Mike Strange: Vols, Aggies launch rivalry with one for the ages

Mike Strange
Texas A&M's Ray Turner comes down with the ball in front of Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes after being fouled by Tennessee's Armani Moore, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in College Station, Texas, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Bryan College Station Eagle, Stuart Villanueva)

Photo by AP Photo/Bryan College Station Eagle, Stuart Villanueva

Texas A&M's Ray Turner comes down with the ball in front of Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes after being fouled by Tennessee's Armani Moore, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in College Station, Texas, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Bryan College Station Eagle, Stuart Villanueva)

Cuonzo Martin on 4 OT win

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Let’s start with a declaration: The Tennessee-Texas A&M basketball rivalry will be all downhill from here.

The Vols and Aggies, in their first meeting as SEC brethren, set the bar impossibly high to match Saturday at Reed Arena.

They played a regulation game, then played half of another one. After three hours — 60 minutes of clock time — the Vols emerged from a four-overtime marathon with a 93-85 Lone Star souvenir.

They didn’t stagger off the court, either. The victors were all smiles and laughter and slapping high-fives with a ring of chanting UT fans lining the exit portal.

A half hour later, after the singing and shouting died down in the locker room, sophomore Josh Richardson summed it all up:

“I feel fatigue and happiness, all in one big ball.’’

It was one big ballgame to be sure. UT’s first four-overtime game — ever. A five-game winning streak to ride into Tuesday’s game back home with Florida.

The box score should be framed and hung on coach Cuonzo Martin’s wall —with the minutes played highlighted.

Richardson played a career-high 43 minutes and he was a relative slacker. Jarnell Stokes played a career-high 53.

“I’m tired,’’ said Stokes, “but glad we won the game. That’s all that matters.’’

Skylar McBee played 48 minutes off the bench. Trae Golden and Jordan McRae each logged 56 out of the 60.

On and on it went. Stokes forced the first overtime when he made the first of two free throws to forge a 62-62 tie with 5.9 seconds left in regulation. By missing the second, he indirectly added 20 more minutes to everyone’s workday.

The Vols were hanging by a thread in the first overtime, down 68-64 with 20 seconds left. Baskets by Golden and McRae salvaged another five-minute window for redemption.

Golden delivered again in the second overtime. The Aggies made the game-extending basket in the third overtime.

The fourth was all Tennessee, a bravura curtain call. Cue the celebration.

“I didn’t see any sign of fatigue and giving up,’’ said Martin. “It was a fun game to be a part of.

“Of course it’s easy to say that when you’re on the winning side.’’

Through it all, UT trainer Chad Newman urged the players to drink up at every break in the action to stay hydrated. Cramps can be a crippling enemy.

“They listened,’’ Newman said. “They drank. Nobody cramped up.’’

Newman did his job from tip-off to final buzzer. Nicodemus Christopher had done his over a period of weeks and months.

Christopher joined the staff as head strength and conditioning coach for

basketball last May.

Said Martin, “He actually said when he took the job, ‘this time of year we’ll be physically ready. You’ll see the results.’

“A year ago I wouldn’t have thought Trae Golden could be out there like that. We’d have to sub him in and out, in and out.

“So hats off to the guys for being locked in but also Nicodemus Christopher for getting those guys ready to roll.’’

They needed to roll to hang with Elston Turner. With his Knoxville-raised dad, Elston Sr., watching, the senior guard carried the Aggies with 38 points.

Turner, along with quick darters Fabyon Harris and J’Mychal Reese, tormented Tennessee’s defense with end-of-shot-clock penetration for baskets. It seemed for the longest time that would be UT’s downfall and the winning edge for the Aggies.

“I didn’t think we defended with a level of toughness and passion probably the first 35 minutes of the game,’’ Martin said.

But then the defensive momentum shifted. From getting almost no stops, Tennessee began to get one clutch stop after another. At one point, Turner was 11 of 14 from the field. Then he made only five of his last 19 shots. The Aggies shot a collective 29 percent in the overtimes.

“We accepted the challenge,’’ Martin said.

Because they had the stamina to accept the challenge. And it made all the difference in a game for the ages to launch a new SEC rivalry with a bang.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at strangemike44.

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Comments » 20

decades_vol (Inactive) writes:

As expected, a KNS courier starts with the first post. Hey, the Vols have won five straight! That's great, but a half-dozen would be so much better.

CoverOrange writes:

Is this the second time McBee has hit the game clinching trey in his career? McSassin.

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

What's kinda of sad is that Martin had to both publicly and privately berate the SEC before Stokes was "allowed to play". Don't know if he'll ever be NBA material, but he's fun for a college player.

