PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas -- Tennessee suffered a 78-70 defeat to UTEP at Imperial Arena in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Miners' defenses of a triangle-and-2 and box-and-1 caused havoc with the Vols' offense most of the game as UT shot 34.9 from the floor including 3-of-21 from 3-point range. UTEP shot 58 from the floor.
Jordan McRae led the Vols (3-2) with 22 points while Jarnell Stokes posted his 20th career double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds. Josh Richardson added 13 points.
UTEP (4-2) had four players in double-figures: McKenzie Moore (19), John Bohannon (16), Julian Washburn (12) and Justin Crosgile (12)
The Vols were hurt by poor free-throw shooting, making just 23-of-39 for 59 percent.
The one positive for the Vols was their rebound work as Tennessee out rebounded the Miners, 45-28, including a 26-6 edge on the offensive glass. The Vols' total was the most since they grabbed 28 vs. the College of Charleston on Dec. 31, 2010.
Down by 15 points with less than seven minutes left, the Vols rallied to cut the margin to nine on a quick personal 6-0 burst by McRae with 5:25 left.
Tennesse continued to battle and reduced the deficit to seven on a dunk by Stokes with three minutes left at 65-58, but UTEP quickly responded with a fast break lay-up.
McRae's pair of free throws brought UT within six at 67-61 with 2:35 left. That was the closest the Vols would get in the second half.
A 3-pointer by Crosgile regained a three possession lead for UTEP, 70-61.
UTEP maintained at least a 7-point lead for the rest of the way to secure its first-ever win over Tennessee.
UTEP took a 15-point lead on a Moore layup with 6:45 left in regulation. That put the Miners ahead 60-45.
The Miners opened the second half on a 10-4 run to take a 14-point lead for the first time at 46-32, five minutes into the half.
UTEP closed off the first half strong to hold a 36-28 lead at intermission. The Miners scored 16 of the final 23 points in the period.
The Miners took advantage of efficient shooting from the floor, making 16-of-29 for 55.2 percent, while the Vols were mired in a 9-of-32 half for 28 percent. UTEP outscored the Vols 11-2 in points off turnovers.
Tennessee dominated the boards in the first half with a 27-15 advantage. That included a 15-3 edge on the offensive glass.
Down 19-12, the Vols ripped off eight points in a row to regain the lead at 20-19 as freshman Darius Thompson knocked down the first 3-pointer of his career with 5:39 left in the first half.
Tennesse fell behind 17-10 with a little more than nine minutes left in the first half on a Matt Willms layup.
The Vols will face Xavier for the second time in six games this season in the consolation bracket on Friday at 1 p.m. The game will air on AXS.tv and can be heard on the Vol Network. The Musketeers posted a 67-63 win in the season opener played in Cincinnati on Nov. 12.
Tennessee Head Coach Cuonzo Martin
"Give those guys credit. They almost shot 60 percent from the field. I feel like we didn't do a very good job of defending on the perimeter or the blocks. They made shots. They made plays. It's tough when you got over things you expect them to do and they don't execute defensively. Offensively, we missed some free throws and missed around the rim, but defensively, we didn't bring it to the table tonight."
((on UTEP building lead late in first half)
"Give those guys credit for executing on offense. In the 3-2 defense and the box and 1 defense, we were trying to mix it up, but we never really got into a true flow."
((on UTEP's defense on point guards)
"They gave us one-on-one opportunities in the post, and we've got to capitalize on those areas. I tell them to shoot in the rhythm, shoot when you're confident. When you don't have a shot, drive with the ball, and I thought (Richardson) did a better job of that in the second half."
((on UTEP's size being disruptive in the lane)
"You look at the stats, they only had three blocked shots but I felt we missed a lot around the rim. You look at as may shots as we missed that they'd have 10 blocked shots."
((on missed opportunities at free throw line)
"We didn't capitalize on them. We were 23 of 39 from the free throw line. Twenty-six offensive rebounds. Those missed opportunities take some momentum out of you. As a team's throwing different schemes at you offensively, there are opportunities you want to capitalize on, especially at the free throw line. It's tough, but it's part of it. Guys contesting shots, trying to block shots, but we've got to do a better job of capitalizing on the free throw line."
((on Justin Crosgile's 3-pointer late in the game)
"I was actually surprised he shot it. It was a tough three to go in because I felt we had the momentum going. I'm not sure we were down four or five, but he made a big three."
((on Robert Hubbs III's defense)
"I think those veteran guys did a good job of attacking him and making him work. Robert tries extremely hard. He's a very competitive player. It's just one of those deals. It's a learning process because we could definitely use him out there because he's a perimeter shooter."
