KNOXVILLE, Tenn -- After a back-and-forth first half, the Tennessee Volunteers rolled past Tennessee Tech for an 84-63 victory Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Playing in their first game since the Battle 4 Atlantis last weekend in the Bahamas, the Vols (6-2) started the second half on a 22-3 run to put the game out of Tennessee Tech's reach.
The Vols held Tennessee Tech (5-6) without a field goal for 7 minutes, 37 seconds, shortly after halftime. By the time Tennessee Tech scored again -- a 3-pointer by Ty Allen -- Tennessee led 63-46 with 11:20 remaining in the game.
Tennessee is now 51-2 against current members of the Ohio Valley Conference.
The Vols take a week off before playing at No. 11 Wichita State next Saturday, with the tipoff set for 2 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on ESPN2. The Shockers lost at Tennessee last season, but eventually reached the Final Four.
Junior Jarnell Stokes, making his 50th startled the way for the Vols by recording his fourth-consecutive double-double and fifth of the season. He finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds, six on the offensive end. He also had two assists and two blocks.
With 23, Stokes is the Southeastern Conference’s active leader in career double-doubles.
Four Vols ended the game with more than 10 points. Senior Jordan McRae had 16 points, and sophomore Josh Richardson matched his season-high 13 points. Senior Jeronne Maymon came off the bench and added 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting.
After shooting 55 percent in the first half with eight 3-pointers, Tennessee Tech's shooting accuracy slumped after halftime. The Golden Eagles shot only 38 percent in the second half, including 2 of 9 from the 3-point arc.
Tennessee finished the night shooting 31 of 66 field goals (47 percent).
The Vols found themselves in a trailing by as many as seven points early in the first half, thanks to Tennessee Tech's strong long-distance shooting.
With Tennessee behind 34-27, Stokes and Richardson sparked a 10-0 run to get Tennessee right back in the game. A three-point play by Richardson tied the score at 34-34, and Stokes ended the run with a layup to give Tennessee 37-34 lead with 2:34 left in the first half.
Stokes almost scored a double-double by halftime. He had 11 points and nine rebounds, four of them on the offensive end.
Tennessee Tech put together an excellent shooting performance in the first half. The Eagles shot 15 of 26 from the field, including 8 of 11 from three-point distance.
Jordan Johnson was 5 of 5 from the floor with four 3s in the first half. He had 15 points at halftime, but went scoreless in the second half. Allen had 14 points.
By holding the Golden Eagles to 63 points, the Vols now have held 32 of its last 41 opponents under 71 points dating to last season.
TENNESSEE HEAD COACH CUONZO MARTIN
"Much better from the second half. I thought we did a good job just setting the tone defensively in the second half. I thought we had great energy. In the first half when we subbed Armani Moore in the game, I thought he came in and played with some passion, but you know he does that all the time. I thought that game was what we needed to get over that mental hump. We carried it into the locker room and to the second half and I thought our guys did a tremendous job of really competing, rebounding and taking away those 3 point shots in the second half. We didn't come to play in the first half. I'm not sure if it was focus, but a couple of our guys weren't locked in out of the gates. So good thing we bounced back. Also, we did a good job taking care of the basketball and offensive rebounding. We did a good job moving the ball and getting the ball inside.
(On first half frustrations)
"I think sometimes it is what is is. Just getting guys moving, cutting, getting into a better flow. I never like to think you don't take your opponent seriously, so I don't think that was the case. It could be stretching, layups, or getting loose or getting off to a good start. Different teams present different things, run and jump, trap zone. Whatever the case, it's no excuse. You've always got to be locked in and ready to go."
(On the problem in the first half)
"Poor defense. That's all. They like to shoot a lot of 3's. I thought we played on our heels early in the game. It was nothing but poor defense."
(On practice this week and defensive miscues)
"We've had 2 of our best practices over the last 2 days. Some things happen and it's hard to explain but they (TTU) made shots. I didn't think we did a very good job of moving the ball screen or taking the guy to the ball screen. We allowed their point guard to turn down a couple of ball screens as opposed to our point guard taking him to the action. We call it a drift pass when he gets all the way to the rim and throws it out. We did a poor job of staying with our guys on the drift pass. We need to do a much better job in all aspects in the second half."
(On why Jeronne Maymon did not start)
"He was late. Bottom line. Great character, great kid, but he was late getting to the game. Bottom line."
(On Josh Richardson's play)
"The thing about Josh - and he's a good overall player, solid on both ends of the floor - he has to continue to grow and be assertive offensively and look for his offense. It's one of those things when you're down or you need a shot, or the flow of the game isn't where it needs to be, and Josh makes a play. We've been talking to him about scoring, being aggressive, looking for his offense. He's getting better. He's improved his 3-point shot. He's worked a tremendous amount on different shots. He's a guy who understands his role, accepts his role - whatever his team needs us to do to win. He guards other teams' best players. He was good defensively. It wasn't the case in the first half. He wasn't one of those guys. He's growing into an aggressive scorer and it just takes time."
(On Jarnell Stokes' play)
"When Jarnell's aggressive, he plays well whether he's making or missing shots. When he's aggressive and attacking the rim, assertive, he's going to have success."
(On Armani Moore's play)
"The thing we do as a staff is continue to work with guys, even the guys who don't get in the game. We spent hours on skill work to continue to get better. You never know when your number's called, and you've got to be ready for that opportunity. He was the one guy we knew as a staff that it was just a matter of time. I think more than anything, it's his offense - just making layups around the rim. When you have him, Jeronne, and Jarnell out there at the same time, teams have a tendency to sag in the lane and make it tough on your offense.
"You're not able to flow at the level you need to. He's spent hours working on his shot, attacking the rim, making his layups. When he's making his free throws, he has to be on the floor. He's a guy who brings a level of toughness to our team, energy and passion. He plays hard. We said all time as a staff, we have to figure out a way to get Armani on the floor because of what he brings to the team and you saw that tonight. To his credit, he stays ready and continues to work on his game. He doesn't mope about it. He capitalized on his opportunity."
(On Antonio Barton's driving game)
"He is a guy that has really improved his drive. Again when we saw him at Memphis we felt like he was a really good catch and shoot kind of guy, a one two dribble pull up. For us as a staff the next phrase we thought it would be driving the ball and getting in the lane because everybody is expecting his shot. He has done a good job really driving the ball but there were a couple time in the second half where I thought he passed up some three point shots. If you got the shot you still have to take it and he knocked the next one down. That is what he does he makes shots but he has improved that part of the game and his leg is getting stronger for him to have the ability to get in the lane and drive."
(On the offense)
"I like where we are offensively, but again like I tell the guys the team has the tendency to sag around Jeronne (Maymon) and Jarnell (Stokes). The thing we talk about conditioning and getting the ball inside but if they are sagging so far you have to be able to take that shot. You have to take it if it is not far then it is not far, but you have to step into it. For example I tell Josh (Richardson) you have to step into that shot with confidence. You have to shoot it like it is a free throw. He has to be aggressive but when teams pass by. You can't pass up open looks I don't care what happens. You have to be ready to shoot the basketball."
(On Josh Richardson's shot)
"Even though he has improved his three point shot he is more of a slash guy off the dribble with a one or two dribble pull ups in the lane. He has to be constant on his shot. I talked to the three teams we played in the Bahamas on what they thought about the team, thing we need to do and just what was the game plan going in to play Tennessee. The jest of it was just don't want the big guys to beat us around the rim and make the guards beat from the perimeter and that was the biggest thing. It was making shots and that is what sums it up. Again I told our guys if you have the shot you have to take it."
(On Darius Thompson's talent being natural or coached talent)
"In his case it is apparent that it is in his blood line. The guy knows how to play the game. I can't take credit for that. He has a feel for the game and pace for the game. I guess the credit goes to his mom and dad on that one."
(On Robert Hubbs)
"For me I tell him to be aggressive. I don't care what the shot clock says, be aggressive. He is a guy that can score the ball and it is just the matter of getting into the flow. If you have other options out there like guys who can score the ball it is about getting into the flow, the feel for it, the pace of it. For me it is about telling them to stay aggressive in their shot be in attack off the dribble. But then when it happens he obviously has a reputation of people understanding who he is. It will come it is just a matter of him staying aggressive in his game and it will fall in line for him."
