Recruiting Update: Tennessee still searching for a point guard


Josh Richardson is training for the NBA draft. The player who will replace him as Tennessee’s point guard is still to-be-determined. Here’s an update on some of the options that have been linked to UT coach Rick Barnes and his staff.

  • UT assistant coach Desmond Oliver visited IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., this week to meet with Lamonte Turner. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound point guard plans to reclassify to the 2015 class, moving up his college enrollment by a year. Scouting service 247Sports ranked the three-star prospect as the No. 91 player in the 2016 class and the No. 17 point guard. Former UT coach Donnie Tyndall’s staff offered Turner a scholarship in June. He visited unofficially in October.

  • Villanova graduate transfer point guard Dylan Ennis has removed the Vols from consideration. He told ESPN he will pick between Baylor, Oregon and Illinois.
  • Southern Florida graduate transfer point guard Anthony Collins visited Baylor last week and started a visit to Texas A&M on Thursday, according to CBSSports.com. UT is reportedly on Collins’ list of potential landing spots. I’ve reached out to him about his recruitment, but have not heard back.

Canadian forward Kyle Alexander has offer, will visit Vols

kyle alexander

Add Kyle Alexander’s name to the list of prospects the Tennessee basketball team will host this weekend.

The 6-10 1/2, 200-pound Canadian power forward out of Orangeville Prep in Ontario confirmed he and his parents will board a flight Thursday for this weekend’s official visit with the Vols. He’ll come with a scholarship offer in hand. Alexander said UT offered him “about two weeks” before Vols coach Rick Barnes and associate head coach Rob Lanier visited him at his school on Monday. Lanier had scouted Alexander when he and Barnes were coaching at Texas.

“They told me they have had success bringing in other Canadians they found potential in,” Alexander said during a phone interview Wednesday. “They brought that potential out. My dad really respects that.”

I’ll have more on Alexander this week. Similar to Ebuka Izundu, another prospect Tennessee has arranged an official visit with, Alexander is a relative newcomer to the sport. Despite a father (Joseph Alexander) who played for Niagara and a sister (Kayla Alexander) who plays in the WNBA, he didn’t become serious about the sport until he was 16. Now he holds offers from Tennessee, Rice, Dayton, New Mexico, Auburn, Western Kentucky and Arkansas. Not bad for someone who isn’t ranked on American recruiting services.

Alexander said he has no timetable for when he would like to make a decision. His official visit to UT will be his third of five available. His first two went to St. Bonaventure and Rice.

Other expected UT visitors for the weekend include UNC Asheville transfer guard Andrew Rowsey and Southern Idaho junior college prospect Ray Kasongo. 2015 signee Shembari Phillips is also scheduled to be on campus. It’s a good time for visits, as the football team’s Orange and White game will take place at Neyland Stadium on Saturday. Izundu is expected to arrive Sunday to start his official visit.



Ebuka Izundu schedules official visit with Tennessee basketball


A sought-after unsigned power-forward in the 2015 class has scheduled an official visit with the Tennessee men’s basketball team.

Ebuka Izundu plans to arrive in Knoxville on Sunday and depart Tuesday, Victory Christian (Charlotte, N.C.) basketball coach Aureice McCain told the News Sentinel in a phone interview on Tuesday night.

McCain said the 6-foot-9, 210-pound Izundu has picked up about 20 scholarship offers since he received his release from his letter of intent at Charlotte. To illustrated his point, McCain said coaches from three well-known schools stopped by Victory Christian on Tuesday. Izundu is the No. 4 player in North Carolina and the No. 58 power forward in the 2015 class, according to 247 Sports. The scouting service ranks him as a four-star prospect. He’s a three-star in the 247Sports composite.

The coaching change at Charlotte that led to Izundu receiving his release might help the Vols. UT assistant coach Desmond Oliver, a Charlotte assistant under former 49ers coach Alan Major, was one of the first coaches to scout Izundu.

“Coach Oliver was the first coach to see him when a lot of coaches wouldn’t return my phone calls and emails,” McCain said.

