Vols loosen up, pick up first SEC victory

ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL
Tennessee guard Armani Moore , right, rejects a shot by Mississippi State guard Jalen Steeleon Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Photo by Adam Brimer

ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL Tennessee guard Armani Moore , right, rejects a shot by Mississippi State guard Jalen Steeleon Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena.

ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL
Tennessee guard Armani Moore snags a rebound against Mississippi State at Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday.

Photo by Adam Brimer

ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL Tennessee guard Armani Moore snags a rebound against Mississippi State at Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday.

Roommates Jordan McRae and Josh Richardson had a little chat before heading to Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday.

The motif, simply, was stop thinking, start playing.

In a span of four straight losses dating back to Jan. 4, Tennessee men's basketball has looked tighter than coach Cuonzo Martin's Windsor knot.

So with a Saturday date against Mississippi State offering a chance to snap the streak and rustle up some good vibes, the Vols loosened up. In a pregame huddle, McRae and Richardson shared their resolution.

Jarnell Stokes heard it. Trae Golden heard it.

The resolution produced results. McRae (12 points), Richardson (16), Stokes (18) and Golden (10) all posted double-digit performances as the Vols notched a glad-to-have-ya 72-57 win.

"It was needed — a must-win — definitely," Richardson said.

With the win, Tennessee (9-7, 1-3 SEC) avoided its first five-game losing streak since 2000-01, Jerry Green's final year as UT coach, and its first 0-4 start in SEC play since 1993-94, Wade Houston's final year as coach.

"Once you're able to get a win, now you can breathe a little bit and move forward," said Martin of snapping a four-game skid.

While the unfettered upperclassmen produced the results, a pair of freshmen provided the spark.

Armani Moore took care of the first half. Derek Reese brought it in the second.

'Sometimes, for freshmen, it's just what they need to have a game where they let it all happen and they get that opportunity,"

Golden said.

Both did the most with their opportunities.

In the first half, Moore ripped down eight of his 11 rebounds, including four offensive, and provided an ESPN-worthy blocked shot that landed somewhere amongst the deep-pocket donors in Thompson-Boling's front row. Moore's efforts, which also saw a career-high four assists, aided a 37-29 halftime lead for Tennessee.

Then it was Reese's turn. After playing just three first-half minutes, the 6-foot-8 wing canned three 3-pointers during a 16-4 UT run spanning 3 minutes, 25 seconds. The long-distance barrage vaulted a 39-35 lead to a 55-39 advantage with 11:38 left.

"Those guys were big for us," Richardson said.

Mississippi State (7-9, 2-2) couldn't recover as leading scorer Jalen Steele, a Knoxville native and Fulton graduate, missed much of the second half with tightness in his hamstrings. Nonetheless, Steele finished with a team-high 15 points.

"I thought he played well and I just wanted to acknowledge the fact that he did a great job coming home and shooting the ball like he did," Martin said.

Thanks to a return to form by Golden and Stokes, the Vols dished a season-high 19 assists, outscored the Bulldogs 42-16 in the paint and shot 46.7 percent (28-60) from the field.

Golden finished with a season-high nine assists, while Stokes pulled down 11 rebounds to earn his fourth double-double of the year.

"Jarnell and Trae Golden played well, which was good to see," Martin said. "If those two guys play well, we've got a chance. You need those guys playing at the level they're capable of playing. Everything falls into place when that happens."

A five-game losing streak averted, the Vols now await a rematch with Ole Miss on Thursday. Less than two weeks ago, the Rebels smacked UT, 92-74, at Thompson-Boling in the SEC opener for both teams.

No UT player said all the Vols' problems were solved Saturday. Instead, they said the road is finally clear for momentum.

"Today was a great opportunity, but Thursday is even more of an opportunity to turn things around," Stokes said.

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

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Comments » 110

VolunteerLifer writes:

Way to go, Volunteers! I realize State isn't a ranked team, but I would commend Martin's recruits for the good play we're starting to see from his sophomores and especially the freshmen.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

That was the kind of play I haven't seen from UT this year. Richardson stepped up big and kept the foot on the pedal (even Golden played well). Reese has a nice perimeter set shot and Moore played like a beast down low..Proud of the way UT played today. I know it was against inferior competition, but you put an self-doubting Golden back at the point to start this game and I promise you they struggle to win. Good job coach, and good job Vols..

UT4prez writes:

Woo freaking hoo! Go Vols!

And go Falcons tomorrow! Remember, we don't have Chris Miller and Steve DeBerg anymore and they don't have Joe Montana and Steve Young anymore. The NFC West is ours! Wait a second. What year is this?

mocsandvolsfan writes:

WTG VOLS

Looked pretty good. Now let's go get the rebels back.

