Let’s take a look at the biggest players, stats and quotes from Tennessee’s 86-70 win over Ole Miss on Wednesday night in Thompson-Boling Arena with The Postgame 2-4-7.
Junior forward Jarnell Stokes (left) and senior forward Jeronne Maymon (right) celebrate Stokes' and-1 bucket during the Vols' 86-70 win over Ole Miss on Wednesday night in Thompson-Boling Arena. (News Sentinel photo)
2 Game VIPs
Vols senior guard Jordan McRae
Ole Miss’ Marshall Henderson wasn’t the only senior sniper in good form Wednesday night in Knoxville. McRae shook off a cold start and scored a co-game-high 26 points, shooting 6-of-7 from 3-point range. He also had four assists, four rebounds, one block and just two turnovers in 31 minutes.
Vols junior forward Jarnell Stokes
Stokes didn’t quite score as many points as veteran teammates Josh Richardson and Jeronne Maymon — who had 16 apiece — but he had a game-high 14 rebounds to go along with his 13 points, two assists and one steal in 31 minutes. He also showed a maturity he didn’t have earlier in his career, when zone defenses clogging the middle would get him out of his game from a mental standpoint. He stayed locked in Wednesday night and did the “garbage man” work he used to hate earlier in his career.
That’s what Tennessee shot from 3-point range on Wednesday. That would have been great any night, but it was especially great coming off the Vols’ 1-of-19 effort from long range in Saturday’s blowout loss at sixth-ranked Florida.
That was Tennessee’s rebounding edge over Ole Miss. The Rebels didn’t have a chance as soon as Henderson’s 3s stopped falling — which happened early in the second half, and his 7-of-13 start finished 8-of-19.
That was how many assists Tennessee had Wednesday. Freshman point guard Darius Thompson had a game-high seven in his debut as a starter in SEC play. He might not relinquish that spot for a long time, assuming he stays healthy.
Vols' Josh Richardson (KNS photo)
Vols coach Cuonzo Martin’s opening statement: “First, before I get started, I’d like to thank our fans. Tough weather, and I thought they did a great job showing up first and foremost showing great energy and passion. I think our guys really fed off that. That was a fun game to be a part of, but I thought our guys really played with energy and passion from start to finish — made shots, made plays, made 3-pointers. We did a great job, in my opinion, against the 2-3 and 1-3-1 zone, and I guess that’s because we spent so much time doing it in practice. I thought our guys did a great job. I thought Jordan settled down in the second half. Early on I thought he was shooting leaners and floaters like he did in the Florida game. I just had to go tell him go straight up and down, shoot the ball, catch and shoot the 3, because I thought he passed up on opportunities early in the second half on 3-point shots, trying to drive the ball. But you’ve got to take what the defense gives you. Our bigs did well again. They played well, battled around the rim, kept their bigs at bay so they couldn’t get to the corner sometimes and allow us to get shots. I thought Darius did a good job starting at that position pass-faking and finding guys slipping to the basket, pushing in transition. And, again, it was a great team effort.”
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy’s opening statement: “Obviously, coming off of a poor outing at Florida, where they really struggled and McRae goes 1-15, we knew that we were catching a dangerous animal tonight; that their backs were against the wall a little bit early in the season, based on their performance. Great players typically don’t have back-to-back bad games, and he’s a great player. I thought he came out and set the tone early. We lost him a little bit, and he made some shots, and then he started making some hard ones. Then you start helping up, and those big bodies really hurt you inside. The key to the game for us, we had to do a decent job on the glass, we had to hold our own, and they dominated us on the glass. When we did get initial stops, they killed us getting those (offensive) boards.”
Vols senior guard Jordan McRae’s response when Henderson approached him during Ole Miss’ second-half run and said, “I’m coming”: “Do whatever you want. This one’s over.”
Vols junior guard Josh Richardson on his team shooting 11-of-20 from 3-point range one game after going 1-of-19 at Florida: “Basketball, man.”
Vols freshman point guard Darius Thompson on being a freshman starter in a team full of so many veterans: “I don’t think about that at all. Freshmen to seniors, we’re just all playing basketball.”
Vols coach Cuonzo Martin on his team slowing Henderson down the stretch: “I thought Jordan did a better job than Josh. And Josh was okay. He contested when he was on him. If he made eight (3-pointers), I think three of them were really contested and tough, but I thought Josh got a little loose on standing straight up. When he takes you up and you get hit with that back screen, you can’t recover on the other side. In the second half he made a 3, then another play he made a 3, and I thought Josh was standing straight up. You have to be down on him. You have to be down on his numbers and force him to make tough shots. But I thought Jordan did a better job. That’s why I kept Jordan on him when Josh came in at the end of the game. ...I mean, (Henderson) is one of the few guys — probably the only guy in this league, in my opinion — that you can’t fall asleep on down 15, down 20, because he shoots them deep at anytime. He doesn’t need a lot of play calls. He made two of them as he crossed the half-court line. He’s one of those guys that it doesn’t matter what the lead is.”
Vols junior forward Jarnell Stokes on his team having a favorable schedule down the stretch in SEC play, since it already played at Florida, Kentucky and LSU: “We can’t be thinking about all of that. I know I won’t. The way we’ve played against Alabama the past couple years, we just need to focus on those guys.”
Vols coach Cuonzo Martin (KNS photo)
The Next One
Tennessee (13-7, 4-3 SEC) travels to longtime rival Alabama (9-10, 3-3) on Saturday for a 9 p.m. game that will be broadcast on ESPN2.
Alabama will play at Auburn — the SEC’s only winless team in league play — on Thursday night in a game that initially was scheduled for Wednesday but had to be pushed back because of inclement weather.
Ole Miss (14-6, 5-2) will host South Carolina (8-12, 1-6) on Saturday in a 1:30 p.m. EST game that will be broadcast on SEC TV.
Contact Wes Rucker at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.twitter.com/wesrucker247 or www.facebook.com/wesrucker247