KNOXVILLE — The Tennessee Volunteers staved off the Vanderbilt Commodores’ last-minute rally to earn a 58-57 victory Tuesday evening at Thompson-Boling Arena in front of a crowd of 16,391.
Coming off a career rebounding game Saturday against Alabama, sophomore Jarnell Stokes again led the way with 19 points and 11 rebounds as the Vols (11-8, 3-4 SEC) wrapped up its two-game home stand with a pair of Southeastern Conference wins.
The final minute of the game came down to the wire between the in-state rivals in their first meeting of SEC play. Senior Skylar McBee hit the first of two free throws to give the Vols a 58-54 lead with 52 seconds left when Vanderbilt (8-11, 3-5) launched its final comeback attempt.
Vanderbilt’s Kedren Johnson made his first free throw and missed his second, but James Siakam tipped the shot back in to cut the Vols’ lead to 58-57 with 28.2 seconds remaining.
Vanderbilt regained possession off Jordan McRae’s missed free throw on the first of a one-and-one attempt. Vandy ran down the clock to five seconds and Johnson drove in for a final layup down the left side but missed. Kevin Bright missed on a putback attempt that bounced off the rim and time expired.
Stokes finished the game recording his sixth double-double of the season and eighth of his career. McBee hit 3-of-5 3-pointers and also finished in the double digits with 10 points.
Sophomore Josh Richardson added 6 points and 10 rebounds.
Freshman Brandon Lopez also contributed down the stretch after Trae Golden left the game with a leg injury. He played 10 minutes and had three assists and two rebounds.
The Vols were off to the races from the tipoff, jumping out to a 12-0 lead start. During that stretch, Stokes scored seven points to lead the Vols. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, committed four turnovers -- one on an offensive foul drawn by Skylar McBee -- and were 0-for-4 shooting.
The Commodores got on the scoreboard with a pair of free throws by James Siakam at the 13:13 mark. The team did not hit its first field goal until 11:53 in the first half.
Vanderbilt was far from being out of the game, however, cutting the Vols’ lead quickly with a 18-3 run.
Kyler Fuller made a basket while he was fouled driving to the lane to tie the game at 22-22 and gave Vanderbilt its first lead by making the free throw to complete the three-point play at 2:36. It ended up being Vanderbilt’s only lead of the night.
McBee drained a 3-pointer from the left wing on the Vols’ final possession of the half to give Tennessee a 27-23 halftime lead.
The Vols looked to be pulling away early in the second half, but Vanderbilt jumped on a 9-0 run to tie the game at 52-52 on a 3-pointer by Sheldon Jeter at the 6:00 mark.
Stokes completed a three-point play to put the Vols back ahead 55-52 with 4:14 remaining in the game. The basket was UT’s final field goal the rest of the game.
Johnson led Vanderbilt with 14 points and Josh Henderson added 13.
The Vols travel to Arkansas on Saturday for a road SEC tilt against Arkansas. It will be televised on ESPN2.
HEAD COACH Cuonzo Martin
"Good win... Big win for our guys. Those games take a toll on me, but it's great to get a win like that and even more impressive to get those key stops. We missed some free throws and gave up an offensive rebound at the free throw line, but we did a great job down the stretch of getting some key stops. Brandon Lopez came in and gave us a big boost at the point guard position. He made really big plays and good decisions. He was part of that stop down the stretch of the game. He accepted the challenge. It's a great win for us. Jarnell (Stokes) once again had another great game. He was physical, aggressive and stayed in attack mode. I thought Skylar (McBee) came off the bench and played well for us. That's his type of game, a rivalry game."
(On Trae Golden's injury)
"Right now we just know it's a right hamstring injury. Outside of that, I can't tell you anything else."
(On Jarnell's back-to-back games)
"I saw it coming. Just with the pace of his game. He's taking his time, but staying aggressive. I think it's also the development of the guys around him... Having the spacing, being able to make shots and make plays and getting a feel for how he operates. He's not the traditional big guy that plays with his back to the basket. He'll face-up and post-up around the blocks. Sometimes he's methodic with his post moves trying to feel it right, but he does a great job passing out of the post and then going off the dribble. We drew a play up for him and he made a play so just really getting a feel for him."
(On anticipating Vanderbilt's last play)
"We figured they would run a ball-screen. Lopez isn't a bad on-ball defender... He can keep you in front of him. They went away from it and came back to it, but I thought we had the right personnel in to get a stop. For us, it's just force those guys to make a play off the bounce. Brandon Lopez did a good job of keeping him in front of him and forcing him over the top, forcing him to take a tough shot."