8inarow writes:

Wow!! Matches the number of SEC football wins!!

allvol9 writes:

Very impressed with our freshman and sophomores! Go Vols!

Basketvol writes:

Way to go Vols! I hope Reese and Moore continue to improve and shut up all the naysayers who doubt Coach Martin's ability to recruit and develop players. We will see. I liked the football staff introduction and the Smokey chest bump by Coach Jones. Also, good timing on the Vol Walk to the stadium with the players and recruits, right as the street was filled with excited fans leaving a winning basketball game. Now let's go get a road win at Ole Miss and come back home poised to turnaround the season!

born2ride writes:

We needed to win this game for the NIT.

jt45 writes:

Good win ! Sounded like one of the commentators was a Miss St fanboy he spent so much time trying to ref the game and build up their lineup and coaches. Golden got mugged quite a bit with no calls. The refs missed a few today IMO. Jorden got called on one play that looked like a clean block from the replay.

Good to see Reese and Moore playing so well. I still dont understand Coach Martins timeout strategy at times.This game might help get them clicking again
especially Golden and Stokes.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to Basketvol:

Way to go Vols! I hope Reese and Moore continue to improve and shut up all the naysayers who doubt Coach Martin's ability to recruit and develop players. We will see. I liked the football staff introduction and the Smokey chest bump by Coach Jones. Also, good timing on the Vol Walk to the stadium with the players and recruits, right as the street was filled with excited fans leaving a winning basketball game. Now let's go get a road win at Ole Miss and come back home poised to turnaround the season!

Huge win in front of our most talented fb athletes visiting this weekend. It's always nice to win when you're trying to impress recruits (especially this particular weekend)..GBO!

wigmeister writes:

HALLELUJAH !!!!!!!

budd#207344 writes:

I guess Trae & Jarnel got the message. McCrae, Reese, Moore, and Richardson are improving every game. This should bode well for both this year and the future. If they will continue to attack the basket as they did today and mix in 3's they will make a run in the SEC.

RashaadSalabeb writes:

Good job! Now let's keep the wins coming!

Go Vols!

richvol writes:

Stokes needs some serious skill work. He can't use the backboard and his touch around the basket is lacking. The trainers need to put weights on his feet to help increase his slow footwork. I still like the kid and he shows promise...he just needs to work and develop a mean streak.

Moore is really coming on and Reese continues to show a great shooting touch. Moore,Richardson,McRae,Stokes,Maymon and the new 5 star recruit next year should give us a great team.

decades_vol (Inactive) writes:

A good win for the Vols, to help regain some confidence and end a 4-game losing streak. The best thing is that a number of players stepped up during this game. Stokes and Golden both played much better and several other players really brought their game today. Overall, a good team win, something the Vols desperately needed.

Now, a return trip to Oxford. Don't know what will happen, but I'd really like to see the Vols punk the the Stars and Bars Boys.

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

Whew!! Thanks for not answering the trolls,fellow posters!

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to richvol:

Stokes needs some serious skill work. He can't use the backboard and his touch around the basket is lacking. The trainers need to put weights on his feet to help increase his slow footwork. I still like the kid and he shows promise...he just needs to work and develop a mean streak.

Moore is really coming on and Reese continues to show a great shooting touch. Moore,Richardson,McRae,Stokes,Maymon and the new 5 star recruit next year should give us a great team.

Got to wonder sometimes if Stokes huge feet aren't part of his problem..Size 20!!! Showed a close up of his shoes on tv..Looked like orange canoes

DroopyDrawers writes:

Richardson at point and keep him playing there. Golden is in a sophomore slump or something is wrong with him. Sit him till he comes around because he can PLAY.

Rumblefish writes:

That was a fun game to be at! Except for watching Stokes continue his regression.

Can't wait for Reese, Moore, and Hubbs to be on the court at the same time next year!

I believe Cuonzo subs in players WAY too much. Reese goes 3/4 from three within the span of 2 minutes, and he pulls him!!! No foul trouble, not getting chippy with anyone...just pulls him. Ugh....wtf?

golfman1975 writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

Got to wonder sometimes if Stokes huge feet aren't part of his problem..Size 20!!! Showed a close up of his shoes on tv..Looked like orange canoes

It is obvious to me he needs Maymon. That is the difference...in my opinion.

75VOLinga writes:

Is Mississippi State that bad or did everyone finally come to play? This was a much better game to watch than the last I saw. There was no round the world passing and players were passing the ball to open team mates driving to the basket. And how about those blocked shots. Go Vols.

