Vols get needed win at Auburn, 82-75

14-2 run in second half is difference

Tennessee's Jordan McRae (52) drives on Auburn's Brian Greene Jr. (24) during the game Wednesday at Auburn Arena.  (Albert Cesare/Opelika-Auburn News)

Photo by Albert Cesare/Opelika-Auburn New, Opelika-Auburn News

Tennessee's Jordan McRae (52) drives on Auburn's Brian Greene Jr. (24) during the game Wednesday at Auburn Arena. (Albert Cesare/Opelika-Auburn News)

AUBURN, Ala. — Trae Golden remembers the second-guessing.

He remembers watching Selection Sunday unfold last March and seeing Tennessee left by the wayside.

He remembers the questions that followed. “What if we had done this?” “What if we hadn’t done that?”

That’s why, when rubber hit the NCAA tournament bubble road last night, he stepped into the middle of the UT huddle along the Auburn Arena sideline.

“We are not,” he began, “losing this game.”

A loss to last place Auburn Wednesday night would have sent the Vols bubble hissing away over the East Alabama plains.

A win, by whatever means necessary, was merely a means to the season’s end.

“These guys knew what was at stake,” UT coach Cuonzo Martin would later say.

Remembering what it feels like to lose when the stakes are high, Tennessee shouldered past the Tigers in a never-pretty but absolutely necessary 82-75 win. The Vols (18-11, 10-7 SEC) remain alone in sixth place in the conference.

“Looking back on last year, there were so many moments when could have, should have done this,” said Golden.

He added, “We can’t afford any type of loss.”

Golden teamed with Jordan McRae to score 21 points apiece. When they came mattered most. Golden scored 16 after halftime. McRae dropped 15.

Trailing 60-59 with 9 minutes, 28 remaining, the Vols ripped off a 14-2 run to seal their leaking NCAA tournament bubble.

The run started with a 3-pointer from Skylar McBee, was highlighted by a dunk from Kenny Hall and was capped by a 3 from McRae.

“We were telling each other we had to turn up our energy to match theirs,” McRae said.

For Auburn (9-21, 3-14), it was Sullivan’s Senior Night and he played like it. The veteran of five years, two home gyms, two coaching staffs, one season-ending knee surgery and 1,525 career points, poured in a game-high 24 points.

UT tried multiple defensive matchups on Sullivan. None worked.

Auburn shot 51.0 percent from the field (28-55).

“Those guys (Auburn) played with emotion and Frankie Sullivan, I read in the paper that he said he didn’t want to lose this game,” Martin said.

That was obvious, but Golden, coming off a 1-for-10 shooting performance in a loss at Georgia last Saturday, made 6 of his 12 attempts to hang with Sullivan.

“That’s what good players do,” McRae said. “You have an off night and you come back and really play well and are player of the game the next night.”

UT forward Jarnell Stokes logged his 13th double-double of the season with 11 points and 12 rebounds, but struggled from the line going 1-for-10 on free throws.

“I hope to never shoot like that again,” Stokes said. “Rightfully I was on the bench at the end because mentally I wasn’t prepared to make free throws.”

The Vols opened the game making six of their first 10 shots. Fourteen of the next 19 drew iron or missed all together. The shooting woes translated to the free-throw line. UT missed 6-of-14 from the stripe, enabling Auburn to pull ahead with a 35-32 halftime lead.

The Vols led by as many as nine in the early goings, but languished along until Golden and McRae delivered in the second half.

“That’s what they’re supposed to do,” Martin said. “They more or less did their job and everything else fell in line.”

A crucial season finale now awaits. Missouri, log jammed with Ole Miss and Alabama in a three-way, third-place tie above UT in the SEC standings at 11-6 in league play, comes to Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday (TV: ESPN, 4 p.m.).

Through a variety of scenarios and tiebreakers, Tennessee can end the season anywhere from fourth to seventh in the conference. The top four teams get a double-bye in the SEC tournament while 5-10 advance directly to the quarterfinals.

It’s another must-win.

“I expect it to be Florida or Kentucky, times five,” McRae said.

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

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Comments » 113

CoverOrange writes:

The charge drawn by McRae at the end was clear as day.