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

Those missed ft's....growl.

Golden had one that spun so violently I think the net threw it back out.

golfman1975 writes:

in response to 9willbesofine:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The only thing that will get rolled is your lawn.

Vols4Ever writes:

in response to emailnodata:

What's kinda of sad is that Martin had to both publicly and privately berate the SEC before Stokes was "allowed to play". Don't know if he'll ever be NBA material, but he's fun for a college player.

CCM going to the SEC was head coaching at its best.

Jarnell is already NBA talented but hope he doesn't try until at least 2014. He is one of 5 best ever to wear the Orange on the hardwood.

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to 9willbesofine:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

9 is so fine as a troll...............

Need we remind you, sundry troll, that what you are babbling sounds exactly like what another troll, 7...........was jabbering before the Tennessee - U K game.

If you have to eat your words as well, will you crawl back here after the game?????????

You have a couple days until then to try and locate your bandwagon site.

tobytyler writes:

in response to 9willbesofine:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I love Ky fans, you beat their pro team by 30 and they still run their mouth. Their guards are slow and their 7ft wide receiver got his arse spanked by stokes in the last game. I pray to god UT gets a chance to beat the he** out of ky in the sec tournament in 3 weeks. So keep running your mouth Ky fan, because Davis, Gilchrist, and Lamb aren't walking through the door to save your sorry arse Wildcat team this year!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to tobytyler:

I love Ky fans, you beat their pro team by 30 and they still run their mouth. Their guards are slow and their 7ft wide receiver got his arse spanked by stokes in the last game. I pray to god UT gets a chance to beat the he** out of ky in the sec tournament in 3 weeks. So keep running your mouth Ky fan, because Davis, Gilchrist, and Lamb aren't walking through the door to save your sorry arse Wildcat team this year!

What scares me honestly is that the "one and dones" MIGHT grow from that loss. It could happen. We can't assume anything when we play right now. I'm not arguing but just personally feeling a little cautious. We'll need efforts like last night(TexA&M) to win out, Maybe even better efforts. We missed several opps to take over the game early with turnovers and missed shots etc. We can improve. If those "one and dones" stay a second year at Kentucky we could all be in trouble next year.

utvolfan1955 writes:

in response to tobytyler:

I love Ky fans, you beat their pro team by 30 and they still run their mouth. Their guards are slow and their 7ft wide receiver got his arse spanked by stokes in the last game. I pray to god UT gets a chance to beat the he** out of ky in the sec tournament in 3 weeks. So keep running your mouth Ky fan, because Davis, Gilchrist, and Lamb aren't walking through the door to save your sorry arse Wildcat team this year!

9willbeajerk is actually a Gator troll

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to Vols4Ever:

CCM going to the SEC was head coaching at its best.

Jarnell is already NBA talented but hope he doesn't try until at least 2014. He is one of 5 best ever to wear the Orange on the hardwood.

I'm just not quite really to agree with that statement for now.

Ernie or Bernie.
Ellis.
Houston
Chism? maybe
Harris
Lofton J Smith all that team.

I don't see big Stokes starting in the pros really. I have to believe he'd get some playing time. If he steps up the rebounds maybe. He only got 15 last night.

Ok he's gone for sure. S&*#

mocsandvolsfan writes:

"not quite READY to"

johnlg00 writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

What scares me honestly is that the "one and dones" MIGHT grow from that loss. It could happen. We can't assume anything when we play right now. I'm not arguing but just personally feeling a little cautious. We'll need efforts like last night(TexA&M) to win out, Maybe even better efforts. We missed several opps to take over the game early with turnovers and missed shots etc. We can improve. If those "one and dones" stay a second year at Kentucky we could all be in trouble next year.

Oh, I think they WILL be better. I HOPE the Vols will also get better; you're right that they left a lot of points on the table last night, and they can't afford a dropoff against anybody, though it's hard to imagine they will have enough energy to get by the Gators on Tuesday. However, I DO think that the Vols will be a LOAD next year if Stokes comes back--which he should, IMHO--Maymon gets back 100%, and Hubbs is "all that". This will be a senior-dominated team, one of the most experienced in all of college basketball. No doubt UK will be good, since they nearly always are. If both teams play up to their potential, both should be top-10 fixtures.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

I'm just not quite really to agree with that statement for now.

Ernie or Bernie.
Ellis.
Houston
Chism? maybe
Harris
Lofton J Smith all that team.

I don't see big Stokes starting in the pros really. I have to believe he'd get some playing time. If he steps up the rebounds maybe. He only got 15 last night.