But McCain stressed Izundu’s recruitment is wide open, pointing out that those who jumped to conclusions based on Oliver’s Charlotte connection are reaching too far. He also made it clear Izundu has not received an offer from Kentucky, despite chatter that the Wildcats are interested. McCain said the upcoming visit to Tennessee is the only one Izundu has scheduled right now.

I’ll have more on Izundu tomorrow. His story is interesting. He’s originally from Lagos, Nigeria and hasn’t been playing basketball all that long. But his upside has caught the attention of a ton of teams, and the Vols are going to get a shot to make a good impression.






Rick Barnes Rewind: 5 answers from Tennessee’s new hoops coach


Just when, exactly, did Tennessee become a potential landing spot for Barnes?

Barnes said during his introductory press conference Tuesday that he knew things were in motion toward him becoming a Vol when he told reporters in Austin last Sunday that he would coach again sooner than they thought. He flew to Knoxville with Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart the same day. But Tennessee was on his brain even before Barnes and Hart first spoke by phone about the job last Saturday, the day after Hart fired former Vols coach Donnie Tyndall. Barnes told WVLT that his friend Dave Odom mentioned Tennessee as a possibility “weeks before” he was hired. Odom, a former college basketball coach, now works as a senior consultant for Collegiate Sports Associates, the search firm Tennessee used to hire Barnes.

“A friend of mine, Dave Odom, had been talking to me weeks before, just because he wanted to know how I was doing and this and that,” Barnes told WVLT. “He actually at one point in time said, hey, maybe if something else is out there, maybe you should think about it. But when it did develop, and he and I had talked, and once the situation was revolved at Texas, a couple hours later — probably really about four hours later — I had my first conversation with Dave Hart. It moved very quickly from there.”

Will Barnes recruit any of his former Texas commitments or signees? 

Nope. Not according to Barnes’ interview with Sports Radio WNML. And he will honor the letters of signed by Tennessee’s two 2015 signees. The players already on the roster are already his, he said.

“They are my players,” Barnes told Sports Radio WNML. “Right now. They are my players. I am Tennessee. I’m the Tennessee basketball coach. Anyone that is in the Tennessee basketball program, whether we recruited them or not, they are our players. Andd I’m going to treat them the way I would expect my son to be treated if he was in this situation. They are my players. I’m going to make the right decisions and do everything I can. Whatever is going to happen over the next couple of weeks, I don’t know that. But I’m going to be upfront, honest and there is no hidden agenda here.”

If no one transfers and 2015 signees Admiral Schofield and Shembari Phillips stick with UT, Barnes will have two scholarships available. He said he will be “open to whatever we think is available and what we think can help us” when asked if he will target junior college prospects or graduate transfers to fill the holes. He added he won’t use scholarships just to use them.

What’s the secret to coaching basketball at a football school?

“Well, I also coached at Providence College, who didn’t have football,” Barnes said during his introductory press conference at Pratt Pavilion. “And I can promise you, you want football. There’s nothing like a weekend when you’re allowed to bring your fans and you see kids that are growing up with a tradition … There are somethings you can never ever fake. That’s loyalty. Fan support. And I do know this, there’s none better than the University of Tennessee. When you have a football game, forget before you even go into the stadium. Forget that. It’s everything around it. I’ve never understood where people talk about a football school because I’ve said to everyone, from the time I’ve had to deal with that question, that I don’t know any university in the country who has a bigger basketball arena than their football stadium. I don’t. I understand the importance of football. What we want to do, we want to build on that enthusiasm. I wast to build on what Butch is doing. With him last night, it was impressive. You could feel, again, how grateful he is that he’s here … Football is a major asset to helping us build the basketball program. It’s a major asset to every sport on this campus. I promise you. It’s a sport we all pull for. Its a sport that drives. It’s never ever bothered me. You’ve gotta have it.”

Why, at age 60, was he interested in jumping right back into another job?