(On the fast start)
"With any rivalry game - high school or college - it doesn't matter the records, the situation or the personnel. That's a lot of fight. That's a boxing match. I knew those guys wouldn't roll over. Kevin (Stallings) does a great job of preparing those guys. They run the Princeton-style offense. The last time we saw this was against Georgetown so it's not something we normally see with not a lot of prep time. Like I told our guys after the game, with three games in the six days, I was impressed with how they competed. Especially with how the games went down from an emotional standpoint, it can take areal toll on you. I was impressed with the way the guys finished it out."
(On if the ball went "their way" tonight)
"When the ball goes your way, you have to be prepared. You have to be in those situations before. Those situations have to have presented themselves and we've been through it. When Josh (Richardson) came over the bench we said `We've been here before. We'll get a stop and we know what it takes.' And we got a stop so it's not a case when you're looking at eyes and saying `Oh, here we go again.' And that's what you want to see. The guys feel it and understand it, but they've also matured as a team."
(On Jarnell Stokes' mentality)
"When you come in - as a 5-star guy and one of the top players in America and then the way he came in - he got a lot of press and a lot of fanfare. He had just turned 18, now he's 19. There's still a lot of room for growth and maturing as a basketball player. Sometimes you have to go through tough times or hard times in a game and eventually it clicks. I shot a bunch of 3-pointers my freshman and sophomore year and I didn't make them until my junior year of college. But I still shot a lot. Some guys develop at certain times, but his work ethic was never lacking so it was just a matter of when will it kick in. He's being assertive and the guys are going to him now. It just takes time - everybody is different."
(On the way Vanderbilt played Stokes)
"They were doubling him, but what happened was whenever he was posting, Kenny Hall's man was sitting in the lane. So now it's hard to throw the ball to him first of all and now he's off the block. In most cases, they're not defending Kenny on the perimeter. I don't think it was necessarily anything different. They just brought the double-team quicker... Almost as soon as he got it. So that forced the other guys to make plays and make shots."
(On Vanderbilt's final two shots)
"Josh (Henderson) made some big plays. He was attacking the rim and that's what he does. He attacks the rim off the ball screen. He's a 6-foot-3 or 6-foot-4 guard and knows how to use his hips to get around you... It wasn't going in."
(On moving players into the point guard position)
"I think what happens is we do not have a true point guard to get you going on the floor with your offense. Because we only ran about half of the offensive sets we would normally run. Jordan McRae is a scoring guard and he is known as a two guard and Josh Richardson is known as a three, so you are moving guys around and it is not easy to run a lot of sets. We do not have the time to all of the sudden go with fifteen or twenty different sets in a game, so it is just growing as a team and when you get in those situations, continuing moving and passing and adding space and getting the ball inside. I think in most cases when we get in those situations in the game and we get stagnate because we do not have a traditional point guard to facilitate and execute the offense."
(On Jordan McRae at point guard)
"He is a good player because he knows the plays. Now we run Jordan at that traditional spot as a two guard and Josh as a three and now you get down the floor on offense and run a play off of a ball screen with a bounce pass to Jarnell for a shot and he gets the rebound because he knows where he is supposed to be. It is just a little bit tougher for Jordan McRae to be a two after two years and now all of the sudden he has to know all of these plays, so we did not put that kind of pressure on him to run a motion off the edge and now he knows about five sets in his mind that he knows how to run and execute. Brandon Lopez knows what is going on at that position because he has been there but it is also because Brandon has not played in a while and not a whole lot in practice because of five-on-five but he is locked in and I knew he would be ready to play and he would be ready to go."
(On winning on the last possession)
"We talk to our guys about how in order to get to something you have to go through something and I think for our guys going through tough losses it made them a tough group, a resilient group and those losses can really take a toll on you. Now when you get blown out by twenty points you say, 'ok lets go back and fight another day,' but when you lose the way you lose and you miss free throws... In the Ole Miss game we missed those free throws and you lose a game, tonight you miss those free throws and you win the ball game by settling down and getting a stop to win the game. I just think our guys have continued to put their hard hat on and work hard in practice and they really have developed a brotherhood amongst each other and they have a passion for one another and with that they have a chance to be successful."
(On winning every possession)
"We are getting there, we probably had a seventy five percent clip. We just really have to take pride on every possession and give those guys credit, like I said I thought Jarnell has really improved his overall game with those rebounds and defending and being more vocal, but when you run those ball screens and Jarnell is constantly setting the edge on those ball screens and that is not an easy thing to do when you have perimeter shooters out there because now you have to be the help. For us if we gave up anything it would be a lay-up late in the game, but for us we will give up a lay-up as opposed to a three point shot. If you look at the percentages there is probably about sixteen percent of the time they prefer a pass as opposed to seventy percent as a three point shot."
(On the play of Josh Richardson and Armani Moore)
"It is great. I think Josh really rebounded, thought he played really hard. He was locked in, he was aggressive. With Josh and Armani, those are two 6'5, 6'6 guards who will go up and rebound like that, and those guys have to in order for us to be successful for the smaller guys because in most places, Jordan and the other guys are safeties playing back so we do not get transition baskets against us, so Josh and Armani did a great job rebounding for us."
(On Trae Golden's injury)
"As much as I know right now is that it is a right hamstring, I am not sure of the extent of it right now."
(On Brandon Lopez's play)
"I thought he played well. He had the one turnover, he through it up the court to Jordan and put him in a tough situation and the first thing he said was that it was his fault. He knew that because he put Jordan in a vulnerable situation and Jordan got the turnover. He knows what is going on. The one thing he does is he pushes the ball so now guys can get out a run. I think with him on the floor it really helps Jordan get out and run to make plays in transition."
"The one thing about Lopez is he is not fazed by the opponent, that does not bother him. Like he says, he is from the east side, so he is not worried about any of that. He battles and he competes but it is a credit to him because he is mentally locked in the games and he is ready to go. I was not worried about putting him into the game. He is also one of the best cheerleaders so he is locked in and ready to go. He is one of those guys telling a guy who comes out of the game what is going on and tells them to be ready because this is about to happen."
SENIOR GUARD Skyler McBee
(On Vanderbilt catching up in the ball game)
"I don't know if we necessarily let up. We shut them out there for a little while but that just isn't going to happen in college basketball. You aren't going to shut a team like that out for the entire game. I thought they started doing a better job moving the ball, but we had some miscommunications. They play a four guard line up with a big man coming out and screening, there is a lot of switching but communication still has to go on. I think we broke down a little, late in the first half and early in the first half."
(On the surprise of Vanderbilt not getting a lot of threes)
"I think that half of their shots usually come from the three. I don't think it was like that tonight. We did a good job pressing out. We switched everything so I guess it made them extend a little bit more. It also spaced the floor a little more where they had a little more driving room but that was the game plan. We weren't really helping off the drive too much because we knew they were a 3 point shooter team, but they did a good job getting to the goal tonight."
(On the fatigue after playing so many games)
"Well I think playing 3 games in 6 days is tough on anybody. It is tough especially for all those guys getting a lot of heavy minutes. You are out there trying to play hard especially with the way Coach Martin wants us to play. Playing as hard as you can play the whole time you are out there. I thought we did a good job battling that especially late in the second half when we needed to get some stops. We ended up coming up with them and it is good to have that win."
(On the affect of Brandon Lopez coming in as point guard)
"Brandon (Lopez) did a great job tonight. He came in and gave us the lift not only offensively but defensively too. He is a guy that is going to come in there and play as hard as he can play. He did a great job finding Jarnell (Stokes). He is a team guy and will do whatever it takes to get us a win."
SOPHOMORE FORWARD Jarnell Stokes
(On Tennessee defense)
"I think Coach made the right call. You know, you're going to have to switch every ball screen. This team, they had been getting to the line well, they'd been making shots down the stretch. I think he definitely made the right call."
(On having confidence)
"I always want to stay confident. I think my game, I'm not rushing plays. If I get double team, read the simple play, pass it out. Then I want to thank my teammates for just giving me the ball more."
(On first few minutes)
"They sort of changed this game. They started double -teaming. I guess the farther the game went on, they made plays on the defensive end that I guess they carried over. They made plays on the offensive end. I guess they carried over to the defense. I think I did a good job rebounding again. Today, offensively it went well. I still left a lot of points out there on the board, but I think overall it went well."
(On personal improvements)
"Not really. I think, a lot of things didn't go my way a couple games. I had no idea what's coming. I started going to church more. I started praying more. I just stayed confident in my game and it just happened that way."
(On early lead)
"Yes, we definitely, I think we did. I think we sort of slowed the ball down, we didn't stay aggressive like we were supposed to. They also hit some big shots. They're a three point shooting team and that's what they did."
SOPHOMORE GUARD Josh Richardson
(On Vanderbilt tying up the game)
"We loosened up on defense. We definitely let them get a couple of easy buckets. We can't have games like that where we lose a little bit of intensity."
(On the fast break at the beginning of the game)
"I think as we get deeper into the season if we get fast starts like that we can't loosen up that is when we lose the intensity."
(On moving forward back-to-back 1-point wins)
"It gives us confidence but we also know that when we get big leads or leads at all like we had 10 points ahead in the second half we definitely let them come back. We have to keep teams down more."
(On Jarnell Stokes)
"He has been on the boards like crazy. He has definitely been scoring well. He has been getting double teamed and still scoring through those. He gets pretty much every rebound it seems like these days. He has been playing like a man."
(On Jarnell Stokes' mentality)
"He hasn't really been worried about trying to get fouled, he has been going up strong and playing through it."
(On Brandon Lopez stepping in for Trae Golden)
"That was a big role. He is also an energy guy and he definitely brought that tonight. He got big stops for us."
(On Jarnell Stokes' rebounding)
"It is a big plus I can tell you that much. When you have a guy like that who can just dominate in the paint at anytime it definitely makes things a lot easier."
(On playing 3 games in 6 days)
"We felt good. I know I know I felt good. I got a little winded at the end, a little fatigue but we definitely have to play through that."
SOPHOMORE GUARD Brandon Lopez
(On not being intimidated)
"Coach just always tell us one through fifteen to always stay ready. I try to remember all the plays one through five position wise, because you'll never know when you'll be in transition or anything like that. I feel like that's my role as a player to know everything that's going on on the floor."
(On playing for Tennessee)
"My mother just always says keep your faith in God. That's what I always hear, so I guess you can say that."
(On comfort level)
"I felt real comfortable. I'm not sure of that many games that I haven't played in a stretch, but it really doesn't affect me."
(On staying ready)
"It's really not that hard. Coach Martin always tells us one through fifteen, stay engaged."
(On last second wins)
"It gives us a confidence level that we can close out games. Like even though we did bad and missed a few free throws in the clutch, don't look down about that. Don't worry about that and make a stop defensively."
(On Trae Golden's injury)
"Yes, it's whatever Coach needs me to help out, that's what I'll do."
(On Kedren Johnson)
"Yes, I've been playing against him. The spring of my eighth grade year is when I think I really saw him. Then freshmen year, I thought, he's real good now. He really is. No, I think it was sophomore year at camp he was a top player in the state."
HEAD COACH KEVIN STALLINGS
"I thought that we really got exactly what we wanted (on the final play). We were going to take the first good shot that we got, but we were absolutely ok with a shot toward the end of the clock and a chance at a tip. It worked out perfectly with the exception of the ball going in the basket. Kedren (Johnson) got a really good look and Kevin (Bright) got an even better one, but sometimes they don't go in. The team executed well. I thought our team really executed the last two or three minutes of the game to give ourselves a chance to win. It's a shame for our kids that ball didn't go in because that was a good effort by them."
(On the team's effort)
"We picked up the intensity a little bit defensively and did a better job of getting them to help spots and closing off drives, but we also gave up some prior to that that put us in a little bit of a jam. But sometimes a game comes down to whether a ball goes in the basket or not and it's the cruelty sometimes of the game. No coach wants to give up those two shots that we had at game point and we're able to get it right to where we want it at the basket, and it doesn't go in. It's a tough way to lose, but I'm happy with my team. We competed. I thought Stokes was awfully good for them. He was very difficult for us, particularly in the first half, but we kept grinding and kept making plays, they missed free throws and gave us a bit more of a chance."
(On defending Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes)
"Josh (Henderson) was the best of the guys that we played at that position by a lot and I don't know that he ever neutralized Stokes. He won the battle against everybody tonight, but Josh played well for us tonight, if he keeps playing like that, it makes us a better team."
(On if there was an effort to take more three-pointers)
"There's no design, we're going to try to take the best available shot, so it doesn't matter to us. Kedren kept getting to the basket in the second half. I don't know how many layups he had, but he kept getting to the basket. That's what got us back in the game, he broke down the defense and got us to the goal and got us layups and threes."
(On recovering from the slow start)
"I thought that was certainly a point that, after what happened to us on Saturday, doubt could start creeping in. But I wasn't going to bail them out with a timeout, they were going to find their way through it and they did, they came back and actually got the lead before we lost again before halftime. They got the lead and showed a lot of competitive character after that though."
(On Kedren Johnson's game)
"When he plays like he did in the second half, he's a difference maker. That's the first road game that we've seen Kedren play that way. He got in a little foul trouble in the first half and came out determined and aggressive in the second half and got us back in the game."
VISITORS: Vanderbilt 8-11, 2-5 SEC
TOT-FG 3-PT REBOUNDS
## Player Name FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
00 Odom, Rod........... f 1-3 0-2 0-0 0 1 1 1 2 1 2 1 0 32
35 Siakam, James....... c 1-2 0-0 2-2 1 1 2 1 4 0 1 0 0 13
02 Johnson, Kedren..... g 4-13 0-2 6-7 0 1 1 3 14 1 2 0 0 23
15 Bright, Kevin....... g 1-4 1-3 0-0 2 4 6 2 3 1 1 1 2 32
24 Parker, Dai-Jon..... g 3-5 0-0 1-2 0 1 1 3 7 2 2 0 1 22
11 Fuller, Kyle........ 2-7 1-2 1-1 0 4 4 3 6 2 1 0 0 31
21 Jeter, Sheldon...... 3-4 2-2 0-0 1 6 7 1 8 0 1 1 1 20
34 Moats, Shelby....... 0-1 0-0 0-0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
40 Henderson, Josh..... 6-10 0-0 1-2 2 1 3 2 13 1 0 0 0 26
TEAM................ 1 4 5
Totals.............. 21-49 4-11 11-14 8 23 31 16 57 8 10 3 4 200
TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 9-22 40.9% 2nd Half: 12-27 44.4% Game: 42.9% DEADB
3-Pt. FG% 1st Half: 2-7 28.6% 2nd Half: 2-4 50.0% Game: 36.4% REBS
F Throw % 1st Half: 3-3 100 % 2nd Half: 8-11 72.7% Game: 78.6% 2
HOME TEAM: Tennessee 11-8, 3-4 SEC
TOT-FG 3-PT REBOUNDS
## Player Name FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
05 Stokes,Jarnell...... f 8-12 0-0 3-4 7 4 11 3 19 3 2 3 1 31
20 Hall,Kenny.......... f 2-2 0-0 1-2 1 1 2 2 5 1 3 1 0 21
01 Richardson,Josh..... g 2-5 0-0 2-2 1 9 10 3 6 0 0 1 1 31
04 Moore,Armani........ g 2-7 0-1 0-0 1 0 1 0 4 0 0 1 1 14
52 McRae,Jordan........ g 2-10 0-2 3-5 0 2 2 1 7 0 3 1 0 37
00 Makanjuola,Yemi..... 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2
03 Reese,Derek......... 2-4 0-2 0-0 0 1 1 0 4 2 0 0 0 20
11 Golden,Trae......... 0-3 0-0 3-4 0 1 1 0 3 1 0 0 0 11
13 McBee,Skylar........ 3-7 3-5 1-2 0 1 1 1 10 0 1 0 0 23
24 Lopez,Brandon....... 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 1 2 1 0 3 0 0 0 10
TEAM................ 1 1 2 1
Totals.............. 21-50 3-10 13-19 12 21 33 12 58 10 10 7 3 200
TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 10-24 41.7% 2nd Half: 11-26 42.3% Game: 42.0% DEADB
3-Pt. FG% 1st Half: 2-6 33.3% 2nd Half: 1-4 25.0% Game: 30.0% REBS
F Throw % 1st Half: 5-8 62.5% 2nd Half: 8-11 72.7% Game: 68.4% 0
Officials: Tony Greene, John Cahill, Ted Valentine
Technical fouls: Vanderbilt-None. Tennessee-None.
Score by Periods 1st 2nd Total
Vanderbilt.................... 23 34 - 57
Tennessee..................... 27 31 - 58
Points in the paint-VU 26,UT 30. Points off turnovers-VU 13,UT 11.
2nd chance points-VU 4,UT 12. Fast break points-VU 2,UT 2.
Bench points-VU 27,UT 17. Score tied-2 times. Lead changed-2 times.
Last FG-VU 2nd-00:29, UT 2nd-04:14.
Largest lead-VU by 1 1st-02:36, UT by 14 1st-10:32.
(E-mail Stan Crawley at email@example.com)