Glad to see Martin finally put Stokes on the bench, was not helping.

Defense lapsing again all over.

Ironcity writes:

Any win is a good win this time of year. You know Mcraes arrived when he can look lousy and score 20. Really an issue with Mcbee and Moore those two guy are giving us nothing right now. Puts a lot of pressure on the bug three. I really don't think this team is NCAA worthy but with the expanded field who knows. Not sure how you can put us in of Ole Miss if they beat us twice. Lets beat Missouri and win at least one at the tourney and I think we are in.

sameolvolalum writes:

This'll be a good one. Let's hope Mizzou can't shoot well with orange surroundings. Go Vols!

jt45 writes:

Glad to see them get the win, but getting beat off the dribble for easy buckets was just too frustrating to watch at times. No sense in calling out anyone but some better defense will have to be played against the other Tigers that are coming up.

vol98champ writes:

Did Stokes ride the pine most if not all of the last 9 minutes? He needs to have a great improvement next year, or he will need to learn a foreign language. Great win though.

ULTIMATEVOLUNTEER writes:

in response to Ironcity:

Any win is a good win this time of year. You know Mcraes arrived when he can look lousy and score 20. Really an issue with Mcbee and Moore those two guy are giving us nothing right now. Puts a lot of pressure on the bug three. I really don't think this team is NCAA worthy but with the expanded field who knows. Not sure how you can put us in of Ole Miss if they beat us twice. Lets beat Missouri and win at least one at the tourney and I think we are in.

head to head doesnt matter. the committee doesn't choose a certain team over another based on their head to head matchups. c'mon man. if that was the case KY gets in over Missouri, etc etc.

WetumpkaThumpa writes:

It's pretty obvious, Trae Golden makes us go!!!!!!!!

chaos001 writes:

Apparently Nike and Buick aren't paying Shaq the money he needs these days, so he's come back for a second degree at UT. JEEEZUS boy...hit your free shots!

Razor784 writes:

This was a nice win, Auburn is always a tricky place to play. When Golden is on, these guys are almost impossible to beat.

jt45 writes:

in response to Ironcity:

Any win is a good win this time of year. You know Mcraes arrived when he can look lousy and score 20. Really an issue with Mcbee and Moore those two guy are giving us nothing right now. Puts a lot of pressure on the bug three. I really don't think this team is NCAA worthy but with the expanded field who knows. Not sure how you can put us in of Ole Miss if they beat us twice. Lets beat Missouri and win at least one at the tourney and I think we are in.

Moore is just a freshman who is still learning to play at a different level. He will be fine once he settles into one position. Moore gave us 7 points tonight in a 7 point victory.

yabadabadoo1026 writes:

in response to jt45:

Glad to see them get the win, but getting beat off the dribble for easy buckets was just too frustrating to watch at times. No sense in calling out anyone but some better defense will have to be played against the other Tigers that are coming up.

you right, the defense was bad and hasnt been much last few games---opposition have been having their way driving into the lanes for easy scores at the basket as will, uncontested outside shooters often with no defender within 6- 8 feet ( too often Richardson), no help when first defender gets beat which has been regular----McBee was chasing the scorer a step behind all nite and Kenny Hall as much credit i give him for finishing around the basket when others dont is worthless and brutal on D

OK, i called them out for you and I dont generally like doing that.

Certainly hurts the offense when you cant go inside cause the big man cant make free throws

greatdaysahead writes:

in response to Razor784:

This was a nice win, Auburn is always a tricky place to play. When Golden is on, these guys are almost impossible to beat.

Hold your horses there cowboy, this team is very beatable whether or not Golden is on. Did you follow the porous defense tonight? If this team puts together another complete game, yeah it'll be any opposing team's nightmare. However, only Kentucky got to experience that. So while I think we can be tough to be when Golden's rolling, we are certainly not even close to unbeatable.

Ironcity writes:

in response to ULTIMATEVOLUNTEER:

head to head doesnt matter. the committee doesn't choose a certain team over another based on their head to head matchups. c'mon man. if that was the case KY gets in over Missouri, etc etc.

