McRae's Season-High 34 Points Leads Tennessee Past Arkansas, 81-74

Vols Get Key SEC Victory And Now Turn Attention To No. 6 Florida

Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - by Special to Chattanoogan.com

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Jordan McRae scored a season-high 34 points, including the final 13 points for the Vols, to secure an 81-74 Southeastern Conference basketball win over Arkansas on Wednesday night.

html" style="outline: none;">Jeronne Maymon tallied 17 point and grabbed nine rebounds for the Vols, who improved 12-6 overall and 3-2 in the SEC. Josh Richardson added 10 points.

Arkansas (12-6, 1-4) had a well-balanced attack led by Coty Clarke's 16 points. Rashad Madden (15), Fred Gulley (11) and Kikko Haydar (10) joined Clarke in double figures.

Down by two with three minutes remaining, Tennessee scored seven points in a row to take the lead it would never relinquish.

What amounted to a five-point play was the turning point of the game.

Maymon tied the game at 68 as he converted both free throws on a Haydar intentional foul with 2:52 remaining. Six seconds later McRae knocked down a 3-pointer to gave the Vols a 71-68 lead. That started that run of 13 Tennessee points in a row for the senior.

After an Arkansas missed shot, McRae made a pair of free throws to expand the Vols lead to 73-68 with a little more than two minutes remaining.

The Vols defense was stout in the final five minutes of the game, limiting Arkansas to seven points and just two field goals on 10 attempts.

McRae sealed the game as he intercepted a pass by Clarke with 26 seconds remaining as Arkansas had a chance to close the gap to one. After being fouled, McRae calmed knocked down both free throws to put the Vols ahead by seven at 79-74.

McRae added two more foul shots to finish off the win. He made a career-high 12 free throws on 14 attempts.

It was a back-and-forth game that saw neither team lead by more than eight points.

Arkansas went on an 11-0 run to open the largest lead of the game at 59-51 as Anthlon Bell knocked down a 3-pointer with just under 15 minutes left in the game. Maymon ended the spurt with a jumper for the Vols.

Midway through the second half, Tennessee responded with an 8-0 run to tie the game at 63 all as Richardson knocked down his first 3-pointer of the game. The Vols buckled down on defense during the spurt, forcing the Hogs into five consecutive empty trips down the floor.

A high-paced first half saw the Vols grab a 39-37 lead. McRae led all scorers with 10 points. Tennessee took care of business at the foul line in the first half, making 15-of-17 shots.

Tennessee returns to action on Friday at No. 6 Florida for a 4 p.m. matchup in Gainesville. The game against the Gators airs on ESPN and can he heard on the Vol Network. The Vols have won three straight against Florida. 

SUMMARY

Arkansas (12-6, 1-4)

Madden 4-10 6-6 15, Clarke 7-14 1-1 16, Bell 1-6 0-0 3, Portis 2-7 0-0 4, Gulley 5-5 0-0 11, Wade 1-4 2-2 4, Harris 0-1 0-0 0, Scott 0-2 0-2 0, Haydar 3-3 1-2 10, Williams 3-7 0-0 6, Qualls 0-3 1-2 1 Kingsley 2-2 0-2 4. Totals 28-65 11-17 74.

Tennessee (12-6, 3-2)

Richardson 3-7 3-3 10, Barton 2-9 2-4 7, Stokes 2-7 3-5 7, Maymon 9-18 9-10 17 McRae 9-18 12-14, Moore 2-5 0-0 5, Thompson 01 1-2 1, Reese 0-2 0-0 0, Edwards 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-54 30-38 81.

Halftime – Tennessee 39, Arkansas 37.

3-Point Goals – Arkansas 7-17 (Madden 1-4, Clarke 1-1, Bell 1-5, Portis 0-1, Gulley 1-1, Wade 0-1, Haydar 3-3, Qualls 0-1), Tennessee 7-19 (Richardson 1-2, Barton 1-5, McRae 4-8, Moore 1-2, Thompson 0-1, Reese 0-1).

Fouled Out – None.

Rebounds – 37 (Clark 9), Tennessee 42 (Maymon 9).

Assists – 14 (Clarke 3, Bell 3), Tennessee 13 (Barton 4).

Total Fouls – Arkansas 29, Tennessee 15.

A -- 14,034.

Postgame remarks:

Tennessee Head Coach Cuonzo Martin

(Opening statement)
"Good win. I thought our guys did a really good job of fighting. We got off to a slow start. I'm not sure what the reason is, but we got off to a slow start. I thought our guys did a good job fighting, especially down the stretch in that last four minutes, just really battling and trying to get stops. They did a great job of attacking the rim, especially Coty [Clarke] with Jeronne [Maymon] on him, really attacking the rim and getting to the basket. I thought they took advantage of it and made plays, putting their heads down and had good spacing. They're just a real tough, feisty team, one of those teams where it got to the point where we didn't run any plays. It was more or less penetration, feed the post, free lance motion because they take you out of a rhythm of what you're trying to do offensively and you have to be able to make plays. Jordan McRae stepped up on offense. It's one of those games when you're in this kind of environment so you kind of open up and just play. I thought we did a good job with that. Again, this is a team where they fight, they battle and make it hard on you. This was a good win for our guys to be able to rebound the way we did late in the game."