“Well, one, I’m a young man,” Barnes said at the press conference. “This is an incredible opportunity. And I will say this. It had to be what it was. It had to be … I mean, I had friends say to me you might want to step back and not be so quick to decide. This was before anybody even knew what was going on. There was never hesitancy on my part once I had made contact and Tennessee, and we started talking. One, I love to coaching. I love working with young people. I’ve been so blessed with players. Players have taught me. I can go down the line to my very first team as a head coach at George Mason. The relationship you develop with those players, the wins and losses, yeah, they’re there, but they could fade away. Those relationships you develop never fade away. And not just with players, but the people you meet along the way. And that’s something I’m not ready to give up. I am driven. I have had one goal in my life and that would be a chance to play in a national championship. This is a university that provides you with everything you need to do that. And I realize how hard that is to do. But it’s something you have to, again, that’s the standard we set. When Dave and I got to talking, there was no doubt from my view that I wanted to be here.”

What did Barnes tell his new Tennessee players?

“We are all fortunate, blessed to have this opportunity,” Barnes said during his press conference. “Where they are sitting right now (the players were to his right) … There are thousands of young men that would like to have this opportunity. I would say the same thing for myself. There are thousands of other coaches that would like to be standing here. So, one thing we won’t do is ever, ever take for granted or have a sense of entitlement .. Believe me, we know the league we play in and we understand the climate of college basketball. Everybody wants it. We’ve been given this opportunity. Now, we have to make the most of it. What we have to do is hold each other accountable. We’ve got to coach each other. We want to have every component that goes into being a great team. And it starts with trust. It starts with loyalty. It starts with the fact we know that all we have to do is look around us every single day. There is greatness. There is greatness. There are examples everywhere. The standard has been set. That’s not a hard thing to figure out. The standard has been set, and it’s a standard we have to work and fight for every day to live up to.”

NCAA Basketball: Texas Christian at Texas

Tennessee hoops coaching search update 3.0


Donnie Tyndall is out, and Tennessee men’s basketball beat reporter Ben Frederickson is tracking the developments of UT’s search for its next coach here on the blog, posting links to News Sentinel reporting and information from other outlets. Consider this your one-stop shop for coaching search coverage and the non-stop chatter that comes along with it. Maybe we can even have some fun along the way.