With both teams side by side and each looking at a twelve seed, I am afraid if I was on the committee I would take the team (Ole Miss)that beat the other team twice. Especially if they have a better conference record as well. I really think UT has some work to do to get in. I would feel better if we won the next one and had a strong showing at the tourney or at least beat Ole Miss in the tourney.

Ironcity writes:

Our guards play like we have a big time shot blocker. Some one needs to tell them we don't.

Ironcity writes:

in response to jt45:

Moore is just a freshman who is still learning to play at a different level. He will be fine once he settles into one position. Moore gave us 7 points tonight in a 7 point victory.

Your right about Moore he will be better and he is young. I watched the UGA game live and he was just plain awful. It just seems lately he has been lousy when I am watching him. We need another player that can score when they jam it up on Stokes.

ULTIMATEVOLUNTEER writes:

in response to Ironcity:

With both teams side by side and each looking at a twelve seed, I am afraid if I was on the committee I would take the team (Ole Miss)that beat the other team twice. Especially if they have a better conference record as well. I really think UT has some work to do to get in. I would feel better if we won the next one and had a strong showing at the tourney or at least beat Ole Miss in the tourney.

obviously TN needs to win the next one-Missouri. Thats a no brainer. It will come down to about 3-4 open spots with 8-9 teams to pick from. there's no way to compare all of them head to head.

8inarow writes:

I just returned from TitleTown where the Gators cut down the nets for the outright SEC Championship.

willphill#241787 writes:

We have no coaching whatsoever. The opponent drives again and again to the basket for easy buckets yet we do not employ a zone defense. McBrick can't guard anyone, can't hit a shot yet he continues to play. Stokes is 1 for 10 at the free throw line yet he continues to play. We were lucky to win. Bring back Bruce.

VolGrad writes:

Needed the W over the Tigers, got the W over the Tigers.

Now, let's do it again.

Go Vols!

1vavolfan writes:

Lousy defense most of the night. How many times did our guards get beat off the dribble and give up layups? Good to see Golden having another quality game. Hall was solid, credit CCM for staying with Kenny and benching Stokes, a key factor in the win.

WetumpkaThumpa writes:

in response to notfunanymore:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yes, who do you really pull for? I hope not Bama, UK, UF, or Vandy, because the Vols beat all of those teams.

EarlThePearl writes:

in response to 8inarow:

I just returned from TitleTown where the Gators cut down the nets for the outright SEC Championship.

So you were in Green Bay when the Lizards beat Vandy? That is an incredible story. Did you happen to see the Packer Hall of Fame with Reggie White and that dude that beat out Johnny Minors for the Heisman back in Fitty Six? You must tell us more about your Green Bay adventues when the Team that UT Beat Cut down some meaningless net. Lil Wolfgang is 0 and 3 versus Martin ( Not Tee )?

decades_vol (Inactive) writes:

I think Tennessee came into this game thinking they were going to win. They almost thought wrong. They had enough composure, though, to rally again from behind and win on the road. This win, ragged as it was, puts the Vols at 4-1 in their last five SEC road games, and 7-1 in their last eight overall. Not bad at all. But for Tennessee's NCAA tournament chances, this thing is far from over. They'd better play against Missouri like it's an NCAA play-in game. The same goes for the SEC tournament. Tennessee can play their way into the NCAA. But they're going to have to earn their way in, by playing the best basketball that they can play.

DukeDeLuca2 writes:

in response to willphill#241787:

We have no coaching whatsoever. The opponent drives again and again to the basket for easy buckets yet we do not employ a zone defense. McBrick can't guard anyone, can't hit a shot yet he continues to play. Stokes is 1 for 10 at the free throw line yet he continues to play. We were lucky to win. Bring back Bruce.

You aren't old enough to remember Wade Houston, are you?

Fire Fulmer!

EarlThePearl writes:

in response to notfunanymore:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Martin will have a job next year because he beat Florida, KY and will win at least 19 games ( more this year ) in a weak year for the NCAA overall. Not sure what kind of jokes you are used to but Martin has done a good job of getting players Bruce recruited to improve their games. McCrae and Golden were bench warmers for Bruce and Martin has improved both their games. He brougt in 5 star Stokes and has a 5 star guard coming in next year.

Orangeblood13 writes:

“Rightfully I was on the bench at the end because mentally I wasn’t prepared to make free throws.”

Stokes might just get it, he will improve

laraccoon writes:

in response to Orangeblood13:

“Rightfully I was on the bench at the end because mentally I wasn’t prepared to make free throws.”

Stokes might just get it, he will improve

good observation , i think coaching has a little to do with Stokes thinking like that, about what is best for the team and not himself . When a coach gets his players to think like that i think fans should feel better about the future . i guess only time will tell , but was nice to see them gut out a tough win tonight .

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to Orangeblood13:

“Rightfully I was on the bench at the end because mentally I wasn’t prepared to make free throws.”

Stokes might just get it, he will improve

The man still had a double double. Add 9 free throws and you have and awesome game. Plus he probably would have scored more in the last part of the game.

Oh well. He can improve his free throws.

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to chaos001:

Apparently Nike and Buick aren't paying Shaq the money he needs these days, so he's come back for a second degree at UT. JEEEZUS boy...hit your free shots!

Stokes has a beautiful, smooth shooting stroke at the line, but something awful seems to happen just after the ball leaves his hands.

gc_scvol writes:

in response to 8inarow:

I just returned from TitleTown where the Gators cut down the nets for the outright SEC Championship.

I guess that's our bad luck. I mean you coming back, not the net thing. New poll..Who wishes 8 hole had stayed in FL? (If he really went) Got back in a hurry. Must have taken his private jet or maybe the brown-eye special.

Tennessean65 writes:

Great win for the Vols!

scottvol writes:

Any SEC road win is a good win. Two more Wins and Vols are in the dance. I'm 60 years old and haven't picked up a basketball in years but I'm sure I can shoot free throws better than Stokes !

gc_scvol writes:

in response to willphill#241787:

We have no coaching whatsoever. The opponent drives again and again to the basket for easy buckets yet we do not employ a zone defense. McBrick can't guard anyone, can't hit a shot yet he continues to play. Stokes is 1 for 10 at the free throw line yet he continues to play. We were lucky to win. Bring back Bruce.

What game were you watching?

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to 8inarow:

I just returned from TitleTown where the Gators cut down the nets for the outright SEC Championship.

You grew more pathetic each day. I for one, do not believe your mommy gives you enough allowance to even leave your basement, let alone "return" from anywhere.

SummittsCourt writes:

Alright, so this sets it up for Missouri on Saturday. A win almost locks up a tournament bid. A lose and UT will have to win out in the SEC tourney to make the big dance.

Lets Go Vols!

jimr07 writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

The charge drawn by McRae at the end was clear as day.

Glad to see Martin finally put Stokes on the bench, was not helping.

Defense lapsing again all over.

I thought we won

laraccoon writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

didnt i read that in the "idiots guide to free throw shooting " by Toddy Boy ?

gc_scvol writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Have you talked with CCM about this?

HtownVol writes:

Other than Stokes horrific free throw shooting I am gonna ssay something I am noticing that you all may not like.

C Martin needs to sit McBee more. He deserves to play but not near as much as he is.

He can not guard anyone. His defense is horrible lately and it leads to so many easy baskets for opponents. I know why he is in there, to keep defenses honest but honestly McRae is a better 3 point shooter right now and Golden is just as good.
McBee gets blown by multiple times every game. His one or two threes per game just done seem to be worth it when his man lights it up for 20 points ( or Elston Turner going off for 36, until Richardson was put on him).
If Tennessee makes the dance McBee may end up killing us by giving up layups and wide open jumpers.

No bash me if you want, just want what is best for UT.

GO VOLS

PHAT_VOL writes:

With Mammon back next year and Hubbs coming in we will be where we need to be to make a move on the SEC title.
GO VOLS!!!

HtownVol writes:

in response to SummittsCourt:

Alright, so this sets it up for Missouri on Saturday. A win almost locks up a tournament bid. A lose and UT will have to win out in the SEC tourney to make the big dance.

Lets Go Vols!

You are way off. A win will lock up a ticket but a loss does not mean we need to win the SEC tourney. Right now UT is like the 5th or 6th last team in, a loss would put them right on the edge but maybe not near as much as you are thinking... Because of Mizzouris RPI it will help UTs S.O.S. Mizzouri is maybe the best team in the SEC.

