Vols land a big one, 64-58, against Florida

Tennessee guard Jordan McRae (52) cheers after sinking a 3-pointer in the first half against Florida at Thompson-Boling Arena Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee guard Jordan McRae (52) cheers after sinking a 3-pointer in the first half against Florida at Thompson-Boling Arena Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

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In an authoritative voice shaped by two NCAA national titles, Billy Donovan declared Tennessee, “The best (SEC) team, right now, in my opinion,” back on Oct. 25.

That was before he knew the Vols would spend the 2012-13 season without their anchor, senior forward Jeronne Maymon.

It was well before UT slumped to an 11-10 start to the season.

At any rate, now four months after his declaration, he looks prophetic.

Right now, at least.

In front of a highly charged Thompson-Boling Arena crowd of 19,567, Tennessee scrapped past Donovan’s eighth-ranked Gators in a rousing 64-58 victory on Tuesday night. The raucous win pushed UT’s winning streak to six games, improved its record to 17-10 overall and 9-6 in the SEC and broke a three-way tie for fifth place in the league standings.

“It’s just a big win,” Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said with accompanying shrug.

Asked about the team’s blooming NCAA tournament hopes, Martin declared, “When you look at this team and you say is this one of the 68 teams? Without a doubt, but you have to do your job.”

Jordan McRae did the job Tuesday. The junior guard, UT’s only player in double figures, finished a sterling performance with a game-high 27 points on 9-of-20 shooting. He carried the Vols through offensive challenges in the first half and scored 10 of the team’s 29 second-half points.

UT needed every one of them.

Trailing 58-54 with 1 minute, 17 seconds remaining, Florida’s Kenny Boynton found himself alone on the wing for a 3-pointer in transition. A splash could have changed everything. It drew iron.

Taking possession with 1:05 remaining, McRae drove, but missed a layup.

Luckily for he and UT, Jarnell Stokes was there. The sophomore power forward ripped away an offensive rebound in the crowded paint and converted a three-point play, nearly blowing the lid off Thompson-Boling.

“I think that sealed the deal,” Stokes said.

A lean Gators roster missing freshman guard Michael Frazier II (concussion) and junior forward Will Yeguete (knee) was led by Mike Rosario’s 16 points. Patric Young added 15 points and five rebounds, but was matched for most of the night by Stokes.

The Vols sophomore forward finished with eight points and game-high 14 rebounds.

Defended all night by Tennessee point guard Trae Golden, Boynton, Florida’s second-leading scorer at 12.9 points per game, scored just two. Golden ended the night with eight points on 3-of-10 shooting.

“That’s just the growth of Trae Golden,” Martin said. “In the past if he wasn’t scoring, I don’t think he would have been as effective. But the way he played defensively, he was locked-in, and he still ran the team.”

Both teams finished the night shooting 42.0 percent from the field, but UT outrebounded the Gators, 41-31. Florida, the SEC’s top 3-point shooting team, finished 4-for-17 from beyond the arc.

“You’ve got to keep those guys off the 3-point line because that’s where they make their money, so to speak,” said Martin, who notched his second win over a top-10 opponent in his UT tenure. The other came last season against, coincidently, eighth-ranked Florida.

Florida, which entered the game with a two-game cushion in the SEC standings, fell 22-5, 12-3. The Gators, looking to avenge two losses to Tennessee last season, instead dropped their third straight to UT and 11th in the last 16 meetings.

In the opening 20 minutes, Florida boasted a balanced, crisp attack, but the Vols boasted McRae. He scored 17 of UT’s 35 points to help his team build a three-point halftime edge.

After watching the Gators build a 24-19 lead with 7:29 until the break, McRae poured in eight of the Vols’ next 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.

“In the first half I kind of took it upon myself to lead our team a little bit on the offensive end,” he said. “Tonight was just my night in the first half. Trae, he led us in overtime against A&M. Jarnell has done it before. Josh (Richardson) has done it before. We just have a team where, whoever is cooking that night, you give it to him.”

McRae didn’t just finish the half strong. He opened the game with a soaring one-handed dunk, spilling the crowd noise over the brim.

“That’s how you want to start a game,” he said, adding, “I got hype. We got hype.”

