Change isn't something Tennessee basketball head coach Cuonzo Martin typically welcomes with open arms.
But he proved just how necessary it can be during the Vols' 76-59 win at Alabama on Saturday.
After the Crimson Tide trimmed UT's seven-point halftime lead to two, Martin switched his signature man-to-man defense for a 1-3-1 zone. It was a look the Vols have never shown this season.
Alabama would only make one field goal over the next four minutes after the defensive switch, looking confused and unable to generate its offense that had previously been gaining momentum.
As the Vols began to pull away with an important SEC road win, one thing was apparent: Martin implemented change, and it worked wonders.
"I'm a guy that, I don't mind change but only if it's right," Martin said Monday during his weekly press conference. "I'm not going to just change something to be changed."
The 1-3-1 the Vols defensively rode to victory features one guard handling the initial ball carrier and the other two guards out on the perimeter. The center joins them at the top of the key to complete the '3' in the middle, and the power forward covers the rim and baseline.
It sharply contrasted Tennessee's typical man defense to the naked eye, but to Martin it was nothing more than a small tweak.
"We will tweak certain things, but I don't think you can just change," Martin said. "For example, the 1-3-1 wasn't just put in the day of the game. That's been put in for a while, and that's been studied as a staff before the season even started."
While spectators saw a new tactical side to Martin as a coach on Saturday night, all indications are that such changes won't become permanent.
When the dust settles, Tennessee is a man-to-man team at heart.
"If you're constantly changing who you are every other week," Martin asked, "then who are you at the end of the day?"
Neither Martin nor the Vols could deny that the defensive switch made a big difference, but the victory may not have been possible without UT's second-half scorching of the nets.
Tennessee shot a shockingly efficient 15-for-21 (71.4 percent) in the final 20 minutes of Saturday's road win, aided by another big second half from star Jordan McRae.
The senior guard scored a game-high 26 points on 8-of-14 shooting. After missing his first four shots, he hit each of his next three — all 3-pointers — and carried that into a 17-point second half performance.
Martin has been critical of McRae's tendency to shoot off-balance "leaners" and "floaters" all season, preferring for him to square up and shoot jumpers. He had to remind his star player once again early in Saturday's game, but like usual the message eventually got to McRae.
"What happens is," Martin said, "if he misses a couple, now he wants to drive, and he's hanging in the air and he's off-balance as opposed to one or two dribble, catching and shooting.
"I just said, 'The 3-point shot is still there, you still have to take it. And you gotta take that shot. If it presents itself, you gotta take it.'"
Martin can't be blamed for pushing McRae to keep pulling up from deep. He has a combined 11 3-pointers in his last two games, going 6-of-7 and 5-of-10 from downtown against Ole Miss and Alabama, respectively.
McRae still prefers to attack the basket above all else, but his coach firmly believes the SEC's third leading scorer needs to give himself a bit more credit on the perimeter.
"He's a better catch-and-shoot guy than he gets credit for," Martin said of McRae, "and also for what he allows himself to be. Because he wants to be able to put the ball on the floor and make plays."