(On A.J. Davis)
"I think it is very helpful because you are talking about a young guy that is 6'9 and picked up 15 pounds this summer. He has always been a perimeter guy and playing on the perimeter. He has played on the post a little bit but always a perimeter guy. Now it is a lot about playing bigger and more physical guys not that he can't do it but it is tough. Any freshman coming in and playing these older and more physical guys no matter what level it is not easy but he competes. He is not afraid of the challenge. That is why he will be very successful as a basketball player because eventually he will have able to play the perimeter as well as inside."
TENNESSEE JUNIOR FORWARD JOSH RICHARDSON
(On playing hard the entire game)
"The last few teams haven't had as much experience as us. We had been through a close game like that with Austin Peay."
(On shutting down the scorers for Tennessee Tech)
"I think Johnson had 15 points in the first half so that hurt us. When we walked back out in the second half, I told Jordan McRae not to let him get a shot off. He definitely locked him in the second half."
(On getting into a groove early)
"It definitely helps. When you make your fist shot, it gets your head up. It makes it a lot easier to just let the second shot go without hesitation."
(On Armani Moore's play)
"He came in and gave us a big boost at the four spot. He gives us a lot more versatility and athleticism. We started to pressure them a lot more, and he did a good job at playing hard."
(On whether or not Jarnell Stokes is pressured by expectations)
"I think he is fine. I don't think there is anything wrong with what he is doing. He is taking good, open shots. He is playing good defense. He has room to grow, but he has done a good job so far. He doesn't seem to be bothered. He is the same guy as everyone else. He is pretty easy going."
(On Tech starting out 8-of-10 from 3-point range)
"They were getting spot up shots. We were losing our man. They did a good job by capitalizing off of every one of them."
(On the hot start at the beginning of the second half)
"The intensity of the game changed a lot. They called a couple of timeouts, and in the huddle, I was making a point that they hadn't scored much to start the half so we had to keep putting pressure on them."
(On potential of overlooking smaller schools) "We all know what to do. I was here when we lost to Austin Peay. That was a tough loss. Teams like that can come out any day and beat anybody."
TENNESSEE TECH HEAD COACH STEVE PAYNE
"I felt like we have to handle adversity better. That has kind of been our team, we have been up and down even within the same game. They had a lot to do with the defense, they really came out and pressured up, we had a back cut set up in the first play of the second half, trying to alleviate some of that. We just didn't complete the pass. They have a nice team, they are well-coached, tough. I thought we didn't continue to fight. When the ball didn't go in the hole, we weren't as aggressive and sharp as we were in the first half. We have to rebound the ball."
(On success shooting 3-pointers in the first half)
"The good thing was we had the right guy shooting them. Jordan Johnson was brought here to be a shooter and we made the extra pass. We worked hard on spacing and making the extra pass. We got good shots and we got good shots for the guys who were supposed to be shooting them. I never felt like any of them were bad shots that we didn't want to take. We talk about the right guy shooting the right shot.
"The only problem with that was we hit a lot of shots. We never established our inside game. I felt like we could score on the blocks, we never did the whole game. When they take those jumpers away, we still aren't scoring and we aren't getting to the free throw line enough. We have shot it well at different times but not over the course of a game and we didn't over the course of this game. But if we take good shots from those guys, we will hit a lot of them."
(On struggling at the free throw line)
"If you make your free throws, we have been pretty good about that, it is a different game, they don't get the separation. Once they got separation we had our hands full. Once they got the separation, on a really good team, it is tough to come back. You have to make some really good plays. We didn't. To have a chance to win this game, you have to click on all the stuff, which means we have to make our free throws, we have to make our plays when we have a chance, we missed a lot of opportunities on transition. We have to rebound the ball. They are going to get their share of offensive rebounds, being as physical as they were today. You have to cut those in off.
"We have never been dominated on the glass, we have been the best rebounding team in every game this year. That was a butt-kicking on the glass right there, that is not something we usually have. We have been a pretty good rebounding team ourselves. They took our strength and beat us in it. We had to score inside better and we had to rebound better. We didn't do either one of those things. They get separation and they are tough. Late we are trying to make a play and get back in it and they are going to make some good plays. They are a good team, they are going to make some plays against the press. You are not going to be able to turn them over every time. We just tried to get our pace up and create a few turnovers and we didn't, they hounded pretty good."
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)