TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Let’s take a look at the biggest players, stats and quotes from Tennessee’s 76-59 win at Alabama on Saturday night in Coleman Coliseum with The Postgame 2-4-7.
Tennessee senior All-SEC guard Jordan McRae (UT photo)
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Vols senior guard Jordan McRae
After missing his first four shots, McRae shot 8-of-10 from the field, 5-of-8 from 3-point range and 5-of-6 from the free-throw line. In addition to his game-high 26 points, he had four assists, two rebounds and only one turnover in 38 minutes. McRae might not be the SEC’s best player, but any conversation for SEC Player of the Year that doesn’t include his name is an ignorant one. There aren’t many better players in this league, if not in all of college basketball. He’s a special offensive player. And when he plays the way he did Saturday night, he’s really special.
Vols junior forward Jarnell Stokes
Stokes collected yet another double-double Saturday, and he did it with more than 19 minutes left in the game. He finished with 22 points, a game-high 16 rebounds, one assist, one block and only one turnover in 36 minutes. He shot 7-of-12 from the floor and 8-of-10 from the free-throw line. And he showed one of the most impressive moves of his career in the second half by dribble-driving into the lane and finishing with a huge slam dunk despite getting fouled. Stokes isn’t an explosive leaper by NBA standards, but his quickness for his size is impressive.
That was the number of turnovers and assists Tennessee had in this game. That’s an impressive ratio against any opponent in any gym, but it’s very impressive on the road against a team that uses full-court pressure. Freshman point guard Darius Thompson has been very good since stepping into the starting lineup two games ago.
That’s what Tennessee has shot from 3-point range in its past two games. The Vols have responded extremely well since their 1-of-19 performance from long range in a blowout loss at third-ranked Florida.
That’s what Tennessee shot from the free-throw line in this game. That’s 80.8 percent. The Vols continue to be one of college basketball’s better teams — and the SEC’s best team, in conference play — from the stripe.
That’s what Alabama shot from the field and the 3-point line in this game. That’s 39.2 percent an 20.0 percent. The Vols debuted a 1-3-1 zone Saturday night, and the Crimson Tide didn’t have an answer for it.
Vols' Josh Richardson (UT photo)
Vols coach Cuonzo Martin’s opening statement: “It was a great performance by our guys in a tough place to play and against a tough team. Alabama is a team that rarely loses in this place, and I just thought our guys did a great job of battling and keeping our composure. We went to our 1-3-1 defense and probably did it at the right time. They did a great job early in the second half, doing what they had done by getting to the basket and making plays. We pulled it out at the right time. It was a good thing I didn’t pull it out in the first half. Rarely do you play games at this level on the road against a quality opponent of this magnitude and coaching staff and win like this. These guys did a tremendous job of handling the press. The last two years, I thought we had lost the game against their press here — we just couldn’t handle their pressure and turned the ball over. Five turnovers against a team like this and against the press is a great job.”
Alabama coach Anthony Grant’s opening statement: “We got outplayed. Tennessee obviously had a lot of success. All you have to do is look at the numbers. In the second half they were 71 percent from the field and 3-for-5 from the 3-point line. They did a great job getting to the free throw line and converted 13-of-16 attempts in the second half. That’s the story of the game. When you give up those kinds of numbers, it’s hard to win. We didn’t have it tonight from a defensive standpoint. You have to give them credit. They had an answer for everything we wanted to do, whether it was zone, man or press. We weren’t able to generate the energy to press and be as effective as we needed to. Again, all the credit goes to Tennessee.”
Vols senior guard Jordan McRae on the team’s performance: “This feels good, man. We went out there, and we was playing hard the whole game. We definitely knew that we were 3-19 here (our past 22 trips), so we wanted to get the win. We really just wanted to get another road win, no matter how it is or where it is. We thought we was gonna have to grind this one out, but we played really well.”
Vols junior guard Josh Richardson on the team’s performance: “We came in with a good mindset. We knew that we would have to come in and play tough and grind every possession out, and that’s what we did. We knew that coming into their house, it was gonna be tough. We knew that they were gonna make runs. They’re a momentum team, and they were gonna go on some five- or six-point runs. We just had to stay calm, and that’s what we did.”
Vols senior guard Jordan McRae on the team’s new-look, 1-3-1 zone defense: “I think Coach Martin was surprised at how well it worked. I think Alabama was surprised, too.”
Vols junior forward Jarnell Stokes on the team’s performance: “I mean, really, as of late we’ve been playing really good on the road. We had one drop-off against Florida, but we prepared for this kind of game tonight. We were prepared for their press, and we were prepared to come down here and make shots. I feel like we came in here assertive, and we felt like we could hit shots. That’s what we lacked against Florida. And I like I told you earlier this week, our ball-screen offense was what was gonna win this game. It seemed like the entire game, they were putting me through ball-screens, and I think I held up my end of the bargain.”
Vols coach Cuonzo Martin on his team using a 1-3-1 zone defense for the first time since he’s been with the program: “We do a lot more of that 13 (defense) — that’s what we call the 1-3-1, because the guys like that. Jordan likes it, ‘cause he can just stand around a little bit.”
The Next One
Tennessee (14-7, 5-3 SEC) travels to in-state rival Vanderbilt (12-8, 4-4) on Wednesday in another environment that’s rarely been an easy one for the Vols — Memorial Gymnasium. The Vols and Commodores — who have won three consecutive games despite an incredibly depth-depleted roster — will tip at 8 p.m. EST in a game that will be broadcast online at ESPN3.com.
Alabama (9-12, 3-5) travels to Arkansas (13-8, 2-6) on Wednesday night for an 8 p.m. EST game that will be broadcast by SEC TV.
Contact Wes Rucker at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.twitter.com/wesrucker247 or www.facebook.com/wesrucker247