I think a loss may knock UT to the first 4 out and mean they need only 2 wins at most in the SEC tourney, one win would likely lock up a ticket.

HtownVol writes:

in response to SummittsCourt:

Alright, so this sets it up for Missouri on Saturday. A win almost locks up a tournament bid. A lose and UT will have to win out in the SEC tourney to make the big dance.

Lets Go Vols!

The bracket expert has UT in very safely.

The Full S-curve

ALL CAPS: conference leader

1. GONZAGA

2. KANSAS

3. INDIANA

4. GEORGETOWN

8. Michigan

7. MIAMI

6. Louisville

5. Duke

9. FLORIDA

10. Michigan St.

11. NEW MEXICO

12. Ohio State

16. Oklahoma St.

15. Syracuse

14. Kansas State

13. Marquette

17. Wisconsin

18. Unlv

19. Arizona

20. Pittsburgh

24. OREGON

23. Vcu

22. Notre Dame

21. SAINT LOUIS

25. Ucla

26. North Carolina

27. Colorado State

28. Butler

32. San Diego State

31. NC State

30. Missouri

29. MEMPHIS

33. Minnesota

34. CREIGHTON

35. Illinois

36. California

40. Oklahoma

39. Wichita State

38. Cincinnati

37. Saint Mary's

41. Colorado

42. Virginia

43. BELMONT

44. MIDDLE TENN.

48. AKRON

47. Iowa State

46. Boise State

45. La Salle

49. LA TECH

50. Temple

51. Villanova

52. Tennessee

56. STONY BROOK

55. VALPARAISO

54. DAVIDSON

53. BUCKNELL

57. SF AUSTIN

58. SO DAKOTA ST.

59. PRINCETON

60. LONG BEACH

64. NORTHEASTERN

63. MERCER

62. NIAGARA

61. MONTANA

65. ROBT. MORRIS

66. CHAS SOUTHERN

67. SOUTHERN U.

68. NORFOLK ST.

72. Alabama

71. Maryland

70. Ole Miss

69. Kentucky

73. Southern Miss

74. Baylor

75. Arizona State

76. Providence

bigdisbig writes:

As much as they struggled with the worst team in the SEC last night I don't see them beating Missouri. It looks like McBee is wearing ankle weights. When on offense with him in the game its 4 on 5. If you watch Skyler closely when someone else has the ball he stands in the corner watching. They are NOT an NCAA team.

jhncpps1 writes:

in response to Ironcity:

With both teams side by side and each looking at a twelve seed, I am afraid if I was on the committee I would take the team (Ole Miss)that beat the other team twice. Especially if they have a better conference record as well. I really think UT has some work to do to get in. I would feel better if we won the next one and had a strong showing at the tourney or at least beat Ole Miss in the tourney.

RPI Tennessee 56 : Ole Miss 57
SOS Tennessee 48 : Ole Miss 162
Non conf SOS Tennessee 46 : Ole Miss 288
vs RPI top 25 Tennessee 1-2 : Ole Miss 0-2
vs RPI top 50 Tennessee 2-3 : Ole Miss 1-3
vs RPI top 100 Tennessee 8-9 : Ole Miss 6-6
vs RPI top 150 Tennessee 11-11 : Ole Miss 10-6
vs RPI sub 150 Tennessee 7-0 : Ole Miss 12-2
Last 12 games Tennessee 9-3 : Ole Miss 6-6

Tennessee has a much better resume than Ole Miss and it would get a lot better with a win over Mizzou which is RPI 29 which would give UT 3 RPI top 15 wins and only 1 for ole miss (which was also Mizzou)...Georgia is the only sub 100 RPI team that UT has lost to...Ole Miss has two really bad losses to South Carolina and Mississippi State (both sub 200 RPI)

6futurevols writes:

Observations from the game:
- must win game and we won, but it should have never been this close
- Kenny Hall has been good on offense for several games now; he needs to quit trying to draw charging fouls and instead try to block some shots on these driving guards
- McBee was a big defensive liability last night. Got caught twice on off-ball screeens and gave up catch and shoot 3's, then got blown by for a traditional 3 point play when Hall got called for a block.
- As Golden goes, so go the Vols.
- If Stokes had been fully engaged he could have had 30 points last night. He was sleep walking and got a double/double. 1/10 at the line....ugh!
- McRae was off and still had 21. Several great passes, including a couple that were dropped.
- Moore played like a freshman. His minutes need to be limited. Some nice scoring, but some lapses on both offense and defense.
- we need somebody else to step up...Q or Reese, somebody when McBee isn't doing it.
we beat an emotionally charged Auburn team on Senior night, playing over their head. Always good to get the W.

