Tennessee forward Jeronne Maymon looks like a football player and, when he's on his game, plays like one in the post.
Not exactly blessed with ideal height for his position, Maymon overcompensates with physicality. In matchups like Saturday's against Auburn, Maymon can simply overpower whoever's guarding him. That's why he came away with 15 points and 19 rebounds in the Volunteers' 64-49 victory over the Tigers, a win that prevented Tennessee from slipping to last place in the SEC.
"I just try to go up there with two hands and control the ball," Maymon said. "That's just what we work on. Coach (Cuonzo) Martin and the rest of the staff make sure we do that at practice a lot so it just comes natural. I just try to stick to the principles."
Maymon has been one of the few sources of consistency for the Volunteers. He hasn't matched the 32-point, 20-rebound effort he had against Memphis at the beginning of the season, but he's been a reliably, steadying presence in the post. He's scored at least 12 points and grabbed no fewer than seven rebounds in all but one of Tennessee's SEC games.
Martin, though, wants to see more.
"I think he brings his hard hat on rebounds, but I think he still has a ways to go to be the best he can be," Martin said. "He's really pushing himself and continues to do that, continues to gain confidence. I think once he gets to (shooting) 70-75 percent from inside the free-throw line, he'll be extremely tough to defend."
Maymon has even improved his passing throughout the season. Now that he's teamed with freshman power forward Jarnell Stokes, an early enrollee who joined the team earlier this month, Maymon can flash that skill more often.
On Saturday against Auburn, he did it while the Volunteers consistently broke the Tigers' full-court press.
"Ever since AAU, I've been a facilitator," Maymon said. "I like to pass the ball a lot."
-The book is starting to get put together on Tennessee PF Jarnell Stokes. Every game presents a new challenge for the freshman who joined the Volunteers as an early enrollee earlier this month. He had the first letdown of his career last week at Vanderbilt, when veteran C Festus Ezeli gave Stokes fits en route to a six-point night.
Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said the tough night was a good thing for Stokes, who bounced back Saturday against Auburn with 11 points and six rebounds.
"The more I play, the more I think my IQ will go up in playing the college game," Stokes said.
-G Jordan McRae knew he hadn't been playing his best basketball. After a summer in which he made major strides both as a player and as a maturing student, McRae hit a wall during SEC play, losing his starting role and seeing his bench minutes dwindle to fewer and fewer totals with every passing game. So, McRae did something about it Saturday against Auburn. The sophomore logged the most minutes (25) since Dec. 14, scoring 11 points and grabbing six rebounds.
"Really, nothing was different," McRae told the Chattanooga Times Free Press. "The past couple of games I've been playing terrible, so I had to do something about it. I think I stepped up. I don't think (Martin's) been pleased with the way I've been playing, so I had to do better."
-Tennessee's 64-49 win Saturday over Auburn was its 1,500th in program history. Dating back to the birth of the program in 1909 and to that point, the Volunteers were 1,500-956-2.
"That's a great one for all of the guys that paved the way, so to speak, that came before us and current players," coach Cuonzo Martin said. "That's fun to be a part of."
THIS WEEK'S GAMES
at Kentucky, Jan. 31
In the teams' matchup earlier this season, Tennessee was successful in limiting Kentucky G Doron Lamb to one field goal and four points. The game still ended as a loss for the Volunteers as F Anthony Davis (18 points, eight rebounds) and F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (17 points, 12 rebounds) had their way in a second half that Kentucky dominated with its defense. The Volunteers have to expect more contributions from Lamb while limiting the superstar tandem at forward.
vs. Georgia, Feb. 4
Tennessee needs to figure out how to slow down speedy Georgia G Gerald Robinson, who blazed by whoever was guarding him on his way to 16 points in the teams' matchup earlier this month. G Skylar McBee, who is considered a good defender, simply couldn't keep up with Robinson in the ugly game that ended with the Bulldogs winning in overtime, 57-53.
The Volunteers are in the market for a reliable point guard from their upcoming recruiting classes. They might just have the answer on campus already in the form of walk-on Cory Stanton, who won't be available to play until next January. A Springfield, Tenn., native, Stanton started his college career at Clemson, where he averaged 2.4 points and a little more than 10 minutes per game. He transferred to Lipscomb for the 2011 fall semester before enrolling at Tennessee earlier this month. When he resumes his career, he'll be considered a redshirt sophomore.
F Renaldo Woolridge, who began the SEC season as a starter, did not see the floor in Tennessee's win Saturday over Auburn. Woolridge, who averages 4.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, has seen his playing time diminish as he transitions from playing at power forward to small forward.
PF Jarnell Stokes is catching on to the college game faster than anyone expected, but he's struggled mightily at the free-throw line. After going 1-for-2 at the line Saturday, Stokes is now 9-for-18 (50 percent) in five collegiate games.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"I think a lot of it is playing hard on defense. It takes a toll on you. Sometimes it is hard to come down in transition and shoot the ball. That is something we have to work on and get better at. The past couple of games have been that way but you never know, these next few games we may be shooting lights out." -- Tennessee G Skylar McBee