The victory continued a late-season surge garnering national attention. Tennessee began the week climbing 12 spots in the official NCAA RPI, from No. 69 to No. 57.

That number should improve dramatically next week if the Vols can avenge a 68-62 home loss to Georgia by knocking off the Bulldogs in Athens on Saturday. Included in UT’s six-game winning streak is three consecutive road wins.

“The key now is to keep rolling,” McRae said.

Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn

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Comments » 188

vol98champ writes:

HOW SWEET IT IS.

VolGrad writes:

Great win.

Go Vols!!!

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

9willbeajerk SevenTisaJerk bwahahahahaha

lstbodeanvol writes:

eddie munster is owned in TENNESSEE...OUT REBOUNDED, OUT SHOT AND OUT COACHED..GO VOLS

TNORANGEDOGDAD writes:

Little Eddie Muenster goes down to Tennessee again!
Great Win! Go Big Orange!

slambob2#228938 writes:

What a game by several Vols, but I think the unsung hero was the defense. While Florida missed several open three's, they generally had a hard time getting open. Congratulations to CCCM for a great game plan and the Vols for outstanding execution.

I can smell the big dance.

jt45 writes:

Still on a roll, what a game by Stokes on the boards and Jorden was the key to the offense tonight. 1 down 3 to go.

CoverOrange writes:

Death, taxes and beating Florida.

lomas98 writes:

Very nice win. Thought Florida would pull this out. 2-1 finish will have us right on the bubble. A win over Missouri will trump a potential road loss at Georgia. A loss over Missouri isn't bad as long as sweep the 2 road games. Cannot lose at auburn. A lot can still happen, but the guys have made it interesting.

jt45 writes:

Coach Martin is the Gator Slayer.

utvolfan1955 writes:

9isnotfine where are you

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

Tremendous game, and happy to eat crow!! Didn't think we could do it after an exhausting game this past weekend.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to slambob2#228938:

What a game by several Vols, but I think the unsung hero was the defense. While Florida missed several open three's, they generally had a hard time getting open. Congratulations to CCCM for a great game plan and the Vols for outstanding execution.

I can smell the big dance.

What about McBee on Rosario after the first five minutes?

GerryOP writes:

Sweep, sweep, sweep... 4wouldbesonice...

golfman1975 writes:

Going to take roll now...Florida trolls? Florida trolls! Absent.

GRRN7MAXIMS writes:

One game at a time boys. Great effort from the entire team. UGA is a game that can easily be overlooked. Our Volunteers need to take it one day at a time, one practice at a time, and one possesion at a time in Athens. If we continue to play team basketball there is a possibility of the University of Tennessee Mens Basketball program to go dancing, and cut a rug deep into the tournament as a team NOBODY wants to draw.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to utvolfan1955:

9isnotfine where are you

He is still rolling homeless vawls out on the street.

SUPERVOL writes:

Make a Statement becomes Made a Statement! GBO!

tulelakevol writes:

Swamp turds = flushed

jacksontnbob writes:

Three to go. Then the SEC tourney. Let's not start slappin' our own arse yet. Great win, let's finish out Vols!

justafan4ut writes:

"The sophomore power forward ripped away an offensive rebound and converted a three-point play, nearly blowing the lid off Thompson-Boling."
I yelled and stompped across the floor. My wife with her headphones in looked at me like I was a crazy man. She's probably correct.
GO BIG ORANGE!!!!!!!!!!!!
What a win.

TNORANGEDOGDAD writes:

Cuonzo now 3 for 3 against swamp Lizards. Where are all the Gator Trolls??

lstbodeanvol writes:

in response to utvolfan1955:

9isnotfine where are you

he was afraid to watch the game..had dinner with casey anthony

orange_eVOLution writes:

YUM!!! GO VOLS!!

golfman1975 writes:

"Just wait until Feb 26!" How do you like your crow?

Have I ever said...that's why you have to play the game?

utvolfan1955 writes:

in response to Johnny_Aint_No_Del_Shofner:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

oh boy, GFF has returned with his Dooley obsession

chaos001 writes:

This team.

I love them.