Brentwoodvol writes:

in response to born2ride:

We needed to win this game for the NIT.

You are such a A--. I have never seen a positive post from you ever. Really need to get a life and go pull for another team. Any team not named Tennessee!!!

LSG410EC83 writes:

Great game, great win. Have to say Stokes looked more what is expected of him. He fought for rebounds and attacked the rim in the way most of us have expected him to do all along. Moore has came along nicely along with Reese.(And many on here have said Martin can not coach players up) Moore looks as different as night and day compared to how he looked at the first of the season. McRae has came a long way also. A legitimate threat shooting anywhere on the court along with Reese's threat will only help free up Stokes under the basket. Look forward to seeing this team just continue to improve this year. IT IS GREAT TO BE A TENNESSEE VOL. GO BIG ORANGE.

VolFan92 writes:

Good to see Trae bounce back with a decent game. I just wish it was against a team that wasn't bottom three.

kyvol98 writes:

19 assists. I liked the ball movement and what they did on offense without the ball to get into position. Good looks to the open man going to the bucket. Need to keep the good (not lazy as I have seen previously) passing around the perimeter and knock down some shots to open up the inside. Lot of points in the paint was a welcome sight too.

BruisedOrange writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

Got to wonder sometimes if Stokes huge feet aren't part of his problem..Size 20!!! Showed a close up of his shoes on tv..Looked like orange canoes

As they say on Beale Street... "Didja get a whistle with them steamboats?"

Seriously though, when Stokes gets a feel for leverage, and realizes what kind of fulcrum those big-20s can be, he'll be able to do some serious damage in the lane. Right now, he still gets moved out by taller defenders.

Much to learn, grasshopper. But you will prevail.

smokeygrowl writes:

in response to I_OWN_MANY:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Shut up. yea vols beat awful club but still''''''shut up

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to BruisedOrange:

As they say on Beale Street... "Didja get a whistle with them steamboats?"

Seriously though, when Stokes gets a feel for leverage, and realizes what kind of fulcrum those big-20s can be, he'll be able to do some serious damage in the lane. Right now, he still gets moved out by taller defenders.

Much to learn, grasshopper. But you will prevail.

I can't help but laugh when I see Stoke's feet but you are right if he was 6'10" or 11" there would be no struggle, he would be much like Cousins who was pretty unstoppable

richvol writes:

in response to golfman1975:

It is obvious to me he needs Maymon. That is the difference...in my opinion.

It's not Maymon that causes his misses from point blank range. He missed 4 or 5 shots right under the basket last night and every game for that matter. Stokes needs drilling on shooting contested,and even uncontested layups.

VOLSnTITANS writes:

Good win. Passed the ball well. Keep it up vols.

My only complaint is that I'm not a fan of CM calling timeouts after the vols make a big shot. Kills momentum and quiets the home crowd. Yesterday CM called timeout after the vols hit a big 3 and out of the timeout the Vols immediately committed a foul and then gave up a layup. I prefer to let them play w/o stopping the mojo when it's on your side.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to decades_vol:

A good win for the Vols, to help regain some confidence and end a 4-game losing streak. The best thing is that a number of players stepped up during this game. Stokes and Golden both played much better and several other players really brought their game today. Overall, a good team win, something the Vols desperately needed.

Now, a return trip to Oxford. Don't know what will happen, but I'd really like to see the Vols punk the the Stars and Bars Boys.

Good call..All the player rotation Martin has been doing has paid off.He no longer has to worry about inserting Reese or Moore and having a drop off or turnovers.Hall and McBee are rightfully losing minutes.It's unfortunate that Yemi still has trouble handling the ball when he gets a great feed pass.Iam loving how Richardson is totally fearless.Josh will be first team SEC his senior year.IMO that Bama loss is looming somewhat large..Big difference between 1 and 3 and being 2 and 2 right now..Getting a win and some ESPN hidelines at Ole Miss would be huge

laraccoon writes:

in response to I_OWN_MANY:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

if i was fixing to clock in at Hardees i would be bitter too .

hikerdude writes:

I suspect it was the quality of the opposition, and not the resolution of McCrae and Richardson, that resulted in this win. Stokes does a pretty good job when he is as tall as his opponent and outweighs them by 40 pounds.

sly_stone99#434111 writes:

in response to richvol:

Stokes needs some serious skill work. He can't use the backboard and his touch around the basket is lacking. The trainers need to put weights on his feet to help increase his slow footwork. I still like the kid and he shows promise...he just needs to work and develop a mean streak.

Moore is really coming on and Reese continues to show a great shooting touch. Moore,Richardson,McRae,Stokes,Maymon and the new 5 star recruit next year should give us a great team.

