four free-throw tries but trailed just 0-6. The gap was still six points when McRae went on a one-man campaign, single-handedly outscoring Carson-Newman 12-4 during a three-minute stretch that turned a 10-16 deficit into a 22-20 lead.

Asked what happened during the stretch that saw him score 12 consecutive Vol points, McRae shrugged.

"Nothing happened," he said. "I just started playing my game, hit a few shots and kept going."

The Vols started the second half almost as sluggishly as the first, adding just two points to their nine-point halftime lead over the first 11 minutes. Up just 58-47, however, they made another 11-0 spurt between 8:09 and 5:26 to put the game out of reach.

Tennessee announced the attendance at 15,344 based on ticket sales but the actual crowd was probably half that size. Still, Martin was grateful.

"I would like to really thank the fans for coming out," he said. "I know the weather wasn't ideal but we appreciate those guys coming out and showing their support. I know it wasn't pretty (to watch) early but the guys managed to get it done."

Check out a photo gallery of the action below:

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