  • A Power Five conference coach I talked to Monday made his case for former Texas coach Rick Barnes to Tennessee. Full disclosure: This guy knows Barnes but hasn’t talked to him since he was fired. But he said Barnes has plenty left in the tank and “makes a lot of sense” for the Vols. Multiple reports have said Barnes would have interest in Tennessee, and I believe that to be true. The coach also said Barnes’ resume (a 604-314 career record with 22 NCAA tournament appearances and one Final Four) blows Bruce Pearl’s resume “off the face of the earth.” The coach described UT as a bit of a “scary situation” for high major coaches who might be OK with their current situation. UT athletic director Dave Hart kind of spoke to this during his press conference.
    “Coaches aren’t as willing to jump,” Hart said. “They’ve done the assessment. If I have resources, and I have facilities, and I have a good relationship and rapport with the athletic director, the president, chancellor, good fan base, do I want to uproot my family? I think that’s at play more than the general population thinks. It is a recruitment. It’s no different than our coaches recruiting. It’s truly a recruitment. We think we have a lot to offer in that vein.”
    More to offer the 60-year-old Barnes, perhaps, than someone who would demand a six or seven-year deal to feel safe. Remember, he doesn’t currently have a job.
  • Today’s News Sentinel addresses how security is going to be an important factor in the search due to the recent revolving door at UT.
  • Another thing to consider on Barnes. Yes, he’s 60, and that probably makes it a longshot that he’s a 10-year answer for a program. But what if he had an assistant who could take the program over when he’s done? Barnes is out at Texas because he wouldn’t make staff changes. These guys seem like a package deal.
    Former Texas associate head coach Rob Lanier went 58-70 as the head coach of Siena College from 2001-05, making one NCAA tournament appearance. He’s been an assistant at Florida, Virginia, Rutgers and St. Bonaventure.
    Former Texas assistant coach Russell Springmann has been with Barnes for 17 years, 14 seasons as assistant. He’s the guy who is credited for landing Kevin Durant, and he’s been linked to a bunch of head coaching opportunities over the years. Mississippi State tried to hire him and failed before hiring Rick Ray, according to Jeff Goodman. Some of the other head coach openings Springmann has been linked to in the past: Loyola, Texas State, Texas Tech and TCU.
  • Alabama athletic director Bill Battle will meet with Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall today, The Tuscaloosa News reports. Alabama is wise to move quickly since Texas, according to reports and common sense, is targeting Marshall and VCU’s Shaka Smart to replace Barnes. If VCU lost Smart, would it turn to Smart protege Will Wade of Chattanooga? Tennessee didn’t make the call to Wade last season, but might this time around.
  • St. John’s, DePaul and Fordham seem to be done shopping. St. Johns has offered Chris Mullin and he is expected to accept, CBSSPorts.com reported. DePaul hired Dave Leitao (again). Fordham hired Eastern Kentucky’s Jeff Neubauer, ESPN reported. Noteworthy jobs still open: Texas, Alabama and Arizona State. You can track every opening here.
  • DePaul reportedly interviewed Buffalo’s Bobby Hurley and Valparaiso’s Bryce Drew, two candidates we included on our initial list of potential Tyndall replacements. So, keep those names in mind now that DePaul is closed. CBSChicago.com reported Hurley and Drew both turned down DePaul after discussions.
  • Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy was mentioned by CBSSports.com to be a potential candidate for the Vols. Kennedy’s name seems to be tied to an opening every season. Maybe there’s real interest. Maybe he’s trying to get a raise now that Mississippi State hired Ben Howland to a four-year deal worth $2.05 million annually. Kennedy also gets a new arena next season.
  • Georgia State coach Ron Hunter might me more enticed to leave now that his son and Georgia State star, R.J. Hunter, is leaving for the NBA draft early. Yahoo! Sports broke the news.
  • It sure seems like Minnesota’s Richard Pitino wants a change of scenery. His name has been linked to St. Johns, Alabama and Tennessee.
  • What did I miss? Let me know on Twitter (@Ben_Fred).

Did you miss previous coaching search updates? Find them here:


Memphis v Texas

Tennessee hoops coaching search update 2.0


Donnie Tyndall is out, and Tennessee men’s basketball beat reporter Ben Frederickson is tracking the developments of UT’s search for its next coach here on the blog, posting links to News Sentinel reporting and information from other outlets. Consider this your one-stop shop for coaching search coverage and the non-stop chatter that comes along with it. Maybe we can even have some fun along the way.

  • The idea of fired Texas coach Rick Barnes jumping from one UT to the other has moved to the forefront of the discussion. Barnes’ resume includes a Final Four appearance in 2003, along with 16 NCAA tournament trips in 17 seasons with the Longhorns. He’s a strong recruiter who landed 10 first-round draft picks since 2011. Barnes is originally from Hickory, North Carolina. His wife, Candy, is a Tennessee alum, according to the NBCSports.com report that said the Tennessee job “absolutely” belongs to Barnes if he wants it. Barnes didn’t always deliver on the high expectations Texas desires, but his program was stable, something Tennessee desperately needs.
  • The Texas job being open changes the landscape considerably. Just ask Alabama, which was reportedly gearing up to throw big money at Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall. That chance might be gone now. Marshall has reportedly been eyeing the Longhorns for some time. Texas is now offering the most appealing vacancy. It will trickle down to affect other hires.
  • Something to note: Barnes is 60. Belmont coach Rick Byrd is 61. Just pointing it out. You can’t say one is too old and not the other.
  • Bobby Hurley (Buffalo) and Bryce Drew (Valparaiso) both want the DePaul job “badly”, according to the Chicago Tribune. The report says Hurley interviewed yesterday. Drew will interview today.
  • Louisiana Tech’s Michael White sounded like a guy not interested in moving in this recent interview. But what is he supposed to say? White lost three senior starters from last season’s team. Fran Fraschilla thinks White, who turned down an offer from the Vols last season, would make a great fit at UT or Alabama.
  • Speaking of UT and Alabama, Pat Forde seems to think Minnesota’s Richard Pitino is interested in coaching the Crimson Tide. Pitino has also been linked to the Vos. The likely connection for both is C.M. Newton. He was Hart’s basketball coach at Alabama, then hired Pitino’s father while he was the Kentucky athletic director. Pitino’s buyout is $1.5 million if he leaves before April 30, 2016. That’s three times what UT paid for Tyndall’s buyout last season.
  • ESPN reports Danny Hurley has agreed to a restructured deal at Rhode Island.
  • UT is not expected to announce the name of the search firm it is working with to make the hire. It hired Parker Executive Search in Atlanta for the hires of athletic director Dave Hart and former men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin.
  • What did I miss? Let me know on Twitter (@Ben_Fred)