6futurevols writes:

in response to GRRN7MAXIMS:

One game at a time boys. Great effort from the entire team. UGA is a game that can easily be overlooked. Our Volunteers need to take it one day at a time, one practice at a time, and one possesion at a time in Athens. If we continue to play team basketball there is a possibility of the University of Tennessee Mens Basketball program to go dancing, and cut a rug deep into the tournament as a team NOBODY wants to draw.

I agree that UGA is the most important and most dangerous of the three remaining games. Auburn is horrible, and we will win that one. I think that we are fortunate to have the extra day of rest after back-to-back hard fought, emotional wins. Having played this game on Tuesday should help us to be adequately ready by Saturday. I predict that we go 3-0 to close out the season. We are playing great defense right now, if we just keep Kenny Hall off the floor we will be fine. Everytime that he came in the game tonight, they went right at him and scored. Even with his offensive limitations, I would rather see Yemi in the game when Stokes needs a breather. I used to question why McBee was getting so much PT when his shot wasn't falling, but he is playing outstanding defense right now. This team is fun to watch and they just keep getting better and are playing with confidence. Even when they fall behind, there is no panic. Coach Martin is doing a great job and I hope that this run will shut up all the critics who were calling for his head a few weeks ago.

Olddogsrule writes:

WAAAAA - HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO -HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

tennlions writes:

Check this out. At the very least, it makes for interesting reading.
http://www.seed-madness.com/
GO VOLS!!

abnermc writes:

John Adams must be speechless. Can't find anything negative about vols tonite.lol GREAT, GREAT WIN !!!!!

Retiredvol writes:

What else is new? VOLS always dominate the Gay turds in basketball. Go VOLS!

Basketvol writes:

Gator trolls come out and play. Is anyone surprised? I'm not. I've been calling this win since the last win over Florida. UT owns the gators at TBA--period. The arena was packed, energetic, and loud. Black curtains, what?

I would like to personally thank professionalsomethingortheother for once again picking against TN. Keep it up, buddy. You're our good luck charm.

Wasn't there a gator troll making excuses before the game; something about a free throw discrepancy? Ahahahahaha! Seriously though, terrible officiating and it went both ways. No surprise there either.

UT4prez writes:

Early on UF played faster and looked to be the far more talented team. Oddly enough I think their press helped us get in the flow of the game and play up to their speed. I also think we started frustrating UF because we just kept hanging around. Great game. If we win Saturday we will be 18-10, 10-6. That definitely has the look of a bubble team at worst. Xavier picked up a nice win tonight too. Every little bit helps! A win Saturday also likely pushes our RPI into the 40s.

TNORANGEDOGDAD writes:

in response to tennlions:

Check this out. At the very least, it makes for interesting reading.
http://www.seed-madness.com/
GO VOLS!!

Let's hope we can stay focused and make it in.

johnlg00 writes:

HOW BOUT THEM VOLS! Jordan has become the assassin I always hoped he would be. You could tell the pressure of all those minutes were starting to tell on him late, but he never quit battling and carried the team on his back to victory. Jarnell was a BEAST on the boards. With only a few lapses, the whole team played great defense. Everybody who played had a hand in the win. It seems this team really IS becoming a band of brothers who keep each other up to snuff. I am so proud of the whole bunch!

Basketvol writes:

Oh yeah, and how about the crowd booing Jimmy Cheek on the big screen, repeatedly?

Just saw that Memphis lost tonight to Xavier. It just keeps getting better.

tobytyler writes:

The march to madness continues!!!! Nothing better than beating the gators, except beating Ky by 30. What a great 2 weeks to be a Tn vol.

tennlions writes:

Still some work to be done but not nearly as much as there was 3 hours ago. Do not overlook the Ugly Dawgs and take a well deserved extra day of rest. Bye bye Swamp Lizards!

ULTIMATEVOLUNTEER writes:

Like a barbershop. Next.