Ok he's gone for sure. S&*#

I think I would put Stokes ahead of both Harris and Chism, though I loved both of them. The main reason I would is the consistency and toughness he has shown during this stretch. Harris and possibly even Chism had more varied offensive games, but Stokes is a more reliable rebounder than either of them and a better defender than Harris. Stokes isn't finished yet, and if he leaves after this year, he won't match Chism for productive longevity, but no doubt he is climbing the list of all-time great Vols like a rocket.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Another road win is HUGE..I didn't give us much chance against the Gators but after this win feeling pretty good..The Gators are one of the best defenses in the nation but frankly A&M was no slouch on defense..Their PG was all over Golden but couldn't stop him..They also were the first team to disrupt McRae's dribble drive by pushing out high around screens and forcing him to go left.Trouble with the Gators is they have no less than 3 guards who can light it up and nobody has been able to stop Wilbiken from driving the lane because he has unreal speed..Same can be said for Rosario..Hopefully we catch them on a bad shooting night like the Hogs did..Would LOVE to see McRae have another 65% shooting game and upstage their superstar guards..Frankly I would be more worried about Mizzo..They have 3 players that can score from anywhere on the court and Stokes isn't likely to out physical their post players

utvolfan writes:

This game was like "Car Talk," when Click and Clack talk about the "third half of the show"!

Olddogsrule writes:

in response to johnlg00:

I think I would put Stokes ahead of both Harris and Chism, though I loved both of them. The main reason I would is the consistency and toughness he has shown during this stretch. Harris and possibly even Chism had more varied offensive games, but Stokes is a more reliable rebounder than either of them and a better defender than Harris. Stokes isn't finished yet, and if he leaves after this year, he won't match Chism for productive longevity, but no doubt he is climbing the list of all-time great Vols like a rocket.

Remember, Stokes could have been only a freshman this year. Maturity on the court will come as he physically matures. One of my favorite players since Ernie&Bernie ... oh thats 2!

Fla lost it's best 3 pt shooter last night. Though he comes off the bench, along with their other injuries, they may be a little short of depth on Tue. I said a little. It'll be a tough game, but they definitely ARE beatable. And the Volunteers ARE a team who can do just that!!

GO YOU VOLUNTEERS!!!!! SMOKEYRULES!!!!!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Olddogsrule:

Remember, Stokes could have been only a freshman this year. Maturity on the court will come as he physically matures. One of my favorite players since Ernie&Bernie ... oh thats 2!

Fla lost it's best 3 pt shooter last night. Though he comes off the bench, along with their other injuries, they may be a little short of depth on Tue. I said a little. It'll be a tough game, but they definitely ARE beatable. And the Volunteers ARE a team who can do just that!!

GO YOU VOLUNTEERS!!!!! SMOKEYRULES!!!!!

Whoever Florida manages to suit up will be all the challenge the Vols can handle. When the Gators are good, they can make anybody else look bad. The Vols will most likely need the execution they had against UK and the toughness and mental discipline they showed against LSU and A&M to pull this one out, since the Gators are better than any of those three teams. Still, TBA should be full and as loud as it ever gets--which isn't saying all that much, I'll grant you--and if the Vols didn't run their legs off Saturday, they should have a good shot to keep the improbable dream alive for a little longer.

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

There is a reason the gators are ranked 5th or maybe 4th now. It would be nice but how can you expect an unranked team that is lower ranked than Middle Tn. and a bunch of other mid tier teams to beat them. They have more NBA type players that are quicker and they have one of the best coaches in the country.

Would like to see an upset, but I don't think it will happen this week

Fla 74
UT 67

johnlg00 writes:

in response to jhayes0926#638474:

There is a reason the gators are ranked 5th or maybe 4th now. It would be nice but how can you expect an unranked team that is lower ranked than Middle Tn. and a bunch of other mid tier teams to beat them. They have more NBA type players that are quicker and they have one of the best coaches in the country.

Would like to see an upset, but I don't think it will happen this week

Fla 74
UT 67

I wouldn't be surprised if that score was not pretty close to the betting line, for what that's worth. All I can say is that UF USUALLY comes into TBA favored against the Vols but they have often gone home disappointed. If the Vols hadn't had such a mentally and physically demanding game on Saturday, I would really like their chances. It might even help if the game was on Wednesday. As it is, they will have to summon all their mental and physical reserves to have a shot. I'm not putting it past them, but it WILL be a tall order. A Vol win might put them in the national NCAA conversation for the first time, moving beyond the "no-chance" category to the "hmmm, well, maybe" one, so they surely have plenty of incentive. Need that top-4 SEC tourney seed, too.

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