Did you miss previous coaching search updates? Find them here:





Brad Underwood

Tennessee hoops coaching search update 1.0


Here we are again. Tennessee fired first-year Vols basketball coach Donnie Tyndall on Friday, meaning UT has yet another coaching search on its hands. I’ll track the developments here on the blog, posting links to News Sentinel reporting and information from other outlets. Consider this your one-stop shop for coaching search coverage and the non-stop chatter that comes along with it. Maybe we can even have some fun along the way.

  • Here’s the link to our list of potential candidates UT athletic director Dave Hart might turn to as he looks for Tyndall’s replacement. Remember, Hart said in the press conference Friday that he will a) use a search firm for the first time in his career, b) show no interest in a coach who has past NCAA transgressions (yes, that means you’re out of luck, Bring Back Brucers), and c) preferably hire a candidate with head coaching experience.
  • ESPN’s Jeff Goodman mentioned these names as potential targets: Michael White (Louisiana Tech), Richard Pitino (Minnesota), Bobby Hurley (Buffalo), Steve Prohm (Murray State), Brad Underwood (Stephen F. Austin), Ben Jacobson (Northern Iowa), Rick Byrd (Belmont), Will Wade (Chattanooga). Goodman named Pitino the “my choice” candidate.
  • Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy went with Bryce Drew (Valparaiso), Dan Fife (Michigan State assistant), Travis Ford (Oklahoma State), Jerod Haase (UAB), Bobby Hurley (Buffalo), Kevin Keatts (UNC Wilmington), Andy Kennedy (Ole Miss), LeVelle Moton (North Carolina Central), Steve Prohm (Murray State), Mike White (Louisiana Tech) and Will Wade (Chattanooga).
  • My two cents: I think Underwood (pictured at the top of this post) would be a Vol in a heartbeat.
  • Speaking of Mike White, the guy Hart tried to hire last season before he moved on to Tyndall, I asked Hart if he would be open to the idea of revisiting someone he had interviewed during last season’s search. His response: “As you know, I never talk about candidates because y’all do such a fabulous job of that. I think a year ago there were more names in the paper than there are institutions at the Division I level. So I’ll let you do that. But, I do think that because we were in this circumstance last year, that certainly it might help in terms of what (another reporter) said about moving a little quicker. And when I say moving quicker, I’m only talking about the identification of potential candidates, not the process itself.”
    So … maybe that bridge wasn’t burnt? Dan Wolken seems to think White wants the call.
  • Speaking of burnt (orange), NBCSports.com reports Texas coach Rick Barnes will be leaving the Longhorns. Its source says Tennessee is “absolutely” Barnes job if he wants it.
  • The Tennessean reported UT has had a preliminary discussion with Butler coach Chris Holtmann on Friday. Its source says there’s mutual interest there. Something worth noting, from the Indy Star: “Holtmann, 42, grew up in Nicholasville, Ky., about three hours from the Tennessee campus. He was the head coach at Gardner-Webb for three seasons before coming to Butler as an assistant before the 2013-14 season. Butler is a private school and did not release details of Holtmann’s contract, but he is believed to be the lowest-paid coach in the Big East. He likely would get a substantial raise at Tennessee, a member of the powerful Southeastern Conference.”
    Dan Dakich says UT should go for it.
  • UNLV raised some eyebrows when it recently hired a super-successful high school football coach, Tony Sanchez,  to run its football team. Would UT even consider something similar? Maybe not. But Drew Maddux of Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville might be able to make a case worth hearing. The former Vanderbilt player has turned CPA into a nationally relevant program since he was hired in 2006. He could tap into some serious firepower from CPA. Tyndall’s staff considered CPA small forward Braxton Blackwell, a consensus top-50 recruit, one of its top targets in the 2016 class. CPA point guard Tyger Campbell, a member of the 2019 class, picked up an Ole Miss offer as an eighth grader. Current UT walk-on point guard Braxton Bonds is a CPA product. Maddux also has Nike ties, the brand UT switches to soon.
  • You hear some wild stuff during coaching searches, but someone telling me NBA veteran and former Florida Gator Mike Miller wants to coach the Vols actually happened. Miller’s brother Ryan is an assistant at UNLV.
  • I’ll give the Bring Back Brucers credit. They’re relentless. Somebody already started an online campaign to raise money for Pearl’s $5 million Auburn buyout.
  • What did I miss? Let me know via Twitter (@Ben_Fred).

