"It definitely made me more hungry. I definitely wanted to win. If anything, I want to win at Rupp Arena. I plan on winning, before I leave, at Rupp Arena. I'm saying that on the record right now. It made me more hungry and made me dislike Kentucky more.''
Jarnell Stokes is still smiling and happy to be at Tennessee, but the giant freshman had an edge about him on Thursday when discussing the Vols' upcoming men's basketball game against Georgia.
“That was probably my worst game,’’ Stokes said of the teams’ first meeting in Athens on Jan. 8. “I missed a lot of open shots. We didn’t finish that game, so I still got a chip on my shoulder about playing against Georgia.’’
Stokes scored 11 points and had eight rebounds in the 57-53, overtime loss. Tennessee (10-12, 2-5 SEC) plays host to the Bulldogs (10-11, 1-6) at Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday (TV: FSTN, 8 p.m.).
Stokes remembers how the Vols squandered the lead, and how he had to be taken out at crucial junctures because of his inexperience and conditioning.
"That (Georgia) was my first game getting double teamed,'' Stokes said. "I'm in much better condition, and I'm more used to the physicalness of the game, going against teams like Vanderbilt and the length of Kentucky.
"But I have a chip on my shoulder for not finishing against Georgia.''
While Stokes will tell you there's a part of him just happy to be playing collegiate basketball for the Vols after graduating early from Memphis' Southwind High School in December, there's another part of him that's sick of losing and hates to fail.
Getting multiple shots blocked in UT's 69-44 loss at No. 1 Kentucky on Tuesday left Stokes feeling humbled and upset.
"I saw it was all over ESPN; I'm definitely not used to getting my shot blocked,'' the 6-foot-8, 270-pound Stokes said Thursday. "That's something I will learn from. I have to stay with my mechanics, using my left hand and throwing my body into them, that's how you defeat a shot blocker, and something I'll do next time.
"It definitely made me more hungry. I definitely wanted to win,'' he said. "If anything, I want to win at Rupp Arena. I plan on winning, before I leave, at Rupp Arena. I'm saying that on the record right now. It made me more hungry and made me dislike Kentucky more.''
Stokes, who isn't eligible for the NBA draft until after his sophomore season at UT, hasn't been as effective scoring or rebounding in his past three games as he was his first three.
After averaging 12 points and eight rebounds in games with Kentucky (Jan. 14), Georgia (Jan. 18) and Connecticut (Jan. 21), Stokes has dropped off to average seven points and 7.3 rebounds in contests with Vanderbilt (Jan. 24), Auburn (Jan. 28) and at Kentucky on Tuesday.
UT coach Cuonzo Martin said he has instructed Stokes not to get too caught up in anything.
"He's in a unique situation with a lot of hype surrounding him,'' Martin said. "He didn't get to learn during the summer or fall with the team, so he's learning on the fly. He was in the office (on Wednesday) watching film.''
And apparently Stokes was growing madder by the minute watching how the Vols played at Georgia.
"This is a game I think I could do good in,'' Stokes said. "I definitely think they (Georgia) aren't as physical as (Vanderbilt's) Festus Ezeli and (Kentucky's) Anthony Davis.
"I think I'll be more physical this game, and I should hit more open shots.''
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32