Our First Taste of Basketball: Tennessee Victorious over Victory 99-57

I can turn left now! - Chris Graythen

It doesn't mean much, but the Vols cruised to a 99-57 win in their first and final exhibition before opening the season Friday night against Kennesaw State in Thompson-Boling Arena.

The list of things you can take from an exhibition are quite small. Tennessee looked asleep early and missed more than their fair share of layups and dunks on their way to a 38-26 lead over NCCAA (that's National Christian College Athletic Association) Victory University. In the second half, they pulled away, shooting 61% and coming out on top 99-57. Again, emphasize the quality of opponent, as Auburn led Victory 62-20 at halftime. And keep in mind that Cuonzo Martin used tonight to try a lot of different things. Stokes didn't play much, and we even saw a zone out of Tennessee late in the second half (it didn't work too well--Victory kept shooting threes over it). But this was our first impression of some of the newcomers, so let's take what we can.

  • Quinton Chievous, who led the team with 32 minutes played, brings a really nice, well-rounded offensive skill set to the table. He has one of the smoothest shots on the team and shows great vision when distributing from the wing. He also showed a willingness to get after it on the glass, leading the team with 9 rebounds (5 offensive), 6 assists, and 15 points on 6/9 shooting (2/2 from deep). He also grabbed three steals on defense. That said, he's expected to play some defense at the 4 spot, and he's going to have to work on defending bigger players. He didn't do so well there. Temper his numbers with a realization of the opposition, but he has potential.
  • D'Montre Edwards brings what he's supposed to bring: toughness, rebounding, and defense. He's a Cuonzo Martin-type player. I remain skeptical of the three-point range he's said to have, although he did hit one on three attempts.
  • Armani Moore is a fast little bugger. He forced four turnovers in the first half alone and went 4/5 from the field, mostly on driving layups. But he doesn't take care of the ball when he drives. He had balls knocked away four times in the first half as well (mostly out-of-bounds, so they weren't recorded as turnovers, but still. . . ). That's going to get him crushed against good opponents if he doesn't fix it. He needs work to contribute the 10 minutes a game we need from him. But he's better than Wes Washpun.
From the older guys, we saw mostly what we expected to see. They're all the same players they were last year. A couple points worthy of note:
  • The starting lineup was Trae Golden, Skylar McBee, Josh Richardson, Kenny Hall, and Jarnell Stokes. Jeronne Maymon was on crutches on the sideline. We all hope for him to return as quickly as possible.
  • Stokes only played 11 minutes and was part of a front-court that missed too many easy shots, but he's gotten rid of his Zoolander tendencies from last year. I saw two left-handed hook shots and one spin left into a lay-up. It's good when the defense doesn't know which way you'll turn every time. Three fouls in 11 minutes needs to go down though.
  • Golden had 8 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds, and 0 turnovers in 20 minutes. That'd be a great stat line to see from him in the future, but it will depend on other shooters stepping up against better defenses.
  • People say Richardson is improving his shot, but it's still not there. He went 4/9 from the field and 1/3 from deep. But he can still defend, and modest offensive production is better than no offensive production. Every little bit helps.
  • Yemi Makanjuola is still a bull in a china shop. He provided one of the best moments of the day when he saved a ball on the sideline before crashing into the press table and providing quite a fright to Mike Strange.
Again, you can't take much from this, but it does provide some things to look for, to see if we see them against better teams. The wing rotation will be one of the more interesting aspects of this year's team, as we have a scorer (McRae), a defensive specialist (Richardson), a rebounder (Edwards), and a redshirt freshman with some potential (Chievous). Who gets squeezed out? I guess we'll see.

For what it's worth, a few comments from after last season's scrimmages:

  • You can see motion concepts on offense, but it's not all there and may not be this season. (Will). I'd say he got this one.
  • You're going to enjoy our point guards. (Will). In which he praised Trae Golden and Wes Washpun. A solid point, and an oops.
  • The pressure is there. (Will). Well, the pressure was hit and miss early in the season, but it sure was there at the end.
  • McRae and Golden look like our best players, by far. (Me). One out of two? McRae was even streakier than Tatum, didn't play defense, and had terrible shot selection. At least I said McRae's biggest problem would be his shot selection.
  • Maymon is killing the boards and getting a bit going on offense, but we’re going to need seriously more inside. (Me). Maymon ended up getting a lot going on offense, but we did need more inside. He was still a pleasant surprise.
  • Cam Tatum and Kenny Hall look like the guys they were last year. (Me). I think this was mostly true for a while, although Cam learned to contribute on defense and on the glass when his shot wasn't falling, and that really helped the Vols in January and February.
So, maybe you can learn a little. Not a lot. But hey, cruising against a bad team is better than struggling against a bad team.
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