Season ends for Vols in NIT opener, 75-67

Season comes to an end in NIT opener

Tennessee looks on from the bench late in the second half against Mercer during the first round of the NIT Wednesday, March 20, 2013, at Thompson-Boling Arena. Mercer won 75-67 over Tennessee. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee looks on from the bench late in the second half against Mercer during the first round of the NIT Wednesday, March 20, 2013, at Thompson-Boling Arena. Mercer won 75-67 over Tennessee. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

It’s curtains for 2012-13.

In a listless performance in front of a sparse crowd aided only by curtains masking the upper deck of Thompson-Boling Arena, Tennessee’s season met its end Wednesday night. Mercer, the regular-season champions of the Atlantic Sun Conference, handed UT a 75-67 loss in the first round of the National Invitational Tournament.

Just a few days ago, the Vols wanted the NCAA tournament.

Instead their season is over with a 20-13 record.

“It was weird because when we played Missouri (in the regular-season finale), we felt like that was our last home game,” said UT point guard Trae Golden, who finished with a team-high 20 points. “Coming back to Thompson-Boling was tough.”

An announced crowd of 4,468 saw second-seeded Tennessee lose on its home floor in the NIT for a second straight year. Last season, it was Middle Tennessee State doing the deed.

Seventh-seeded Mercer (24-11), which advanced to play third-seeded BYU (21-11), was led by 25 points from senior guard Travis Smith and 15 points on 7-for-7 shooting by junior center Daniel Coursey.

Sophomore Jarnell Stokes led Tennessee with 14 points and 13 rebounds, 12 coming on the offensive end.

“(Mercer) played this game like it was the end of their lives,” said Stokes, who recorded his 16th double-double of the season. “They’re a good opponent. I don’t feel like we played as hard as we needed to win the game against a team like this.”

For the Vols, the loss fit a disheartening end to a start-and-go season. They began the season 11-10, then won nine of 10 games to close the regular season. It all ended with losses in the SEC tournament quarterfinals to Alabama and the NIT first round.

“It was a good season,” said Tennessee second-year coach Cuonzo Martin, adding, “I don’t think these last two games define our season.”

Trailing much of the game, the Vols used a 5-0 spurt midway through the second half to cut the deficit to 50-46.

Three straight Mercer field goals later — a second-chance layup by Jakob Gollon, a baby jumper from Langston Hall and a floater by Smith — UT trailed 59-49 with 5 minutes, 19 seconds remaining.

“They did a good job running their offense and controlling the tempo,” Stokes said. “At the end of the day, they basically did a good job on both ends. That’s what lost us the game, discouraged or not (about missing the NCAA tournament).”

The Vols came no closer than six the rest of the way.

Fueled by 10 points apiece from Coursey and Smith, along with 10-for-33 shooting by the Vols, Mercer claimed a 34-28 halftime lead. UT jumped ahead 27-24 before giving up a 10-1 Mercer run to close the half.

The Vols shot 37.9 percent from the field (22-58), finishing 7-of-24 from 3-point range, and 16-of-24 from the free-throw line.

Mercer made 16-of-21 free throws and 7-of-18 3-pointers.

Despite playing a long, late stretch of the second half with Coursey on the bench with four fouls, Mercer continually kept UT at bay. The Bears never surrendered their halftime lead, controlling the action with a sharp, cutting offense.

Josh Richardson added nine points for Tennessee.

While the Vols’ season officially wrapped up on Wednesday, it might as well have ended on Selection Sunday. UT never rebounded from being snubbed for the NCAA tournament in favor of other bubble teams MTSU, LaSalle, Boise State and St. Mary’s.

On Monday, Jordan McRae said, “There’s no sense in making matters worse by going Wednesday and losing this first game.”

The worse got worse.

McRae, a first-team All-SEC selection, struggled through a 3-for-14 performance from the field, making 1-of-7 3-pointers, and scored seven points.

“We came out slow, they came out with a ton of energy,” McRae said. “We expected that, but the way they jumped on us, even when we got close in the game, they made big shot after big shot.”