Report: Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall meets with NCAA again


Updated: Yahoo! Sports first reported Tyndall’s second meeting with the NCAA took place on March 23. The correct date was March 16, multiple sources confirmed to the News Sentinel. The Yahoo! Sports report has been updated with the correct date.

First-year Tennessee men’s basketball coach Donnie Tyndall met with NCAA investigators for a second time to discuss the Southern Miss investigation, according to a Yahoo! Sports report published Wednesday night.

The report, citing anonymous sources, said the meeting took place March 16, but did not include the location.

Tyndall first met with NCAA investigators in November, after Southern Miss announced it was cooperating with the NCAA’s review of the program Tyndall coached from April 2012 to April 2014. Since Southern Miss made the announcement on Nov. 6, two members of Tyndall’s staff resigned, Southern Miss banned itself from postseason play and two Southern Miss players Tyndall signed during his two seasons there have been ruled ineligible. Meanwhile, Tyndall coached his team to a 16-16 record and a 10th-place finish in the SEC. The Vols were picked to place 13th.

Tyndall has said multiple times he has cooperated fully with the NCAA and will continue to do so until the investigation is closed. He has insisted the investigation was not a distraction and pushed back against the idea that it hurt recruiting efforts.

UT athletic director Dave Hart has defended UT’s vetting process and praised Tyndall’s coaching ability in multiple interviews, but has refrained from commenting specifically about Tyndall’s future at UT. During the SEC tournament, Hart was asked if he would have hired Tyndall if he knew the Southern Miss investigation was going to occur.

“Well, as everything’s hypothetical, but it would have been (pause) you know, it’s important,” Hart told 104.5 The Zone in Nashville. “That’s why we vet coaches before we hire them. Compliance is a very, very, very high priority at our institution and our athletics department.”







baulkman blog

Baulkman gives Vols SEC tournament lift despite bad shoulder

NASHVILLE — Devon Baulkman observed Thursday night’s locker room celebration with a sense of relief on his face.

The junior guard came off the bench then came up big in No. 10 seed Tennessee’s 67-61 win over No. 7 seed Vanderbilt in a second-round SEC tournament game at Bridgestone Arena.

Without his 12 points, six rebounds and two steals, the Vols might not be preparing to face No. 2 seed Arkansas in Friday’s quarterfinals.

“I came into the game confident, being positive and not thinking about my shoulder,” Baulkman said.

Ah, yes, the shoulder. Remember when Baulkman broke the news on Dec. 22 — after the junior-college transfer scored a season-high 22 points against Mercer — that he’s playing with what he described as a torn ligament in his left shoulder? He said at the time he will need surgery on the non-shooting joint this offseason. Ever since, he’s strapped on black brace, practiced and played.

“It’s been hard on him,” UT senior guard Josh Richardson said. “That shoulder has been rough. Sometimes, during practice, it pops out, and he has to pop it back in, and he’s freaking out. But, he’s a warrior. He’s fought through a lot this year.”

