Maybe Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin wasn’t showing his hand in the team’s first two exhibition wins.
Whatever the case, many Volunteers fans are breathing easier after Friday night’s 92-63 win over UNC Greensboro in which the Vols seemed to be everything they weren’t offensively in those two games, shooting 64 percent from the field and displaying a crisp, unselfish offense.
Sophomore point guard Trae Golden was a one-man wrecking crew in the first half, leading the team with 19 points, five rebounds and five assists.
“Trae did a good job of attacking and distributing the ball,” Martin said after the game.
He finished the game 29 points in 27 minutes, dishing out nine assists in the process.
Golden said he was taking what the defense gave him.
“I felt like they challenged me to shoot the three,” Golden said. “I only shot 25 percent last season so I would challenge me too. I have been working on my shot, and the improvement is really repetition.”
The Vols’ shot selection and shooting percentage was a far cry from the exhibitions in which they were shooting below 40 percent.
Ball movement and shot selection looked better. Turnovers were rarely seen. Players were not settling for three-pointers, instead executing everything from give-and-goes to drive-and-dishes.
“The biggest key for our guys is confidence,” Martin said after the game. “If you have a shot, take it. Just don’t take bad shots and I don’t think we took a lot of bad shots.”
UT’s offense revolved around Golden, who, when not scoring, was getting others involved in the offense.
Golden put the icing on the cake to a perfect first half when he dribbled into a double-team, but found a wide open Jordan McRae for a three-pointer to end the half, one of the Vols’ 15 for the game.
Overall, the Vols shot 15-of-24 from the three-point line.
While Martin was pleased with the team’s offensive output, he said the Vols should be more aggressive inside.
“In order for us to take that next step as a team, we’ll have to get that production in the paint,” Martin said.
Inside scoring took a hit at the 16:44 mark in the first half when center Kenny Hall picked up his second foul.
From there, he said the team’s inside rotation was out of whack.
“Kenny just has to play basketball,” Martin said. “Getting a aggressive foul is a good foul, but he has to be big and know where he is on the floor. Sometimes you have to give up a bucket to stay in the game.”
Hall did show signs of life later in the game, including a spin-move dunk late in the second half.
Martin said the team also needed to work on rebounding, as UNC Greensboro out-rebounded the Vols, 34-31.
UT’s next game is Wednesday at 7 p.m. when they host Louisiana-Monroe.