(On what was different about tonight)
"One of the things that was different was that we got off to a slow start tonight. We have been pretty good, but I'm not sure what the reason was, if it was because it was a late game or what. Because of class we didn't have our normal shoot around, just a 15 minute walk through, but again, you have to give those guys credit with the way they played. They take out everything, they'll switch five different ways, they're aggressive, they'll trap at you and they kind of keep you on your heels, so to speak. Again, the last six or seven minutes we just opened up and played; dribble penetrate, feed the post, and we felt like we had an advantage going inside but again the way they double, they trap and they have guys on the back side and you have to step up and make shots."

(On Armani Moore)
"Armani is a tough kid. I knew it was just a matter of time for him. He battles. He's a guy that can play the 3 or 4 position for us. He had four blocks in the first half. He competes, he doesn't let up, and his minutes will continue to grow because of how he plays. It's just one of those deals now where he just needs to get him running at the 4 spot in practice because you can go with four guards and we had that stretch last year where he was the starting 4 for us even though he's a guard so we probably need to get him acclimated with some more 4 work, because he's been at the 3 in practice, but he's a tough kid, just like when we played in Lexington, there was no doubt in my mind that he wasn't playing because of his toughness."

(On Armani being able to help out when the team is off to a slow start)
"If it gets slow, he's coming in the game because he raises the energy level and he's ready to battle. He's going to kick up some dust one way or another."

(On Jordan McRae)
"I thought he did a good job. I thought he got off to a slow start, rushing shots, I thought he was a little hesitant, off balance and pressing a little bit then he settled down. For him, that was more of rocky top, just let's play, getting up the court and making plays because the way they play, you have to be able to make individual plays and he did a good job of getting to the rim, getting to the free throw line, knocking his shots down. Once he got his head up, he was good."

(On not calling a timeout when Arkansas was on an 11-0 run)
"I trust the guys we had on the floor and at the rate that was going you have to figure that you might need these timeouts later in the game. I think if they had made another basket I probably would have called a timeout, but at the rate it was going if they had made another one then I'd have gotten a timeout. The guys on the floor, I thought they were solid, we just had to get stops and at some point you just have to man up, do your job, and get stops. They were just driving the ball. I took Jeronne out of the game because I didn't think he did a very good job guarding his man. I think we put Armani in and it slowed them up a bit."

(On having a guy like Jordan McRae who can make plays and make free throws down the stretch)
"It's good when your leading scorer, he is a guy you can look at for production, especially with the way they were guarding Jeronne and Jarnell, hovering around that post, guys on the back side, so our perimeter guys were forced to make plays. I thought Jordan did a good job making shots. Maybe after the first six or seven minutes he got into a rhythm, got into a better flow, and when his shots start falling his confidence goes to another level."

(On game's turning point)
"I think it gave us momentum, especially when Jeronne [Maymon] made the free throws. I think it helped us. You have to make free throws. You have to continue to make plays, because that's the type of team that will continue to put the pressure on you.

(On Jeronne Maymon)
"I think so. I think he's healthy. I think when you spend that much time off from playing in live games up and down the court, the physical nature of the game, the bumps and the bangs- I think he's healthy. I think it's just a case of the rhythm and flow of the games and he'll make any adjustments because the problem that he has is he probably doesn't have the lift like he used to, so now the adjustment is when he going against a bigger guy is getting a feel for his opponent, because you still have guys hovering around him. When he beats one guy, there's another guy coming on the backside."

(On rebounding down the stretch)
"We just have to go get them, but I think more than anything, our guards went in and got a few rebounds, because again, those two guys- Jeronne [Maymon] and Jarnell [Stokes], they'll get rebounds, they'll hold guys, box some guys out, but our guards have to go over there and get their nose dirty and I thought we did that late in the game."

(On going against the press)
"I thought we were fine against the press. I'm going to have to look- those 15 turnovers, but I thought we were fine against it. I didn't see any pressure or anything like that. I thought we probably had opportunities in the second half to really attack and be aggressive and we didn't."

(On Arkansas' shooting)
"I think the three with [Kikko] Haydar, No. 20 with three breakdowns on our end, when [Rashad] Madden hit a pullup three with Jeronne [Maymon], Jeronnne [Maymon] was in front of him. He shot a pull-up three. We'll take that, but I think with [Kikko] Haydar, he had three looks on our breakdown and our point guard defending him, but the others, I'll have to go back and watch film to be exact."

