Jordan McRae's play up, but Vols are down

Junior: 'It is on us, not on anyone else'

Tennessee guard Jordan McRae (52) goes up for a basket in the second half against Mississippi at Thompson-Boling Arena Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee guard Jordan McRae (52) goes up for a basket in the second half against Mississippi at Thompson-Boling Arena Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Occupying the Thompson-Boling Arena media room for 10 lonesome, galling minutes before teammate Jarnell Stokes entered and attracted some attention, Jordan McRae sat encircled by cameras and microphones Wednesday night.

Things aren't playing out how the junior guard would have planned.

And he was left answering for Tennessee men's basketball.

McRae scored a personal-best 26 points two games ago, a total he matched Wednesday in a 92-74 loss to Ole Miss, the same game he returned to a starting role. Yet, two of the first words out of his mouth surrounded by reporters were "embarrassed" and "mad."

"Everyone is really disappointed in how we are playing," he said, slumped. "The thing about it is, is that we are really disappointed in ourselves. It is on us, not on anyone else."

McRae has found himself in an unenviable position. The best play in his

career has coexisted with back-to-back losses against a rival (Memphis) and a SEC foe (Ole Miss) in the conference opener.

"I would rather go back to scoring eight or nine points and winning than this," McRae said.

The Vols, uniformly, would prefer anything opposed to their 8-6 record (0-1 SEC).

The combined 177 points they surrendered to Memphis and Ole Miss are the most since Gonzaga and Kansas teamed up to score 181 on UT in 2009.

Meanwhile, for McRae, his combined 52 points in the two games are the most by a UT player since 2011. Back then, Scotty Hopson scored 55 combined against South Carolina and Georgia.

Playing at least 30 minutes in five of the last six games, McRae has averaged 16.7 points on 34-of-73 (46.6) shooting. More noticeably, he's cemented himself in coach Cuonzo Martin's starting lineup after coming off the bench in 32 of UT's last 33 games dating back to last season.

"I'm just doing whatever the team needs me to do — shooting open shots, getting to the line," said McRae, who now leads the Vols in scoring at 12.7 points per game. "I still feel like Jarnell (Stokes) is the No. 1 guy for us and it's going to continue to be like that."

Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy might say otherwise. McRae was the only Vol to impact Wednesday's meeting from the perimeter. Skylar McBee, whom McRae has replaced as a starter; Trae Golden, Josh Richardson and Derek Reese combined to make 10 of 33 shots, including four of 17 3-point shots.

McRae made eight of 14 from the field, three of eight 3-pointers.

"He's a good basketball player," Kennedy said. "He's long, he's athletic, he's got an ability to slither through traffic. He's not the biggest guy in the world, but he slithers through traffic. And when he's making jump shots ... he's made eight over two games, he's hard to guard."

Which is why McRae will stay right where he is — in the UT starting lineup.

"Jordan's earned his way on so he deserves to start," Martin said.

Now the team's results needs to match McRae's elevated play.

Next up for the Vols is a trip to Alabama for a Saturday afternoon date with the Tide (8-6, 0-1). McRae was 2-for-8 from the field in a 62-50 loss in Tuscaloosa last year.

"We are not going to think about (Ole Miss) anymore after Thursday," McRae said "We are going to learn from it, and probably watch film on it, but then it is on to the next one."

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

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Comments » 27

wigmeister writes:

One player doesn't win games. Two players don't win games. Good team play, all players, win games. The other problem might be the game plan. That doesn't work, makes no difference how hard the players play. The coaches have to ba able to coach the players they have on the floor.

jt45 writes:

No leaders on the floor with Maymon benched.As a senior Hall should have stepped up but he hasnt. Gonna be a long tough season from the look of things.Thank goodness the LVs are playing well.

eb502us#225637 writes:

McRae still has miles to go to become a consistent basketball player, let alone a good one.

I give him credit for upping his game but two games doesn't make a season. Not trying to be negative but I've heard the same story about for two years now and little had changed.

crmcm44#321757 writes:

No offensive scheme is on the coach. Lack of offense and ball smarts are due to poor coaching and incompetent players.

richvol writes:

I question Counzo's thinking when he had McBee starting for so long. He can't shoot threes in the clutch,doesn't rebound,doesn't get any assists and is a liability on defense. So what's the attraction...is it because he is local?

brod writes:

yes jordan. watch film. stop the dribble drives. i don't think that that is alabama's game as much as memphis and ole miss, but the two trevors will notice it when they watch film.