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

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Comments » 308

maciste54 writes:

Yawnnnnn !!! Somebody say something ?

volcycle writes:

Well that was a wimper. Glad we weren't in NCAAs.

eepwlg writes:

Why did they bother to show up?

redskinvol1 writes:

Bruce never lost a NIT game.That's because Bruce always went Dancing.I miss Bruce!!

rabidvol1998 writes:

They look so good when they win and sooooo bad when they lose. Interesting team. Stay together and come back and show us what you can do next year.

BackAShoneysnFleas writes:

Tennessee needed to shoot more 3's - just kidding. A pretty poor effort tonight. Totally outplayed and out coached by Mercer.

pcshowtime writes:

how much longer until our real coach is able to come back this interim coach team's are hard to watch.

glrockytop writes:

I just watched Kentucky!!

jimr07 writes:

I usually do not make comments but how embarrassing can it be..cue the kats retribution from the way we bashed them for losing some school called morris

Triggaman187 writes:

I ACTUALLY BOUGHT NIT CHAMP. TICKETS FOR APRIL 4TH...I WAS A FOOL TO THINK THIS SOFT TEAM CAN ACTUALLY MAKE IT THERE...CLOWN-ZO MARTIN HAS GOT TO BE FIRED...

cdamna1 writes:

I agree with the "outcoached" and "outplayed" assessment.

oldbasshead writes:

Go Lady Vols. You are our last hope this season. Boy Vols are done.

vut5686#1405392 writes:

We spent the week whinning about being snubbed. We gave the invitors...and others..valid reasons to say, "I told you so." Not much left to say except that it is what it is. We played some good games and too many poor ones, tonight included. A good team, and one worthy of being in the NCAA wins tonight and over half of those we lost. Not much more to say about this year. One can hope for a more consistent effort next year. This team must look in the mirror and admit they just did not strap it on every night.

laraccoon writes:

they played half a game , half a season .

pcshowtime writes:

I am a vols fan stuck in bama. All I hear on the radio is how bama and auburn basketball fans want bruce pearl. As they radio hosts put it he rejuvenates dead programs. they are actually talking about letting barbi coach another year at auburn just for the chance to hire bruce in 2014.

massvolfan writes:

Honk if you're surprised.

MR_VOL writes:

No big surprise to me. This is where I bought into Martin last year only to have my eyes opened with his lack of coaching knowledge and then followed by disappointment [lost to MTSU]. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me [and there is no shame on me tonight].

I dislike being negative, but I simply cannot see anything to be excited about next year with UT Men's Basketball unless there are personnel changes within Martin's coaching staff, which I do not see. I find it very disheartening and disappointing to see the VOLS repeatedly playing without emotion, direction, and game plan. Also, it appears to me that the VOLS continually gets beat by what seems to be less talented teams that are simply better coached.

If college basketball games were won by drinking water, shuffling feet, and licking fingers, Martin would be undefeated.

notorange writes:

in response to jimr07:

I usually do not make comments but how embarrassing can it be..cue the kats retribution from the way we bashed them for losing some school called morris

I laughed and slapped my leg with delight after ky lost last night...now i feel a little guilty for doing that.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

Terrible display of defense..How many times does a team have to score on the same play before CCM attempts to change his defensive scheme??

jimr07 writes:

It was fun to watch a bunch of sleep walkers play basketball.

oldster writes:

Snubbed by the NCAA? I think they proved how smart the committee is. UT has rarely played well in any post-season tournament and are always a disappointment in such a setting (including when they had Ernie and Bernie). The Vols simply fade when the chips are down. When the tough gets going, the Vols quit. It is that simple.

GR82BTNVOL writes:

Thank heaven--it's finally over!

standfast#211788 writes:

The boys from Mercer are probably celebrating right now in the finest dressing room they have ever seen. In the other dressing room, Cuonzo is still probably trying to figure out why we didn't get into the NCAA tourney.

oldster writes:

in response to rabidvol1998:

They look so good when they win and sooooo bad when they lose. Interesting team. Stay together and come back and show us what you can do next year.

