Xavier holds off Vols, 67-63

Xavier holds off Vols, 67-63

Associated Press

CINCINNATI — A game the Tennessee men’s basketball team felt would be an NCAA tournament resume builder and a statement that the new and improved Vols could and would start fast instead turned into a season-opening stumble.

Despite recovering from a terribly cold start and again cutting a Xavier lead to single digits in the second half, the Vols never led the Musketeers and lost 67-63 at the Cintas Center on Tuesday night.

Senior guard Jordan McRae hit a falling 3-point bank shot with 6.1 second to play to bring the Vols within two points, but two points were as close as the Vols ever got to snapping Xavier’s stranglehold on the scoring advantage that grew as large as 10.

It was the first time Tennessee had opened on the road since 2004. The loss snapped a 14-game winning streak in season openers for UT.

McRae led all scorers with 23 points. Xavier sophomore guard Semaj Christon, who scored just five points against the Vols in a loss last season, paced the Musketeers with 18.

Signs of trouble started early for UT when junior forward Jarnell Stokes, the key to the Vols’ offense, was sent to the bench with two early fouls. He played just five minutes in the first half and never got into a rhythm once he returned in the second. He eventually fouled out with four points.

Early, Stokes’ teammates failed to do much of anything without him. UT made one of its first 17 shot attempts and ended the half 8-of-30 from the field (26.7 percent), 1-of-9 from behind the arc (11.1 percent) and 3-of-12 from the free-throw line (25 percent). Only McRae found his stroke. His 13 first-half points on 5-of-10 shooting led all scorers at the time.

But Xavier failed to shut the door despite the Vols’ shooting woes. The Musketeers shot 41.4 percent from the field and 25 percent from 3-point range, just well enough to take a 27-20 lead into intermission.

The Vols cut that lead to two multiple times in the second half.

The Musketeers were favored by two to three points headed into the game. Usual Musketeers starter Justin Martin did not play due to a head injury sustained in the final minutes of Xavier’s 83-59 win on Friday. Junior guard Dee Davis (concussion) also sat. Freshman guard Myles Davis (knee) — both entered the game off the bench.

UT senior point guard Antonio Barton played his first minutes for the Vols. The graduate transfer from Memphis entered shortly after the start of the game and finished with 10 points. Josh Richardson added 13 for UT.

Ben Frederickson covers UT men’s basketball. Follow him at twitter.com/Ben_Fred

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Comments » 5

willphill#241787 writes:

The result should not surprise anyone. It is the same result we have had to endure for the last three years. Can't shoot free throws, can't adjust to game situations and outcoached. We lose important games. Thank you Mike Hamilton. Thank you UT administration. Thank you board of trustees. Thank you NCAA for your fair equitable treatment of Tennessee compared to other schools and coaches.

wazzya69vol writes:

Disappointing loss. Missed free throws a joke.

tntuba#225866 writes:

As badly as we played and as badly as we were coached. All we had to do was shoot 50% from the free throw line and we win. Just 50 flipping percent. 7 of 19. That issue needs to be fixed TODAY. They should be in the gym RIGHT NOW doing nothing but shooting free throws.

You hire a guy who's most significant post season success is in the CIT(You know, that tournament for schools that didn't make the NCAA tournament....OR the NIT) and you are surprised when he doesn't magically become a tournament coach at Tennessee?

With what we spend on facilitates, with what we pay for season tickets and with the fan support we have to offer, Tennessee deserves either a better product on the field / court, or we need some of our money back. We surly are getting our money's worth as fans.

westknoxrepub writes:

Since the NCAA's punishment toward Bruce was proven to be a joke compared to say Oregon or Ohio State how about we do the ring thing and Bring Back Bruce before someone else snatches him up and he takes them to the NCAA championship.

willphill#241787 writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

Since the NCAA's punishment toward Bruce was proven to be a joke compared to say Oregon or Ohio State how about we do the ring thing and Bring Back Bruce before someone else snatches him up and he takes them to the NCAA championship.

Couldn't agree more.

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