Tennessee Senior Guard Jordan McRae

(On the final minutes of the game)
"I knew we were up and that two minutes went by pretty slow. You didn't want them to hit shots and I really wanted the ball, especially at the end when they were fouling."

(On scoring the final 13 points of the game)
"Like I said, I just really wanted the ball at the end of the game. I knew with how they were guarding Jarnell, it would be hard for him to score, and Jeronne as well. This is a game that we didn't want to lose at home, especially home games like this. We needed this win."

 (On making free throws down the stretch)
"It was really critical for us. I think Jeronne did a great job knocking his down. Antonio, Jarnell... I think we all knew it was what we had to do to win."

(On the go-ahead three pointer)
"No, it wasn't a designed play. We were about to run our offense and I guess Jeronne and Jarnell draw so much attention down there. They were in a zone, and they were leaning towards Jeronne down there again, so I got room to shoot it."

(On guarding Arkansas)
"It's definitely hard to guard them. At times, they're running into each other. It's really hard to guard them."

(On Armani Moore's play)
"That's Armani. He makes those kinds of plays in practice all the time - blocks and things like that. We need somebody like that all the time to come in and bring energy for us and helped us out a lot tonight."

Tennessee Senior Forward Jeronne Maymon

(On proudest personal moment of the night)
"I shot the ball pretty well from the free throw line. I think we did pretty good as a team especially going down the stretch. Jordan (McRae) made a lot of them, but I thought we all did well."

(On panic when Arkansas had an eight point lead)
"I didn't think there was panic. We just kept talking about getting the consecutive stops and working on our offense. I mean Arkansas is a really good team and they speed you up. They make you do a lot of things you don't want to do. We played out of our comfort zone, but we made it happen tonight."

(On defense of the second half)
"They weren't doing anything too special. They were just hitting shots. They made a run. We came back and got re-focused. I think it was a good try by Arkansas, but I think we did a really good job of talking and getting consecutive stops."

(On Armani Moore)
"Armani is a really special player for us. He brings a lot of energy for us. He can switch one through five. He is a tough guy and that is what we need coming off the bench. He has that spark that we need."

(On being able to tell a difference when Armani Moore is on the floor)
"Definitely because he is really aggressive. He changes the pace of the game when he comes in. He is getting the ball, rebounds and blocked shots. We need him to come in there and do that; be that spark for us."

Tennessee Sophomore Guard Armani Moore

(On how he felt playing more)
"I felt like the more I was out there, the more I feel comfortable about going about things."

(On his outside shooting)
"For me, I feel like it just picks up the intensity, not just for me but for the whole team. We've got to get something going on the offensive end of the ball so just seeing a shot go in the basket is going to be a fire within the whole team."

(On the fast parts of the game)
"Yea we knew it was going to be a dogfight tonight but I think the biggest thing tonight was just keeping our composure and not letting them speed the game up because that's how I feel like Arkansas likes to play a fast motion game."

(On playing better in the second half)
"Like I said earlier in the week, I feel like we've got to be confident in our shots and I've seen Jordan [McRae] a couple times - the guy is going up under the screen - and he's just confident and took the shot and that's what got us the lead. You just stay confident in the shot and he went up under [the screen] and [McRae] ust took the shot and he made it."

(On closing out the game with Jordan McRae)
"From being on the team, we all feel like we know who our scorer is, especially at the end of the game - our clutch guy. Jordan, he knows his role so he stepped up to the plate tonight and made some things happen."

(On the spark he brings)
"I know my role pretty well. I know I've got to be on the floor and be a defensive player but that's cool with me. I like to just go out here and defend, rebound and play hard. I feel like that gives my teammates the motive, if they see me playing hard, it makes them want to play harder too."

Arkansas Head Coach Mike Anderson

(Opening statement)
"I thought it became a free throw shooting contest. Our kids fought. I thought our guys played like true Razorbacks. They were in position in the last 3-4 minutes, didn't execute as we thought we should have. We didn't attack the basket and we didn't get to the free throw line. On the other end, they got to the free throw line. I thought the MVP of the night was the, McRae played well, but the MVP was the flagrant foul call. You get in two or three minutes and that's one that should play on. I thought it just changed the whole dynamic of how the game was going."

(On the McRae's three being the only field goal down the stretch)
"Our defense was really good, we were connected to one another, but give them credit, they didn't go away."

(On making a strong run after halftime)
"Those guys were rested. They came out and were rested. They didn't panic, they just hung in there and kept fighting, kept executing and stuck to the game plan, which was let's get some great ball movement and attack the basket. Kikko (Haydar)knocked some big shots for us down."

(On Jordan McRae)
"I thought there at the end he got loose on some screens . We did a good job, I thought, in the first half. Then in the second half, you gotta switch. Our guys didn't switch to close him out. Then look at the free throws, the guy shot almost 20 free throws. I thought we did a good job in the first half. He's a scorer." 


(E-mail Larry Fleming at larryfleming44@gmail.com)


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