Basketvol writes:

in response to 6futurevols:

I agree that UGA is the most important and most dangerous of the three remaining games. Auburn is horrible, and we will win that one. I think that we are fortunate to have the extra day of rest after back-to-back hard fought, emotional wins. Having played this game on Tuesday should help us to be adequately ready by Saturday. I predict that we go 3-0 to close out the season. We are playing great defense right now, if we just keep Kenny Hall off the floor we will be fine. Everytime that he came in the game tonight, they went right at him and scored. Even with his offensive limitations, I would rather see Yemi in the game when Stokes needs a breather. I used to question why McBee was getting so much PT when his shot wasn't falling, but he is playing outstanding defense right now. This team is fun to watch and they just keep getting better and are playing with confidence. Even when they fall behind, there is no panic. Coach Martin is doing a great job and I hope that this run will shut up all the critics who were calling for his head a few weeks ago.

I absolutely agree with you on Kenny Hall. I really want to see him succeed but it just doesn't seem like it's going to happen. Other than the dunk, he didn't seem to play with much energy tonight. This is definitely a better team when Stokes is on the floor.

Great hustle from McBee again tonight.

milhaudmeto writes:

in response to TNORANGEDOGDAD:

Let's hope we can stay focused and make it in.

hey thanks for the post!

jt45 writes:

in response to tennlions:

Check this out. At the very least, it makes for interesting reading.
http://www.seed-madness.com/
GO VOLS!!

Thanks for that link, things are definitely looking better as far as post season play.If the Vols can keep their momentum going they may just make it this year.

1vavolfan writes:

Hard to shoot 3's over 6'5" defenders. Can we go ahead and offer Isaih Stokes? GBO!

jt45 writes:

in response to 1vavolfan:

Hard to shoot 3's over 6'5" defenders. Can we go ahead and offer Isaih Stokes? GBO!

Can you believe the size of that kid ? I thought they were joking about him being an 8th grader but seriously he may be a 7 footer by the time he hits college.

One_in_West_Knox writes:

in response to Basketvol:

I absolutely agree with you on Kenny Hall. I really want to see him succeed but it just doesn't seem like it's going to happen. Other than the dunk, he didn't seem to play with much energy tonight. This is definitely a better team when Stokes is on the floor.

Great hustle from McBee again tonight.

Perhaps he's Kenny...TATUM??

TNORANGEDOGDAD writes:

Who is going to take Mcbee's spot next year? Before him it was Bradshaw. True Tennessee guys that love the Big Orange and lay it all out on the floor for TENNESSEE.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to 6futurevols:

I agree that UGA is the most important and most dangerous of the three remaining games. Auburn is horrible, and we will win that one. I think that we are fortunate to have the extra day of rest after back-to-back hard fought, emotional wins. Having played this game on Tuesday should help us to be adequately ready by Saturday. I predict that we go 3-0 to close out the season. We are playing great defense right now, if we just keep Kenny Hall off the floor we will be fine. Everytime that he came in the game tonight, they went right at him and scored. Even with his offensive limitations, I would rather see Yemi in the game when Stokes needs a breather. I used to question why McBee was getting so much PT when his shot wasn't falling, but he is playing outstanding defense right now. This team is fun to watch and they just keep getting better and are playing with confidence. Even when they fall behind, there is no panic. Coach Martin is doing a great job and I hope that this run will shut up all the critics who were calling for his head a few weeks ago.

Agree with all except that Kenny at least got back a few of the points he gave up. In a game this close and hard-fought, his four points were huge. Yemi had several big plays on defense and got some big rebounds. The next step in his development, after learning how to GRAB a pass when it comes to him, is to learn how to gather himself when he gets it down low and power up to SLAM IT! I know he can get up that high, but right now he tries to play the game too upright. As Jimmy Dykes said, real basketball power flows from the ground up; he mentioned several times how Jarnell plays below the rim, but he keeps his feet under him and is thus able to power up through the contact.

And BTW, how good would Jarnell's "little" brother look in orange some day? I think they said he is a sophomore in HS and already 6'7" and 240. He also claims to beat Jarnell when they play in the driveway! He certainly seemed to be enjoying himself tonight.

VictorKruger writes:

McRae in the first half and fierce team defense in the 2nd leads to another "uge" (as Bertelkamp would say) win! Georgia is no gimme next game, I can't see losing to Auburn, and I like the chances against Mizzou in the home finale. Let's start hitting free throws again and quit missing layups (Yemi, I'm talking to you) and win them all by 30. Go Vols!

redskinvol1 writes:

Great win Vols!!I am so very proud of this team.

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