Walking off the court in Oxford, Miss., on Thursday night, Cuonzo Martin's orange tie gasped for breath, strangled in its owner's balled-up fist.
Normally expressionless, win or lose, the Tennessee men's basketball coach looked incensed. He had peeled off his tie in the game's final minutes, a rare outburst.
Anger festered overnight before Martin arrived back at his Thompson-Boling Arena office at 7 a.m. on Friday. He brushed off a lack of sleep after returning to Knoxville around 1 a.m.
Then he watched the film of UT's 62-56 loss to Ole Miss.
"I don't think any of the officials are going out saying, 'OK, I'm going to make bad calls on (Jarnell Stokes),' " Martin told the News Sentinel by phone Friday. "I don't think that's ever the case. I just think that as a physical presence, there's a certain way he has to be allowed to play. If it's a foul, it's a foul, on my team or the other team. Looking at those fouls last night, I don't think they were the best calls on Jarnell."
A season-long Catch-22 is now No. 1 on the agenda.
Stokes, the sophomore power forward, is a physical force. Opponents ping-pong off of him. With size, though, comes whistles. Martin thinks many have been unfairly blown this year, often times coming early in the game, neutralizing Stokes' effectiveness.
According to Martin, he addressed the issue with Gerald Boudreaux, the SEC's coordinator of men's basketball officials, following a loss to Kentucky two weeks ago. In that game, Stokes was saddled with foul trouble. He played only 15 minutes.
"In this particular case, the guy has to be allowed to play basketball," Martin said.
His point, more than anything, is that it's not Stokes' fault that he's a 6-foot-8, 270-pound fire hydrant.
"He's big, allow him to be big," Martin said.
Thursday's Ole Miss game film revealed soft calls that defused Stokes' firepower, per Martin.
He finished the game with six points and four rebounds. A fifth foul ended the night after 26 minutes played. Two of those fouls came early, forcing Stokes to "be passive because he doesn't want to foul," Martin said.
"Now he's not the player he could be and should be," he added.
Usually placid as a pond, Martin simmered in Oxford, just as he did in Lexington against Kentucky. In both games he was noticeably more vehement toward the referees than normal.
In the days following the 75-65 loss to Kentucky, he said he tried to get whistled for a technical foul.
On Friday, in regards to the Ole Miss loss, he said, "I'm sitting there thinking this is a tough deal because he's battling for position and both of these teams are physical teams and I thought three of those fouls on Jarnell were very questionable calls.
"I don't know, maybe I should have gotten a tech or two," he continued. "You know I'm sitting there saying it to the refs all night. The guy can't play. I'm not saying treat elite players differently because a foul is a foul. But he's a physical presence battling around the rim."
In 153 career games as a head coach at Missouri State and Tennessee, Martin has never received a technical foul.
Given Martin's intent to again contact Boudreaux on Friday, it will be interesting to see how the meeting between the Vols and Alabama today (TV: ESPN2, 2 p.m.) is officiated at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Regardless of the refs, Tennessee (9-8,1-4 SEC) needs a win. The Vols have dropped five of their last six games, including a narrow 68-65 loss to the Tide (12-6, 4-1) in Tuscaloosa on Jan. 12.
"None of (the officiating complaints) take away from the fact that we had 21 turnovers and missed key free throws (against Ole Miss)," Martin said. "We have to play better."
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn