Tennessee guard Jordan McRae, in befuddlement, searched for an answer before saying, “I mean I felt like I was taking shots I normally take. It wasn’t really going in tonight.”
The 2012-13 basketball season didn’t end how any UT player wanted. None more so than McRae.
Looking to shape a storybook trip to the NCAA tournament, the season’s final chapter was instead written in back-to-back losses to Alabama in the SEC tournament last Friday and Mercer in Wednesday night’s first round of the National Invitational Tournament.
McRae entered the Alabama game averaging 22.3 points over UT’s nine prior games. The Vols won eight of them.
Then misfortune struck McRae. March Madness brought chilly temps. The junior guard, an All-SEC first team selection by both the SEC coaches and media, could only muster 16 points in UT’s final two games combined.
He did so on 6-of-27 shooting. Four 3-pointers fell on 15 attempts and he went 0-3 from the free-throw line.
In the 75-67 loss to visiting Mercer, McRae finished with seven points on 3-for-14 shooting.
He finished the season as UT’s leading scorer at 15.7 points per game.
No Shining Moment: Given their combined 247 career games played, UT senior Skylar McBee and Kenny Hall probably deserved a better going out party. Neither will want to remember their last game at Thompson-Boling Arena.
McBee produced only three points in 29 minutes.
In just seven minutes of action, Hall scored two points and posted a plus-minus of minus-15.
The Rebound Record Books: Pulling down 13 rebounds, 12 on the offensive end, against Mercer, sophomore forward Jarnell Stokes upped his season average to 9.6 per game. That’s the highest average by a UT player since Ian Lockhart pulled down 10.9 per game in 1990.
Stokes finished with 318 rebounds. The program record by a sophomore is 357 by Gene Tormohlen in 1957. The overall single-season record is Tormohlen’s 384 in 1958.
A Terrible Tournament: The NIT is not a friendly place for Tennessee.
Not only because it amounts to a side stage for the NCAA tournament’s festival.
With the loss to Mercer, the Vols have now lost six of their last seven games of the tournament, dating back to a 25-point, second-round loss to Virginia in 1992. The other loses in that stretch were to College of Charleston (1996), Georgetown (2003), George Mason (2004) and Middle Tennessee State (2012).
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn.