Tennessee used its highest scoring first half of an SEC game this season to grab a big road win and season sweep over Vanderbilt Wednesday night in Memorial Gym. On a night where nobody expected a high scoring or highlight-filled affair, Tennessee provided a little of both as they took advantage of some timely early shooting that forced the Commodores to play catch-up for most of the game. The win gives Tennessee its second consecutive SEC win on the road and thirteenth win of the season as the team tries to position itself for a possible post-season birth.
The first eleven minutes of the first half left Vanderbilt trailing by one, 19-18, as the teams largely traded baskets back and forth. Tennessee would then go on a 19-6 run to put Vanderbilt behind 38-24. The Vols got big baskets from Trae Golden, Jordan McRae and Jarnell Stokes during the run and down the stretch in the second half to secure the victory.
Stokes logged his tenth double-double of the season and sixth in a row while scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. The reigning SEC player of the week continued his stellar play of late, also adding five blocks as the Commodores could find no answer for him in the paint on either end of the floor. Stokes logged an unusually high 37 minutes due the curious absence of Tennessee’s senior post-man Kenny Hall. Tennessee Coach Cuonzo Martin said in his post-game radio show that Hall was not serving a punishment of any kind, but that he simply failed to find the right time to get him in the game. Jordan McRae also added a double-double as he chipped in 14 points and a career-high 11 rebounds.
Hall’s absence did very little to slow down Tennessee. The Vols had three players: McRae, Stokes and Golden score in double-figures while Vanderbilt could only manage one. Kedren Johnson added 11 and was the only player to score more than 7 points for the Commodores. Vanderbilt did manage an 8-0 run early in the second half to cut a 16 point Tennessee lead in half, bringing the score to 46-38, but back-to-back baskets by McRae and Stokes helped Tennessee steal the momentum back and quiet a Vanderbilt crowd that spent much of the night waiting for a reason to get loud.
The win is only Tennessee’s second on the road all season, the other coming this past Sunday in Columbia against South Carolina. Tennessee now moves to 13-10 on the season and 5-6 in the SEC. The loss now puts Vanderbilt at 9-13 on the season and 3-8 in the SEC and puts their only hopes of making the NCAA Tournament squarely on winning the SEC Tournament next month.
Looking Forward: Tennessee will host Kentucky this Saturday in Knoxville as the Wildcats will play their first game without their star freshman, Nerlens Noel, who went down Tuesday night against Florida with a torn ACL. Vanderbilt will welcome Texas A&M Saturday night in Nashville as the SEC West division’s newest team will travel to Memorial Gym for the first time.
Franklin watches: Vanderbilt Football coach James Franklin stayed in the stands well after the game ended on Wednesday night as he met with local high school players, Vanderbilt coaches, and fans as they left the stands. He shook hands, signed autographs, and took pictures with anyone who asked, (including a few Tennessee fans) as he continues to market and promote Vanderbilt Football in any way that he can.
Orange Blazer: On Wednesday night, Cuonzo Martin donned the orange blazer made famous by late Tennessee coach Ray Mears. The blazer went unworn for many years until Bruce Pearl resurrected it when he took the helm at Tennessee in 2005. Coach Martin, like Pearl before him, only wears the blazer for games against divisional foes Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
By Game Reporter Houston Kress
Photo Credit: Parker Eidson • The Daily Beacon