Hubbs rocks, Vols roll

Robert Hubbs

InsideTennessee always gives you first-rate coverage of Vol hoops. Check out this recap of Monday's home game:

Fans might want to think twice about leaving Tennessee basketball games before the final horn. Many headed for the exits when the Vol lead swelled to 68-41 with eight minutes left in Monday's game against The Citadel, missing the most entertaining part of the evening:

The Robert Hubbs' coming-out party.

The 6-foot-6 freshman guard, a five-star signee with eye-popping athleticism, put on a dazzling exhibition after the game was in hand and many paying customers were in cars driving home.

A nifty drive ended with a left-hand layup. Moments later he bagged a couple of free throws. Then, with Thompson-Boling Arena nearly empty, he soared way above the rim to ram home a thunder dunk off a lob from fellow freshman Darius Thompson. It was the play of the game – worthy of ESPN's SportsCenter highlights reel – but only a faithful few fans were still around to see it.

Hubbs wasn't finished, however. He added another basket on a drive into the paint – scoring eight of his career-high 13 points in the game's final 7:29. It was a memorable conclusion to an otherwise forgettable 86-60 Volunteer blowout.

After scoring just six points in the first two games combined, Hubbs was relieved to crack double-digits Monday night.

"It was a little frustrating … I couldn't get in my groove," he said of the first two games. "But I've got to learn from it, you know?"

In addition to 13 points, he recorded 4 rebounds, an assist and a steal versus The Citadel. Still, the thing he'll remember most about this game was that spectacular lob dunk from Thompson.

"We were sitting down at the beginning of the second half and I told him, ‘Man, we've got to complete one … just one,'" Hubbs recalled with a grin. "At first he said, ‘No, we're not going to do it.'"

Late in the half, with both on the floor, the rookies made eye contact and Thompson relented.

"He had the ball dribbling," Hubbs recalled, "but I looked at him like ‘You've got to throw it to me.'"

Thompson took the bait, sending a lob to the right of the rim. Hubbs came roaring in from the right baseline and, in his words, "went up to go get it."

The dramatic dunk came in transition. That's something Tennessee rarely utilized in Cuonzo Martin's first two seasons as head coach but it's supposed to be a staple for the 2013-14 Vols.

"He emphasizes it a lot," Hubbs said. "He wants to get up and down, push in transition. That's how you get easy buckets."

Tennessee got a lot of easy buckets Monday night against the outmanned Bulldogs. The Vols hit 60.7 percent (17 of 28) of their first-half shots en route to a 45-28 lead at the break. They cooled off to 52.0 percent in the second half but still finished 56.6 for the game.

Jordan McRae led the Vols with 20 points. Antonio Barton added 13, matching Hubbs as the Vols improved to 2-1. Matt Van Scyoc scored 19 to pace The Citadel, now 2-3.

Like most freshmen, Hubbs needs some work on defense. That's especially true for him, given the way he was utilized defensively at Dyer County High in Newburn.

"In high school I was guarding forwards a lot," he recalled. "I basically played the 5 (center) because I was the tallest man on my team."

After covering forwards in high school, trying to hang with guards in college obviously is a huge challenge.

"The speed is different," he said. "Staying with a man coming off screens … I really wasn't taught that in high school, so I've got to continue working at that. From my senior year to now I've improved a lot but I've still got a long way to go."

After playing 12 and 13 minutes in Tennessee's first two games, respectively, Hubbs was understandably happy to get 21 minutes in Game 3.

"It definitely felt good," he said. "I got in my groove right there. I started rebounding the ball like I should. I hadn't done that the past two games, so that felt good."

Hubbs also felt he redeemed himself a bit defensively Monday night.

"I wasn't that aggressive last game (versus South Carolina Upstate), so I had to go out there and prove a point. I had to stay with my man coming off screens and stay on the ball."

He certainly was "on the ball" Monday night, especially in those final eight minutes.

Cuonzo Martin video, per university

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