Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love playing at home in Thompson-Boling Arena in front of all of our fans. But there is just something that I love about getting a win on the road. Maybe it’s the fact that your team overcomes a lot of adversity when it’s just your team vs. “the world” in an opposing team’s gym. Or maybe it’s getting a win that not many other teams will be able to get as we move one step closer to achieving our goals. Or, maybe it’s knowing that after a road win you send the opposing fans home mad and disappointed.
Toughness. Toughness is what it takes to win basketball games. Physical AND mental I don’t care how much talent you have, if you aren’t mentally tough, you aren’t going to be very good. A lot of our guys demonstrated they were mentally tough vs. Ole Miss by the way they handled their own personal adversity: Cameron Tatum staying focused despite his first half foul trouble. Melvin getting 50/50 ball after 50/50 ball. Brian focusing at the free-throw line. Steven Pearl, Josh Bone, Skylar McBee, Trae Golden, making a difference during their time on the floor, accepting their role and thriving in it. Tobias and Scotty doing other things besides just scoring to help us win. It takes everybody! Buying into your role despite wanting to play more isn’t easy. Matter of fact it’s tough. But, when we go to our strengths and focus on what we can to help our team win, we are a pretty good basketball team.
Entering the game, Coach Jones talked to our team about how the team that wanted this one more was going to get it. Was Tennessee’s will to win going to be greater than Ole Miss’? We thought Ole Miss was going to treat this like a must-win so the question needed to be asked, would we be willing to match their intensity. Coach Jones told the team that he knew playing your hardest isn’t easy. Digging deeper when you feel like you’re on your last breath is tough. What’s just as difficult though, is when you get tired to look at the substitute at your position, sub out and say “ok it’s your turn,” because you trust him. Tonight we had more guys sub themselves out than we have had ALL year long. On more than a couple occasions, our guys asked to come out because they were so tired and needed to rest. That’s a sign of a guy who is focused on more than himself. It’s one sign of a good team!
Coach Pearl always talks about how we may not have the best starting 5 in the country but that together, Melvin and Trae need to be the best point guard. Scotty and Skylar need to be the best 2-guard, Cameron and Josh need to be the best 3-guard, and so on and so on. Today, we accomplished that. Don’t get me wrong, we have a lot to improve upon (i.e. finishing a stinkin’ fast break 3 on 1) but our staff is happy with the way we played today. Our players demonstrated to Coach Jones and the rest of our staff just how great their will to win was by the way they played together with great focus and purpose.
Vol Nation, you never cease to amaze me! The Tad Pad only holds around 9,500 people and we still easily had a couple thousand Vol Fans in there wearing their Orange. It was awesome! Thank you so much for your support! You guys are the best!