After rewatching our loss to Georgia, I thought about writing another blog, but I couldn’t do it. What was I going to talk about? The same things I’ve been saying after all our previous losses? Effort, energy, execution… blah blah blah. I couldn’t do it. After working late into the night, I drove to the mountains of Greeneville for my daughter’s dedication at the church of wife’s family. When I say the mountains, believe me, I mean the mountains. My wife’s family lives on a mountain where, for once, I was happy not to have any phone or Internet service. While I was up there, one thing became clear: We don’t have time to look back at Georgia. We must move on and get ready for Vandy. It’s put up or shut up time. With four games left, our NCAA Tournament life is at stake but we need to take one game at a time.
Tomorrow’s game will be played in one of the most hostile environments we face every year. Their fans, players and coaches are going to be highly motivated to avenge their early-season loss to us and land another crucial body blow on us while we are staggering to the finish line. We understand the effort we display and its corresponding result will say a lot about our character. What do we have? There are only two ways we can go.
Vanderbilt has had a lot of success this year for multiple reasons. They are a tough, veteran team with the ability to do a magnitude of things because of their numerous similar pieces. John Jenkins, who leads the SEC in scoring, is a very talented player whose great shooting is the main reason why they lead the league in 3-pt field goal percentage. In addition, their depth at the 4 and 5 allow them to be very physical while it allows their PG, 2 and 3 to do a lot of switching on the defensive end.
With that said, our preparation has continued to focus on us and our improvement. We can talk all we want about what Vandy does or doesn’t do, but ultimately it boils down to what we do. As we all know, the majority of our games this year have come down to a couple plays here or there. It’s the little things. Tuesday we must play well early. WE CANNOT CONTINUE TO RECEIVE THE FIRST PUNCH. We must be the aggressor from the start. Offensively, we must be sharp during the first 4-minute segment of the game by moving with a purpose and taking better shots. Against Vandy earlier in the season, we shot 20% from the field in the first half because we did not abide by our offensive principles. One of which is to drive the ball to the basket. Early three’s and pull-up jump shots is what every defense wants to face. Attacking the basket, however, probes the defense for a layup, a drive, draw, dish to a teammate, frees up our very good offensive rebounders and enables us to get to the free-throw line more often. Defensively, we must continue to give great effort, communicate, locate shooters, and man-up on the boards.
The reason we were able to beat Vanderbilt earlier in the year is because we laid it all out on the line in the 2nd half. Being down 17 points enabled us to play with a “nothing to loose” mentality because everyone thought we were down and out. Some guys play better under those circumstances because there’s no pressure. Well now, most everyone thinks our season is done. We’re starting to be written off, and I don’t necessarily blame people. We know we haven’t met everyone’s expectations. But, I promise you that we are our own biggest critics. We have four games left in the regular season but we can’t look at the big picture. We need to focus on one game at a time. Although I don’t know what the results will be, I do know we will do everything we can to win Tuesday night and make Vol Nation proud.
P.S Nashville Vols, we hope to see you there tomorrow, rockin’ that orange!