Sound investment

Given the quality writing you find at InsideTennessee, why look anywhere else for your UT sports news? Check out this article on a key newcomer for the Basketball Vols:

Some investments are long-term, forcing you to wait years to see the benefits. Other investments pay immediate dividends.

Antonio Barton, for instance.

Tennessee basketball coach Cuonzo Martin invested a one-year scholarship last spring, when Barton decided to transfer from Memphis to another school for his senior season of collegiate eligibility. One week into his Vol career the 6-foot-2 point guard already is paying dividends.

Though slowed by a knee injury that caused him to miss both exhibition games and come off the bench in the regular-season opener, Barton started at the point in Saturday's home opener against South Carolina Upstate. He scored 13 points and starred down the stretch as the Vols posted a 74-65 come-from-behind victory.

It was a Barton 3-pointer that gave Tennessee its first lead of the second half (61-59) with 8:17 remaining. After grabbing a defensive rebound, he assisted Jordan McRae on a 3-pointer that bumped the lead to 66-61. Moments later Barton drained a fallaway 18-footer that extended the lead to 68-61.

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For a newcomer to the program, he clearly is not hesitant to take big shots in clutch situations. He took – and made – two of the biggest on Saturday night.

"I'm very confident in my shot," Barton said. "Coach told me the whole game to shoot the ball if I had good looks."

Teammates were urging him to shoot the ball, too, especially after he made the go-ahead 3-pointer.

"Yeah, I feel real good when my teammates jump up and cheer me on," he said.

Even in an injury-plagued preseason, Barton showed his teammates that he's one newcomer who can shoot the rock.

"He's a shot-maker," senior forward Jeronne Maymon said. "Regardless of newcomer or old-timer, if you're a shot-maker you're a shot-maker. He shoots those balls, and we expect them to go in."

Barton, who drained 41.7 percent of his 3-point tries in three seasons at Memphis, is more than a shot-maker, however. When healthy, he also excels at running the transition offense and playing hard-nosed on-the-ball defense.

"He has a lot more to bring to the table," Maymon said. "This was really his first game getting in his groove, especially being on Tennessee's home floor. He's going to bring a lot to the table. We like his swagger and style he brings at the point position."

Barton would love to show off his full arsenal of skills when Tennessee hosts The Citadel tonight at 7 in Thompson-Boling Arena. That is unlikely to happen, however, until he is fully healthy.

"He's probably about 85 to 90 percent with that knee," Martin said, "but he made some drives (against Upstate) and made some plays."

The player conceded that he is "just trying to get back in the groove, adding: "I'm still not 100 percent but I can go. I told Coach I don't have to be 100 percent … I can go. I'm still working my way back in. I'm going to just keep playing hard."

Barton could be the key to Tennessee's entire season. His ability to run the offense, hit the 3-pointer and defend the opposing point guard looms large in the months to come. After feeling a little tentative coming off the bench in the Game 1 loss at Xavier, he felt more in-sync in Game 2.

"It felt a lot easier," he said. "I got the Xavier game under my belt; I was getting used to those guys (teammates). This game I felt more comfortable shooting the ball and running the floor."

Barton should grow increasingly comfortable each time he suits up for the Vols. He probably will grow increasingly productive, as well.

"He's just one of those guys that competes," Martin said. "He's still learning plays right now. There's only certain ones we can call right now because he hasn't been out there."

Barton played in a lot of big games at Memphis, and it shows. Except for one late turnover, he was coolly efficient as Tennessee closed the Upstate game on a 26-8 run that turned a 48-57 deficit into a 74-65 victory.

"He's a guy that plays in that kind of atmosphere, that environment," Martin said. "He understands. He has a feel for it. He has a toughness to be out there."

Translation: Antonio Barton was a sound investment.

GAME NOTES: The Citadel brings a 2-2 record into tonight's game, having beaten Presbyterian and North Greeneville after losing to VMI and Army…. The Bulldogs are coached by Chuck Driesell, son of legendary Maryland coach Lefty Driesell…. The Citadel's top player is guard Matt Scyoc, who averages 18.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game…. Tennessee's five turnovers in Saturday's defeat of South Carolina Upstate was the program's fewest since Dec. 15, 1992, when the Vols also committed five in a 68-67 defeat of Dayton. Tennessee is averaging 8.0 turnovers through its first two games…. After missing half of their first 12 foul shots against Upstate, the Vols sank 23 of the final 24…. Tennessee is shooting a strong 40.6 percent (13 of 32) from 3-point range thus far…. Tonight's game will be televised by FOX Sports Network beginning at 7.


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