((on short turnaround for next game)
"Right now, we'll give our guys a scouting report for Xavier and put this game to bed. Normally our pre game is four hours before the game, but it's three now so we'll do it at 10 o'clock. We'll just watch film. We won't do anything on the floor. Luckily for us with the quick turnaround is that we've played Xavier before and guys are already familiar with them. We just have to go from there."
((on physically preparing for next game)
"As guys are eating, they are also getting rehab, ice bags, whatever it is you need. Massage, whatever it is you need. You get your meal. You go to your room. It's bedtime at that point. You take the scouting report with you. At 10 a.m. is breakfast."
((on rematch with Xavier)
"I think we didn't get in a good flow offensively. In the first 10 minutes in that Xavier game at their place, we didn't flow well. Jarnell had two quick fouls. I don't think we were in a rhythm offensively, so we've got to get a better rhythm offensively, to get the ball inside. To go inside out. To get our plays in. To get transition baskets as well. ... Bottom line, you have to go out and compete. You've got to represent the right way. Our guys understand that. It's an emotional loss tonight. As fast as you can, you have to get over it and keep moving.
Tennessee Junior Guard Josh Richardson
(on team not converting on free throw opportunities)
"I felt like we were rushing on our free throws. We were worried about trying to play our way back into the game. We were trying to do too much, I guess."
(on if UTEP's size bothered the Vols)
"It shouldn't have. We should've just gone straight up with the ball when we were pump faking and letting guys drop. By that time, there were three guys guarding so it was getting blocked."
(on UTEP's defense)
"They did a good job scouting us. They ran a triangle and two on those two guys (Barton and Thompson). We definitely weren't running our sets. We'd let them bother us."
(on UT's defense)
"We definitely used our length and athleticism to our advantage. They didn't really like pressure that much and we sniffed that out, but we just couldn't finish the game the way we wanted to."
(on preparing for Xavier)
"We've just got to be focused tomorrow. We can't worry about any outside things. We could still play two more games, so we just have to come out and play a game tomorrow.
(on short turnaround for next game -- about 13 hours)
"We're all upset right now. We can't let it carry over to our game tomorrow. We've got to come out tomorrow and play Tennessee basketball.
UTEP UTEP 78, TENNESSEE 70
MOORE, McKenzie 6-13 6-6 19; BOHANNON, John 6-8 4-4 16; CROSGILE, Justin 5-7 1-6 12; WASHBURN, Julian 6-13 0-0 12; HUNTER, Vince 3-3 1-1 7; COOPER, C.J. 1-3 4-6 7; WILLMS, Matt 2-3 0-1 4; LANG, Cedrick 0-0 1-2 1; VINT, Hooper 0-0 0-0 0; CALDWELL, Tevin 0-0 0-0 0; FLAGGERT, Jake 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-50 17-26 78.
McRae, Jordan 6-17 9-12 22; Richardson, Josh 4-9 4-7 13; Stokes, Jarnell
5-10 3-7 13; Maymon, Jeronne 1-6 5-9 7; Barton, Antonio 2-6 2-4 6; Davis, A.J. 2-4 0-0 4; Thompson, Darius 1-2 0-0 3; Hubbs III, Robert 1-6 0-0 2; Chievous, Quinton 0-2 0-0 0; Moore, Armani 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-63 23-39 70.
UTEP .......................... 36 42 - 78
Tennessee..................... 28 42 - 70
3-point goals--UTEP 3-10 (COOPER, C.J. 1-2; CROSGILE, Justin 1-3; MOORE,
McKenzie 1-3; WASHBURN, Julian 0-1; BOHANNON, John 0-1), Tennessee 3-21
(Richardson, Josh 1-5; Thompson, Darius 1-2; McRae, Jordan 1-8; Barton,
Antonio 0-2; Davis, A.J. 0-1; Hubbs III, Robert 0-2; Chievous, Quinton 0-1).
Fouled out--UTEP-HUNTER, Vince; BOHANNON, John, Tennessee-Thompson, Darius; Maymon, Jeronne.
Rebounds--UTEP 28 (WASHBURN, Julian 4; HUNTER, Vince 4;
MOORE, McKenzie 4), Tennessee 46 (Stokes, Jarnell 14).
(WASHBURN, Julian 5), Tennessee 8 (Richardson, Josh 3). Total fouls--UTEP 27, Tennessee 25.
Technical fouls--UTEP-None, Tennessee-None.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)