8inarow writes:

in response to SummittsCourt:

You grew more pathetic each day. I for one, do not believe your mommy gives you enough allowance to even leave your basement, let alone "return" from anywhere.

Wow, you haven't had your Cheerios yet? Don't take it out on me that the Vols almost lost to the worst team in the SEC. Had it not been for the late calls, you probably would have.

HopeisNotaCourseofAction writes:

in response to decades_vol:

I think Tennessee came into this game thinking they were going to win. They almost thought wrong. They had enough composure, though, to rally again from behind and win on the road. This win, ragged as it was, puts the Vols at 4-1 in their last five SEC road games, and 7-1 in their last eight overall. Not bad at all. But for Tennessee's NCAA tournament chances, this thing is far from over. They'd better play against Missouri like it's an NCAA play-in game. The same goes for the SEC tournament. Tennessee can play their way into the NCAA. But they're going to have to earn their way in, by playing the best basketball that they can play.

Decades - Best post so far.

Mo game is a big concern, epecially if we play like we did vs uga and again last night.

brod writes:

it was ugly. very ugly. but it goes down as a W forever. my worst nightmares came true for stokes. martin had no choice but to take him out as he was a liability on free throws. he will be a target from now on. hope he can at least hit 50%.

vol98champ writes:

in response to HtownVol:

The bracket expert has UT in very safely.

The Full S-curve

ALL CAPS: conference leader

1. GONZAGA

2. KANSAS

3. INDIANA

4. GEORGETOWN

8. Michigan

7. MIAMI

6. Louisville

5. Duke

9. FLORIDA

10. Michigan St.

11. NEW MEXICO

12. Ohio State

16. Oklahoma St.

15. Syracuse

14. Kansas State

13. Marquette

17. Wisconsin

18. Unlv

19. Arizona

20. Pittsburgh

24. OREGON

23. Vcu

22. Notre Dame

21. SAINT LOUIS

25. Ucla

26. North Carolina

27. Colorado State

28. Butler

32. San Diego State

31. NC State

30. Missouri

29. MEMPHIS

33. Minnesota

34. CREIGHTON

35. Illinois

36. California

40. Oklahoma

39. Wichita State

38. Cincinnati

37. Saint Mary's

41. Colorado

42. Virginia

43. BELMONT

44. MIDDLE TENN.

48. AKRON

47. Iowa State

46. Boise State

45. La Salle

49. LA TECH

50. Temple

51. Villanova

52. Tennessee

56. STONY BROOK

55. VALPARAISO

54. DAVIDSON

53. BUCKNELL

57. SF AUSTIN

58. SO DAKOTA ST.

59. PRINCETON

60. LONG BEACH

64. NORTHEASTERN

63. MERCER

62. NIAGARA

61. MONTANA

65. ROBT. MORRIS

66. CHAS SOUTHERN

67. SOUTHERN U.

68. NORFOLK ST.

72. Alabama

71. Maryland

70. Ole Miss

69. Kentucky

73. Southern Miss

74. Baylor

75. Arizona State

76. Providence

Ok so UT is #52. Did you notice that 16 conference champions were listed after us? They are guaranteed a place at the table. Nothing is guaranteed to us unless we win the tournament. This team, especially Stokes, needs to put on big boy pants and play with passion every game. The CSS expert last night put Stokes on the SEC 1st team. He wasn't even on our 1st team last night.

jmaples54 writes:

in response to PHAT_VOL:

With Mammon back next year and Hubbs coming in we will be where we need to be to make a move on the SEC title.
GO VOLS!!!

i know you spell fat that way on purpose, but jerrone might prefer that you spell HIS name correctly: Maymon.

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