VOL1972 writes:

McRae may be the only bright spot we have this year. My guess he didn't have the green light to shoot until he became a starter.

I guess we just have to bare it for the next couple of years until we can get someone who can coach.

Pompey writes:

....Vols performance against Ole Miss has trouble written all over it....!

crappieking writes:

Off the Martin train these days. This team might not even make the NIT.

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

I want Bruce back when NCAA jail is up.

"Show Cause"??
Sho, cause this program now sucks.

underthehill writes:

in response to richvol:

I question Counzo's thinking when he had McBee starting for so long. He can't shoot threes in the clutch,doesn't rebound,doesn't get any assists and is a liability on defense. So what's the attraction...is it because he is local?

More than a valid question.. McBee is a spot player at best and not an SEC talent in reality..can't give the opposing team this much edge and expect to win..don't understand the attraction..if Martin considers McBee to be a better player than those on the bench he has recruited..it ain't a good sign..another bad sign..Ky beats Vandy by 2 with help from the officials..Vandy is 6-7 and lost their best 6 players last year..so Vandy ..who was thought to be a pushover..now appears to be getting competitive..still pulling for the Vols but losing hope ..quick..for this year..

mborokyvol writes:

Offense is about getting open looks and hitting the shots. The Vols are getting wide open looks. The challenge will be to ignore the wide open 3pt-shot and drive it or dish it inside. This slump isn't all on CCM. The offense is creating open shots. The team has to rededicate themselves to playing defense- the kind of D we all know they are capable of!

Basketvol writes:

in response to VOL1972:

McRae may be the only bright spot we have this year. My guess he didn't have the green light to shoot until he became a starter.

I guess we just have to bare it for the next couple of years until we can get someone who can coach.

I would add Josh Richardson to that list, and it ends there. I see potential with Reese, and obviously Stokes has some unrealized potential, but I wouldn't call either player a "bright spot" at this point. Definitely McRae is though, and to a lesser extent Richardson. I don't know what the answer is for this team, but I haven't given up on them yet. The next two weeks will set the tone for the rest of the SEC season. Let's hope they can get some wins.

Basketvol writes:

in response to Basketvol:

I would add Josh Richardson to that list, and it ends there. I see potential with Reese, and obviously Stokes has some unrealized potential, but I wouldn't call either player a "bright spot" at this point. Definitely McRae is though, and to a lesser extent Richardson. I don't know what the answer is for this team, but I haven't given up on them yet. The next two weeks will set the tone for the rest of the SEC season. Let's hope they can get some wins.

Oh yeah, and Makenjoula is developing steadily and looks like there could be more to come.

VolunteerLifer writes:

in response to mborokyvol:

Offense is about getting open looks and hitting the shots. The Vols are getting wide open looks. The challenge will be to ignore the wide open 3pt-shot and drive it or dish it inside. This slump isn't all on CCM. The offense is creating open shots. The team has to rededicate themselves to playing defense- the kind of D we all know they are capable of!

Bingo. They have played poor defense these last two games. Can't have that, cause we simply don't have the offensive firepower to make up for it. Losing by 18 at home against an unranked team makes we start to wonder about the coaching. But I'm still on the train, haven't seen enough yet to get real worried.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Been saying for forever that consistency from McRae would be a big key for success..But that was when Golden was the leading scorer and Stokes and Hall were pulling their load..Now the focus is on Golden..Just don't understand whats up with Trae..He was playing with confidence; making plays driving to the hoop and was automatic with his 12 foot pull up shot..Totally baffles me and is a big reason we lost the last 2 games..This team just can't put together a game were all the starters all are playing to expectations..Very frustrating..- -

mocsandvolsfan writes:

McRae shoots too many 3s and doesn't always guard his man. He's still my favorite player right now. OK I like Richardson better on defense but he's already a starter mostly. Starting doesn't matter as much as finishng. McRae's been helping us all year and it doesn't matter whether you start McBee or not. Just take him out sooner if he doesn't hit his shot. It also doesn't matter to me if McRae starts. I just want him in when we need some energy and scoring. I don't know things the coach knows but it seems we'll need something to replace point. I'm not sure Golden's healthy enough to play 2 guard either. I hope he's back and healthy but we'll just have to see.