They will do similarly next year. They will get beaten early by a bunch of nobodies. Come on strong near the end, and fade down the stretch. Then, in the SEC and NIT, they will win a total of one or two games in whatever post season tournaments they get in.

RubyBegonia writes:

Wonder if gonzo still thinks we belong in the big show?

8inarow writes:

On the positive side, McRae and Stokes will be back because no NBA team will consider these slackers.

GerryOP writes:

in response to maciste54:

Yawnnnnn !!! Somebody say something ?

Nope. Nobody said a word.

JimmyJoe writes:

Why did our AD not explain to our dimwitted coach... And it's obvious now that he don't freakin get it... That he needed to come out and blow this team out...send a message to the NCAA that we did belong.... Because it should be obvious to everyone on the planet that w don't belong anywhere. SUNDAY WAS EMOTIONALLY DRAINING? ARE YOU KIDDING ME CUONZO?!?!? ARE WE TALKING MEN OR LITTLE GIRLS!!!! You got OUTCOACHED, outplayed, outclassed, outprided, out everythinged. and guess what! The SEC will be better next year...what will be your excuse then! This is stupid. Why don't you stupid media guys stand up and tell it like it is... Instead of being to afraid to call CUONZO out? This is the second year of this... And when is it ever going to gt better? Never... Not with this coaching staff.

dvols writes:

sec s u x
two bruce's is better tthan one..!

wilk58 writes:

They got schooled.

willphill#241787 writes:

in response to rabidvol1998:

They look so good when they win and sooooo bad when they lose. Interesting team. Stay together and come back and show us what you can do next year.

The definition of "insanity" is to keep doing the same thing over and over(being coached by Martin) and expect the result to be different.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

Next years new banner reads: 2013 NIT losers 1st round

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

Hey guys...
Congrats to Mercer.

Nothing else.

chipmurphy461 writes:

I'm a loyal UT fan, but Martin isn't the answer! Our men's program has regressed since Pearl's departure and all of us who have endured Tennessee men's basketball being irrelevant for years cannot just sit by and allow it to continue to decline. Martin's a great guy etc. etc., but we need a coach that can win basketball games! Tennessee isn't the most sought after basketball head coaching job, let's not make it any less desirable! Pearl lost several players in one season (Tyler Smith etc.) and UT still made the NCAA tourney so no slack for losing Maymon.

oldster writes:

in response to MR_VOL:

No big surprise to me. This is where I bought into Martin last year only to have my eyes opened with his lack of coaching knowledge and then followed by disappointment [lost to MTSU]. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me [and there is no shame on me tonight].

I dislike being negative, but I simply cannot see anything to be excited about next year with UT Men's Basketball unless there are personnel changes within Martin's coaching staff, which I do not see. I find it very disheartening and disappointing to see the VOLS repeatedly playing without emotion, direction, and game plan. Also, it appears to me that the VOLS continually gets beat by what seems to be less talented teams that are simply better coached.

If college basketball games were won by drinking water, shuffling feet, and licking fingers, Martin would be undefeated.

Were I coaching this team, I could not do better, I know. However, I would certainly fix one problem. I would jerk anyone who shot a three without the ball going into the paint first. I would not care if it went in or not. It would not take long before that lesson would be learned.

oldbasshead writes:

Im afraid we are stuck with Martin. As everyone knows, UT is dead broke and until the football team gets back to earning money, UT is not going to do any more buyouts. Maybe Martin will learn and come on strong, but in any event he is going to be around a while.

BigOrangeFreak writes:

in response to standfast#211788:

The boys from Mercer are probably celebrating right now in the finest dressing room they have ever seen. In the other dressing room, Cuonzo is still probably trying to figure out why we didn't get into the NCAA tourney.

Cuonzo better be shining up that resume.

He's got one more year. Another lackluster season next year and he's gone.

oldster writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

Terrible display of defense..How many times does a team have to score on the same play before CCM attempts to change his defensive scheme??

