Knoxville, Tenn.--(UTSports) @VOL_HOOPS REPORT: ‘Black Ops’ Tactics
While the Tennessee basketball team’s main rotation for the past several games has been primarily limited to eight or nine players, the Volunteers’ preparations for Saturday’s big road test at unbeaten Wichita State has been a total team effort, with contributions from all 15 roster members.
The Vols (6-2) face the Shockers (9-0) – ranked No. 12 in the AP poll and No. 8 in the coaches’ poll – at INTRUST Bank Arena in downtown Wichita Saturday afternoon. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. ET/1 p.m. CT, and the game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
This week in practice, the Vols split up into three five-man teams, which changed daily. The starters and main bench contributors were split between the Orange and White teams. A third five-man team donned black practice jerseys and emulated the Wichita State offensive and defensive schemes.
Nicknamed “Black Ops” by Vols head coach Cuonzo Martin due to their black jerseys, the group gave great effort and, at times, gave UT’s primary contributors all they could handle and more.
The “Black Ops” squad consisted of senior D’Montre Edwards, juniors Rawane Ndiaye and Brandon Lopez and sophomores Derek Reese and Galen Campbell.
“I think Black Ops has really helped us prepare this week,” Martin said Thursday. “All those guys probably want to be giving us more minutes during games, but at the same time they’re all committed to doing whatever it takes to help us win ballgames. This week, they’ve taken their task seriously. They’ve learned Wichita State’s tendencies and they’ve gone out each practice looking to be the best team on the floor.”
Edwards has played the role of Shockers’ leading scorer Ron Baker. On Wednesday, Edwards was at times nearly unstoppable on offense.
“We’ve taken it serious and have tried to emulate their guys, like Baker,” Edwards said. “He gets a lot of shots up. I’ve had to play (as) him in practice, and I just want to get my teammates as prepared as they can be. I’m also trying to be aggressive at the same time and work on my game.”
Edwards and Lopez combined to play 18 minutes in last season’s win over Wichita State in Knoxville. Having the benefit of previously going up against the players they were asked to emulate this week helped them make UT’s preparations for the Shockers as realistic as possible.
SHOCKERS EXPECTING RECORD CROWD SATURDAY
Earlier this week, Wichita State associate athletics director Darron Boatright said that Saturday’s crowd is expected to set an INTRUST Bank Arena attendance record. The facility’s basketball configuration has a capacity of 15,000.
This marks the fourth straight season that Wichita State has hosted a game at INTRUST Bank Arena, defeating Tulsa, UAB and Southern Miss at this venue the last three years, respectively.
WSU typically plays its home games at its on-campus facility, Charles Koch Arena (capacity 10,512).
When these programs met last season at Thompson-Boling Arena, the Shockers – who eventually reached the Final Four – entered the game with a 9-0 record, and the Vols dealt them their first loss of the year. WSU is off to a 9-0 start once again and has never started a season 10-0.
The attendance for last season’s clash in Knoxville was 15,215.
WICHITA STATE EXPECTED TO ‘PLAY ANGRY’
During a downtown ceremony Monday afternoon, the City of Wichita officially renamed Waterman Street to “Play Angry Place.”
Waterman Street is the street that’s just south of INTRUST Bank Arena and runs east and west. The street renaming will remain in effect for one week.
During Monday’s ceremony, City of Wichita Vice Mayor Pete Meitzner read the proclamation of the renaming of Waterman Street to Play Angry Place, and then WSU associate head coach Chris Jans unveiled the Play Angry Place street sign.
RICHARDSON FAMILY REUNION
Tennessee junior Josh Richardson is a native of Edmond, Okla., which is approximately a two-hour drive from Wichita. Saturday’s game at Wichita State is the closest to home Richardson will have played since becoming a Volunteer.
In addition to his parents, Micheal and Alice, who attend nearly all of UT’s games, Josh Richardson said Thursday that he expects more than 25 other family members and friends to be in attendance Saturday.
While the day will serve as a brief reunion of sorts, there will be 40 minutes of business for Josh Richardson to take care of before the trip takes on a social tone.
“I’ll be able to come out and talk to everybody after the game,” Josh Richardson said. “It will be nice to see everybody because I haven’t been home since, like, May. So it will be a cool thing.”
He added that, like his mother, most of his family members are very loud.
“I can pick (my Mom’s) voice out over everybody (when we play) in Thompson-Boling Arena, so I can just imagine what it will be like Saturday.”
Richardson has started 41 straight games for the Vols, dating to last season. This year, he is averaging 7.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game while shooting a career-best .462 from 3-point range.
MARTIN TABBED FOR ILLINOIS BASKETBALL COACHES HALL OF FAME
Third-year Tennessee basketball coach Cuonzo Martin was recently announced as a 2014 metro-east inductee to the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.
The induction ceremony is set for April 26 at the Illinois State University Student Union ballroom in Normal, Ill.
Martin enjoyed an outstanding prep career at Lincoln High School in East St. Louis, Ill., and is being inducted alongside former Lincoln teammate and fellow All-State selection LaPhonso Ellis.
Martin and Ellis helped lead Lincoln to two IHSA Class AA state championships during the Tigers’ incredible run of three consecutive state titles.
“This is a tremendous honor,” Martin said. “As a kid, all I wanted to do was play for East St. Louis Lincoln in hopes of playing for a state championship someday. A lot of credit goes to my high school coach, Benny Lewis, and his staff, along with all my teammates for helping to put me in a position to be successful.”
Martin, 42, went on to star at Purdue under head coach Gene Keady from 1992-95, scoring 1,666 points in 127 career games. Purdue posted a 90-37 record during Martin’s four-year career, including a combined 54-12 mark in his last two seasons. He made 45.9 percent of his 3-point attempts (179-for-390) over his junior and senior seasons and was an 80 percent free-throw shooter.
During Martin’s senior year (1994-95), he averaged 18.4 points per game while leading Purdue to the second of three consecutive Big Ten championships, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors.
The Atlanta Hawks made Martin the 57th overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft, and he played professional basketball for four years, including NBA stints with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Vancouver Grizzlies.
Martin joined the collegiate coaching ranks as an assistant at Purdue in 2000. After eight seasons on the bench in West Lafayette and an eventual promotion to the role of associate head coach, Martin was named head coach at Missouri State. He spent three years at MSU, and his final two squads there averaged 25 wins per season.
He was introduced as Tennessee’s 18th men’s basketball coach on March 28, 2011.
For the complete list of 2014 Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame inductees, visit: http://1tn.co/1hMR2k9
For the most up-to-date information about the Tennessee basketball program, visit UTsports.com/basketball and follow @Vol_Hoops on Twitter and Instagram.
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