I feel for Martin. He's in a "d---- if you do and d____ if you don't" kind of spot with the kind of "fans" on here. I don't even trust him completely yet to get it done. But I am for him to do it and believe he can. We did well last year under worse circumstances. We can finish strong this year if they'll buy into playing smart, strong , and a little mad maybe...or heck just have fun and play hard. I don't know what fits this team. I think they miss Maymon's work ethic inside. But they also need McRae and Richardson's fearless fun on the perimeter and attacking the lanes. Golden seems to play his best when he's NOT INJURED! Seriously he needs to quit playing so methodical and let go some too I think. Martin's gonna have to find what style each of them plays best. You can't make them all a Jarnell or a McRae or a Richardson. Let them play but within the system? I guess? I don't think just running and gunning is the answer.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

Been saying for forever that consistency from McRae would be a big key for success..But that was when Golden was the leading scorer and Stokes and Hall were pulling their load..Now the focus is on Golden..Just don't understand whats up with Trae..He was playing with confidence; making plays driving to the hoop and was automatic with his 12 foot pull up shot..Totally baffles me and is a big reason we lost the last 2 games..This team just can't put together a game were all the starters all are playing to expectations..Very frustrating..- -

Right on the money. It's been our guard play and consistency this year and last year. But our defense against the good and quick guards especially is hurting us. If you can't hit your shots you'd better be playing defense. I'd bet McBee's defense lately is why he lost his start. well that and his poor shooting. But he is injured too. Our two outside shooters both have had injury problems. Reese needs to find range quickly. But against Ole Miss we had too many different problems. defending the lane, point guard defense, rebounding, free throws, 3 point shots,etc.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to emailnodata:

I want Bruce back when NCAA jail is up.

"Show Cause"??
Sho, cause this program now sucks.

Witch Doctor say in the immortal words of Aerosmyth...Dream on Dream on Dream on. Witch Doctor believed the word "black balled" by the SEC applies. Witch Doctor want the Vols to win but if it happens with wont be with Bruce. Witch Doctor say too bad HE ruined his career.
Bones never lie.

D60 writes:

in response to crappieking:

Off the Martin train these days. This team might not even make the NIT.

Never was on it,as bad or worse than the Dooley hire

dcap8424 writes:

in response to underthehill:

More than a valid question.. McBee is a spot player at best and not an SEC talent in reality..can't give the opposing team this much edge and expect to win..don't understand the attraction..if Martin considers McBee to be a better player than those on the bench he has recruited..it ain't a good sign..another bad sign..Ky beats Vandy by 2 with help from the officials..Vandy is 6-7 and lost their best 6 players last year..so Vandy ..who was thought to be a pushover..now appears to be getting competitive..still pulling for the Vols but losing hope ..quick..for this year..

I think thats more of a product of Kentucky being overrated than Vandy being any good.

Yeah this year's done. What happened to the toughness we seemed to develop late last year? Without our leader (Maymon) it's gone?

manoffewwords writes:

The only train we've had to ride in recent years
is The Bruce Pearl Train. Bring it back!

usnavyvolfan__times_free_press_can_shove_it writes:

in response to emailnodata:

I want Bruce back when NCAA jail is up.

"Show Cause"??
Sho, cause this program now sucks.

MMkay, that's like 10 times you've posted that...it was old the first time.

FeelVol writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

McRae shoots too many 3s and doesn't always guard his man. He's still my favorite player right now. OK I like Richardson better on defense but he's already a starter mostly. Starting doesn't matter as much as finishng. McRae's been helping us all year and it doesn't matter whether you start McBee or not. Just take him out sooner if he doesn't hit his shot. It also doesn't matter to me if McRae starts. I just want him in when we need some energy and scoring. I don't know things the coach knows but it seems we'll need something to replace point. I'm not sure Golden's healthy enough to play 2 guard either. I hope he's back and healthy but we'll just have to see.

I feel for Martin. He's in a "d---- if you do and d____ if you don't" kind of spot with the kind of "fans" on here. I don't even trust him completely yet to get it done. But I am for him to do it and believe he can. We did well last year under worse circumstances. We can finish strong this year if they'll buy into playing smart, strong , and a little mad maybe...or heck just have fun and play hard. I don't know what fits this team. I think they miss Maymon's work ethic inside. But they also need McRae and Richardson's fearless fun on the perimeter and attacking the lanes. Golden seems to play his best when he's NOT INJURED! Seriously he needs to quit playing so methodical and let go some too I think. Martin's gonna have to find what style each of them plays best. You can't make them all a Jarnell or a McRae or a Richardson. Let them play but within the system? I guess? I don't think just running and gunning is the answer.

Am I the only one that thinks Makanjuola should replace Hall as a starter,he has a pretty good work ethic inside and will give you everything.I know he's not a very good offensive player right now but he'll get a few buckets around the paint and shoots free throws pretty well,also he rebounds and plays defense and I think would loosen things up inside for Stokes.Thanks for your post by the way I enjoyed it.Go Vols!!!

exlineman writes:

Mcbee get a haircut and shave and quit trying to look like Pete Maravich. He died along time ago. You could be a good player with better shot selection and getting your self open on the dribble. Don't pick your dribble up unless you see away out before you stop dribbling. Just little mistakes that you can correct. The same goes for most of the team as well, poor shot selection, foul shooting etc. How did some of you guys get a Div1 scholarship. If you shot and played like this in high school, don't know why some of you were recruited. All of you can be better and I am pulling for you. Just show the fans what you are made of and pick up your overall game.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to FeelVol:

Am I the only one that thinks Makanjuola should replace Hall as a starter,he has a pretty good work ethic inside and will give you everything.I know he's not a very good offensive player right now but he'll get a few buckets around the paint and shoots free throws pretty well,also he rebounds and plays defense and I think would loosen things up inside for Stokes.Thanks for your post by the way I enjoyed it.Go Vols!!!

I think you're right as far as who has performed better in the games...where it really counts.hehe
But Hall isn't the only inconsistent player inside.
Also the problem inside for us seems to be how the guards play. If you can't get the ball to the bigs in a timely fashion then it makes their jobs much harder. You'll see a wide open big and the guard is just standing dribbling and I guess waiting for the big to come and take the ball. Sorry for the sarcasm. But I've seen passes to all our bigs that got them more in trouble than got them a shot. I'm not saying it's all guards. But the passes should not be such a huge surprise to Hall and Stokes or Makan. If they don't get it when open why should they expect it when they aren't. ? When Golden is playing his best this doesn't happen. When we slash the lane the bigs though have to be ready to receive.

FeelVol writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

I think you're right as far as who has performed better in the games...where it really counts.hehe
But Hall isn't the only inconsistent player inside.
Also the problem inside for us seems to be how the guards play. If you can't get the ball to the bigs in a timely fashion then it makes their jobs much harder. You'll see a wide open big and the guard is just standing dribbling and I guess waiting for the big to come and take the ball. Sorry for the sarcasm. But I've seen passes to all our bigs that got them more in trouble than got them a shot. I'm not saying it's all guards. But the passes should not be such a huge surprise to Hall and Stokes or Makan. If they don't get it when open why should they expect it when they aren't. ? When Golden is playing his best this doesn't happen. When we slash the lane the bigs though have to be ready to receive.

I agree and I've noticed that our guards with the exception of Golden maybe have trouble making the entry pass to the post many times resulting in a turnover.I even like Stokes with the ball at the free throw line moving toward the basket or making the pass to a teammate spotting up for a three and speaking of free throws practice,practice,practice we need him to shoot at least seventy percent.I hope Golden can pick up his game we really need him,also I like Mcrae and Richardson on the wings, Mcraes' defense is suspect but his offense is what we really need when he doesn't rely solely on the three ball.I guess I've spewed long enough but thats my best five to have on the floor especially at the end of the game.Go Vols!!!

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