Does he have more than one?

rusty_shackleford writes:

Good grief! At least more people were present to see UT get embarrassed than see UK get embarrassed. Face it, SEC basketball stinks on ice!

1vavolfan writes:

Maybe Coach Hoffman can come and teach CCM some things about offense in the offseason. I was impressed with their backdoor cuts and shot selection. Hard to win when you shoot 3's and the other team shoots layups.

oldster writes:

in response to jimr07:

It was fun to watch a bunch of sleep walkers play basketball.

That was a basketball game? Oh, I thought I was watching, "Night of the Living Dead."

yabadabadoo1026 writes:

to our folks who just couldnt show restraint and wait to after this game to laugh at Kentucky, you all look so predictably foolish now but you will never learn better

8inarow writes:

in response to JimmyJoe:

Why did our AD not explain to our dimwitted coach... And it's obvious now that he don't freakin get it... That he needed to come out and blow this team out...send a message to the NCAA that we did belong.... Because it should be obvious to everyone on the planet that w don't belong anywhere. SUNDAY WAS EMOTIONALLY DRAINING? ARE YOU KIDDING ME CUONZO?!?!? ARE WE TALKING MEN OR LITTLE GIRLS!!!! You got OUTCOACHED, outplayed, outclassed, outprided, out everythinged. and guess what! The SEC will be better next year...what will be your excuse then! This is stupid. Why don't you stupid media guys stand up and tell it like it is... Instead of being to afraid to call CUONZO out? This is the second year of this... And when is it ever going to gt better? Never... Not with this coaching staff.

Because your AD is in Birmingham signing his new contract.

eb502us#225637 writes:

It's sad how truly clueless CCM is.

He's beginning to remind me of Buzz Peterson though no coach could be that bad even if they didn't try. Only positive of this loss is that Martin took his first step toward the door. Next year will truly be make or break.

orangecountyvols writes:

Vols,

It finally dawned on me................there really is a true definition of NIT............."not important tournament."

This is evidenced by the 'little people' like Robert Morris and Mercer caring far more about themselves than two teams we know about.

But there was a real benefit from this lethargic showing. The benefit is real............for the Lady Vols. They now see what can happen when you cannot shoot free throws, cannot defend, cannot make all those 3's........yet give them up like layups.

I would be shocked if the Lady Vols didn't learn what will happen if they show up in a similar fashion.

As for the Vols themselves. We know it would have been a long trip home with a road loss. This saved a lot of travel time and money.

They showed Kentucky whatever they did losing wise.........we can do better !

Go Lady Vols

knoxtenn writes:

Cuonzo still stumped about the "snub?"

takespix writes:

SEC basketball is pathetic. There are half a dozen teams in Conference USA that would mop the floor with the likes of Florida and Ole Miss. Tennessee and Alabama would finish dead last in it.

jt45 writes:

Alot of fans just got snubbed by their home team tonight. Losing at TBA with a halfhearted effort by a couple of players should be reason enough for Martin to think carefully about who he intends to play next year if he intends to stay at UT much longer. By next season he is going to need more than bottled water to avoid the hot seat.

Giverny writes:

Ahhh, just as I expected.......it looks like the bandwagon will be empty in a day or two....

I'll get busy preparing a place in the barn to store it....I'll check back and take it off your hands for a few pennies on the dollar.....

I suspect it will need some suspension work given the way everyone was on board....just like Kiffin's and Dooley did...

I realize I will probably have to hang on to it until this time next year but I should be able to get top dollar for it and the new coach then....

lomas98 writes:

The players were just about as interested as the fans. There was a lot of disappointment running through the team and fans by getting so close to NCAA. The fans showed their interest by less than 5k and players had about the same emotion. Played a team excited to be here and we simply were not. Not making excuses, just is what it is. When you are a bubble team that is that close to making it in, this tournament is pointless. Nothing good can come out of it. Nobody remembers winning the thing and most don't care, everybody will remember when a loss occurs though. Tis tournament is built for teams like mercer who didn't get their automatic bid and they can have a second season. At least they saved us the misery of traveling across the country to play a byu team who rarely loses at home.

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