Solid points on Stokes. I've been saying for several weeks he needs to get "Buck Nasty". He will get better but, he's a 4 year guy that will progress each year. CCM needs a few more pieces. Hubbs is one of them.

volthrunthru#658770 writes:

Thank you for breaking out of the slump. Please continue the good work.

Go Vols!!!

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to VOLSnTITANS:

Good win. Passed the ball well. Keep it up vols.

My only complaint is that I'm not a fan of CM calling timeouts after the vols make a big shot. Kills momentum and quiets the home crowd. Yesterday CM called timeout after the vols hit a big 3 and out of the timeout the Vols immediately committed a foul and then gave up a layup. I prefer to let them play w/o stopping the mojo when it's on your side.

That's the dumbest strategy I have ever seen..John Wooden would roll over in his grave. CCM and other coach's around CBB believe calling a T.O. after the other team is playing well gives them a confidence advantage, so they wait until something good happens for their team to keep an emotional edge. It sounds alright in theory, but in reality it disrupts momentum and seems to remove whatever advantage you were enjoying at the time. Not to mention it totally removes the buzz from the crowd.

JonGrudensAgent writes:

The good vibes and momentum will likely come to a screeching halt on Thursday with a road game in Oxford.

Ole Miss is on a roll and already showed what they were capable of against the Vols at TBA.

I see five more losses on the schedule in Ole Miss, Florida, Kentucky, at Vandy(the Vols seldom win there) and Missouri to close the season so expecting an NCAA berth is a long shot at best.

bigdisbig writes:

Any win is a good win. I watched most of the game and it was good to see the guys work the ball inside more. Their rebounding is still pathetic.....especially on offense. It seems they all want the ball outside and the only one rebounding is Stokes.

VictorKruger writes:

Folks there's a browser extension for Firefox and Chrome that can hide trolls' comments or make them disappear completely. Be sure to pay attention to the prerequisites.

https://userscripts.org/scripts/show/...

PHAT_VOL writes:

Good win but to little to late.
Mabybe next year.
GO VOLS!!

Samuel_L_Salma_GataBait_HowBoutDemCowboys_BlueWaffles88 writes:

Hope you guys are ready for Feb, 26.

RememberWhen writes:

Great win! Beating one of the 3 worst teams in the league is always impressive! Jarnell Stokes will never play in the NBA!

RememberWhen writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

That's the dumbest strategy I have ever seen..John Wooden would roll over in his grave. CCM and other coach's around CBB believe calling a T.O. after the other team is playing well gives them a confidence advantage, so they wait until something good happens for their team to keep an emotional edge. It sounds alright in theory, but in reality it disrupts momentum and seems to remove whatever advantage you were enjoying at the time. Not to mention it totally removes the buzz from the crowd.

thanks for clearing all that up with your extensive rec league experience!

RememberWhen writes:

LMAO! hard to believe there are really people dumb enough to put this team and the Dance in the same sentence! This team will be VERY lucky to finish above .500!

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to RememberWhen:

thanks for clearing all that up with your extensive rec league experience!

What are your credentials? True enough I only played HS BB, but have been following the sport NBA/CBB for almost 50 years. I do know more than most, and would almost guarantee I know more than ewe.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to RememberWhen:

LMAO! hard to believe there are really people dumb enough to put this team and the Dance in the same sentence! This team will be VERY lucky to finish above .500!

This team could win the SEC tourney, Einstein..It's never over til it's over (Yogi Berra, 1950).

usnavyvolfan__times_free_press_can_shove_it writes:

Hope this is the start of a big turnaround for the Vols. Nice to see Stokes live up to his billing. Imagine what kind of team we'd have if they ALL did. GBO!!

usnavyvolfan__times_free_press_can_shove_it writes:

in response to RememberWhen:

LMAO! hard to believe there are really people dumb enough to put this team and the Dance in the same sentence! This team will be VERY lucky to finish above .500!

IT's hard to believe that there are people dumb enough to forget that even if the Vols DO finish under .500, they could still win the SEC tournament and get an automatic bid.

8inarow writes:

in response to usnavyvolfan__times_free_press_can_shove_it:

IT's hard to believe that there are people dumb enough to forget that even if the Vols DO finish under .500, they could still win the SEC tournament and get an automatic bid.

I don't think people are stupid about this, I think they are realistic about the prospects of the Big Dance.

Probably a better chance of hiring Dooley back....

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to 8inarow:

I don't think people are stupid about this, I think they are realistic about the prospects of the Big Dance.

Probably a better chance of hiring Dooley back....

Who would have guessed UT would sweep FU last year?? You never know..

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