Baulkman said Thursday his shoulder has popped out of place twice this season, most recently “about four days ago.” He ices the joint and receives treatment. The pain is off-and-on, but when it’s on, it’s worse than anything he’s played through before.

“It is so painful, so painful,” he said.

Baulkman’s 12-point total Thursday was his first double-digit point total since he had 10 in a win at Mississippi State on Jan. 7.

It’s worth wondering if his season might have been different if he was fully healthy.

“He is a tough kid,” Richardson said. “He has a lot of scoring potential people never get to see.”

Richardson’s Last Laugh: Richardson smiled after he said it: “Today we were a tougher team. We played tough.”

Similar comments from Richardson following UT’s overtime win at Vanderbilt earlier this season peeved Vanderbilt freshman Wade Baldwin.

“To call us punks and (say) they out-physicaled us — from an opposing player, you are not supposed to be treating people like that after a game,” Baldwin told the Tennesseean as the rematch in Knoxville approached. “You should show some sort of respect for your opponent, especially since you have to play them again. That comment that he made really offended me, offended Coach Stallings and I think offended a lot of kids on my team.”

Richardson downplayed that chatter after Vanderbilt beat UT at Thompson-Boling Arena.  Baldwin won round two. But Richardson brought the “tough” topic back up Thursday night. He was reminded some took offense to his opinion last time.

“I don’t care, man,” Richardson said. “I’m not worried about that. If we were the tougher team then I’m going to say it … I should have said ‘tough’ like Allen Iverson said ‘practice.'”

Can’t Make Them All: When the Commodores swished their first two 3-point attempts, it seemed like deja vu. This was the sharpshooting team that drilled 13 of 25 3-pointers against the Vols during the win in Knoxville. But then one rimmed out. At one point six, in a row missed the mark.

“I told our staff before the game, it seems like they’re about 80 percent in their last four games from three,” Tyndall said. “Law of averages, certainly they have to miss a few. Fortunately, tonight, they did.”

The Commodores finished 6 of 26 from deep, or 23.1 percent. That’s their lowest 3-point percentage against an SEC opponent this season. Some perspective: They entered the game with an SEC-best 3-point percentage of 39.3 and had made 50.9 percent through their last four games.

So, was it UT’s defense or simply a return to Earth? A little bit of both, probably.

“We kind of switched up the defense a little bit,” Moore said. “Instead of staying in zone the whole possession, we kind of matched up when they were trying to run us out of man. So, when they threw it to the corner, we were already there. When they penetrated, we slid over. We ended up getting some shot clock violations. We really buckled down and played some good defense there.”

Problem Finally Solved: Vanderbilt sophomore guard Damian Jones was a dominant force for most of the game. He scored 18 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and blocked three shots. It was Jones who put the Commodores ahead 59-47 with 7:18 to play. He had two offensive rebounds and zero points from that point on.

“If you don’t box him out, he’s a big body, and he’s going to get the rebound and dunk it on your head,” Moore said. “The first 30 minutes of the game, he was killing us. We had no answer for him. But, we came together as a team. Coach Tyndall said, ‘You go (box out) Damian Jones, and we will win the game. We boxed him out those last 10 minutes and look, we won the game.”

UT managed to finally contain Jones despite Moore, Reese and Carmichael playing with four fouls.


Ben Frederickson’s AP All-SEC ballot


Tennessee men’s basketball beat reporter Ben Frederickson’s Associated Press All-SEC vote is below. Disagree? Sound off to @Ben_Fred.

First Team:

Jordan Mickey, LSU
Bobby Portis, Arkansas
Willie Cauley Stein, Kentucky
Josh Richardson, Tennessee
Stefan Moody, Ole Miss

Second Team:

Marcus Thornton, Georgia
Jarell Martin, LSU
Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky
Danuel House, Texas A&M
Michael Qualls, Arkansas

Player of the Year: Bobby Portis, Arkansas

Coach of the Year: John Calipari, Kentucky

Freshman of the Year: Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky