Tennessee Continues Dominance Of Gamecocks With 72-53 Win

McRae Scores Game-High 24 Points; No. 3 Florida Up Next

Saturday, February 08, 2014 - by Special to Chattanoogan.com

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee beat South Carolina for the 13th consecutive time with a dominating 72-53 victory on Saturday before 17,215 fans at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The Vols notched their eighth wire-to-wire win of the season and fourth in SEC in moving to 15-8 overall and 6-4 in league play. South Carolina is now 8-15 and 1-9 in the SEC.

Playing his 100th career game, senior 

utsports.com/sports/m-baskbl/mtt/jordan_mcrae_710947.html">Jordan McRae tallied 24 points for his 57th career game in double-figures.

Junior Jarnell Stokes posted 17 points and eight rebounds as his streak of four double-doubles came to an end. SeniorJeronne Maymon added 10 points and eight rebounds. 


The Vols opened the game on a 16-2 run and never looked back. South Carolina made just one of its first 11 shots while the Vols connected on seven of its first 11 attempts.

Sindarius Thornwell (team-high 15 points) finally got the Gamecocks on the board – he scored their first nine points. South Carolina cut its early deficit to eight points, but Tennessee ripped off seven points in a row including a pair of 3-pointers from McRae to take a 28-13 lead with a little more than eight minutes left in the first half.

Stokes emphatically slammed home a pair of dunks to wrap up an 11-2 run for a 32-15 lead.

Tennessee led 45-22 at halftime as McRae (20) and Stokes (13) combined for 33 points. The Vols scored their points in a first half vs. an SEC team since leading 50-26 over Kentucky last February.

South Carolina cut the deficit to 13 points thanks to a 10-0 spurt midway through the second as Cuonzo Martin inserted several reserves for the Vols. Armani Moore's 3-pointer stopped the run for the Vols as Tennessee took a 57-41 lead with 8:30 left in the game.

After McRae, Maymon, Stokes and Darius Thompson returned to the line-up the lead returned to a 20-point margin. Tennessee cruised for the remainder of the game.

Tennessee has not lost to the Gamecocks in nearly six years since South Carolina posted an 81-64 win on Feb. 17, 2007.

The Vols continue their two-game homestand on Tuesday night as No. 3 Florida comes to Thompson-Boling Arena for a 7 p.m., tip-of. That game will air on ESPN and can be heard on the Vol Network.

Postgame quotes:

Tennessee Head Coach Cuonzo Martin

(opening statement)
"Good bounce back win for our guys. I thought the guys did a good job on both ends of the floor-- great job facilitating the basketball in the first half. It was really our focus to get that ball inside to our bigs. A lot of those guys--like to play aggressive, man-to-man defense around the rim. I felt like, together, our guys--our big guys-- got off to a good start feeding the ball, making the plays. I thought our guards did a good job of keeping their spacing, making shots, also using the dribble penetration to get to the rim. I thought we set a good tone early in the first half defending for the most part. Probably at the 6 or 7-minute mark, that unit out there wasn't as assertive as we needed to be, so we put the starters back in for the most part. Overall, a good effort for us."

(On seeing a good win after Vanderbilt game) 
"It's always good, especially when you have games--I mean, I like noon games, 1:00, 2:00 games. But, it's tricky when you have a shoot around, then you worry about guy's legs. It's gone either way. Sometimes, you have good legs and you don't have a shoot around--a little lethargic. Your goal is to really try and get off to a good start, have fresh legs. We were ready to rotate some guys in there just in case some guys looked a little sluggish."

 (On getting a fire in the guys after a win)
"I just think the biggest key is we have to find a way, consistently, to play well whether or not you're making or missing shots. So if the shots aren't falling, you still have to defend, rebound, and play hard. That's a sign of elite teams and great teams. When they can do that and not consume themselves with whether or not the shot is falling. That's the biggest key, because, other than that, we don't change a lot. We are who we are. When we get the ball inside to our big and Jordan scores the ball, things fall in line. But again, playing hard if you're shots aren't falling."

(On team being dependent on McRae)
"Well, I think they're dependent on those 3 guys: Jordan, Jeronne, and Jarnell. Those three guys have to play well for us in order to be successful. But, you can say that for every team--successful team--in America. But, if he's making shots from the perimeter, it loosens things up for the guys in the interior. But, I think that's the same with Jordan and Josh. If those guys can make perimeter shots consistently and keep those guys from hovering around that paint, then we'll be alright."

(On South Carolina 3-point shooting)
"The biggest thing with [Brenton] Williams is that you want to stay on top of him. Darius [Thompson] makes three point shots, but that's not necessarily his game. He can slash, get to the rim make plays off the bounce. He can make a three. He's probably not going to kill you with it, because he doesn't shoot a high volume of threes. He does a lot of other things, but [Brenton] Williams is a guy that can beat you from the three-point line so you want to get on top of him and force him to make plays off the dribble and if sometimes, you get dribbled under, that's fine, because you don't want him beating you."

 (On Tuesday's game against Florida)
"Obviously a very talented opponent. I go back to it- it's a league opponent and you compete against teams in the league. You have to battle. You have to play hard. The thing I told our guys- they won because they were the better team that night, that day. It wasn't because they were the home team. They were the better team on that floor. The key is for us to be the best team on the floor Tuesday night. It doesn't matter if you're a home team or a road team- good teams play in any environment, so I think that's the biggest key. Talk about two teams with good talent, good players. Our goal is to find a way to win the ballgame."

Tennessee Senior Guard Jordan McRae

(On being comfortable around the arc)
"That's just shooting before the game, getting in some extra shots. Then my teammates found me open a lot."

(On knowing when this was his night)
"If I hit my first shot, then I hit my second shot, then I hit my third one. Man, I'm in there now."

(On bouncing back from Vanderbilt loss)
"We've been bouncing back from losses all year. We just need to have a better carry over, take one win to two wins to that third one and we haven't done a good job doing that and I think we need to start doing that."

(On what helps them bounce back from those losses)
"We know what's at stake here, we definitely don't want to lose the came from the jump. But we definitely can't lose two games in a row, that causes all kinds of problems that you don't want."

(On how outside shooting opens things up inside for Jeronne and Jarnell)
"They want to double-team Jeronne and Jarnell. But when its Jeronne and Jarnell they want to pass it out and swing-swing to find the open player but its kind of hard to double them."

(On importance of loss at Florida to Tuesdays home game against UF)
"No, its not as far as like getting back at them or anything. They beat us. We just really want to go out there and play hard and execute what we're doing and if we do that then it will be a good game."

(On excitement playing Florida)
"Big games are going to be on a Super Tuesday, everybody knows that and Florida's rivalry for us means its a team everybody really wants to beat."

Tennessee Junior Forward Jarnell Stokes

(On if losing games makes the team come back more focused)
"It's funny ,I noticed that when we lose we come back and we gather up and we come out with a lot of fire. We play hard the next couple games and history tells we might have a drop game coming soon. We are just fighting that sequence the way we come out and play flat in certain games. As long as we know its possible I think we will be good"

(On how they can keep their intensity while winning and the Vanderbilt loss)
"I think a lot of games we come out not shooting as confident. We may miss about two or three shots and then all of a sudden its a bad shooting night. I think Vanderbilt did a good job in the zone. We didn't hit shots as well as we could. I think thats what beat us because on the defensive end we did a decent job besides guarding Odom he hit a lot of tough shots, other than I think we did a good job."

(On if he looks forward to playing smaller teams)
" You know, you play against teams like this and you think you can push them around. They come out with a lot of fire knowing that they are some what [physically unable against a bigger guy like me, so they come out with a lot of fire. These are scary teams to play with because you feel like the refs let them get away with a lot of cheap fouls. I think they did a very good job of sending double teams, but when guards hits shots and Jordan gets off to a hot start like that it helps me out even more."

(On if the guard play with be better against Florida)
"I think we are in for a dog fight. FLorida is a very good team, the way they double team is kind of scary. I would much rather play a man than a zone. I think we will do a better job against the press, we somewhat handled Alabama press and thats a team that always killed us in previous years with the press. Florida runs a similar style offense and a similar style defense too, I think this time around will be better for us."

Tennessee Sophomore Guard Armani Moore

 (On most comfortable position)
"I feel like on the offensive side of the ball I definitely like being in the three position, but sometime whatever the scenario is, the four man is in foul trouble, I can step down and defend the four. It's not a big deal. I feel like me as a player I feel more comfortable playing the three position."

(On winning against a team you should beat)
"You never can take anybody lightly. If you look at two of our loss's you might have could have said the same things about those teams but at the end of the day they still beat us. No matter who you're playing you always have to come out with the same mindset, no matter if it's a power team or low-key team."

 (On losing big to Florida)
"It was tough but I feel like they deserve what they got. They hit us in the mouth from the jump and I feel like we didn't know how to adapt to the situation. It was a lesson learned. You're going to need some bumps to be successful. I feel like as a team we're not going to linger on that. I feel like that made us better as a team. It made us realize that we have to come with our hardhat every time we come on the court."

South Carolina Head Coach Frank Martin

(Opening Statement)
"Just didn't have it today. Our margin for error is thin, we've got to play with a sense of discipline, toughness, and we just didn't have that coming out of the gate today. Then we have to make a high percentage of our shots and we didn't do that either. We've got a group of guys that really tried, we just didn't have enough in the tank to overcome Tennessee. Tennessee is a really good team. I don't want to hear this nonsense I read about or hear on TV, they're real good. They're a real good basketball team and we play in a really good league. They're good and they played that way and we paid the price with a game we never really had a chance to win."

(On if the big men down low affected South Carolina)
"It's not just a size at the rim, it's the size on the perimeter that bothered us. Brenton (Williams) couldn't get a shot off with their attention to detail defensively. They're all 6'5 on the perimeter. We did some good things at times on offense, but we just didn't make enough shots. We started the game and our bigs had point-blank look after point-blank look and we couldn't convert. If you don't convert some of those inside shots, then that defense never collapses. If it doesn't collapse, then it's hard in a game where every guard is 6'5 and above to get Brent the space he needs to get some baskets. The interior was a concern and McRae was the guy we needed to be sure and find and we did and absolute horrendous job of that early in the game. We gave him some shots, he made some hard ones toward the end of the first half when we started to guard him better, but when you give a good player easy looks, then you're in trouble."

(On Jordan McRae)
"That's what he does. Last year, we had a chance to win because we were able to guard him, we didn't lose him, so he never got any looks, then when he got one at the end of the game, he made it. That three he made last year broke our backs. That's what he does. Early in the game, we were not good enough defensively and gave him open looks. When good players see the ball go in the basket, that's when you have a problem."

(On what contributed to his team's struggles)
"I thought we ran good offense at times. We put in a couple of wrinkles in coming into this game because of matchups and I thought we did an OK job of running offense, but in the first half we were 8-29 from the field. It's hard to win when you shoot 27%, hard to win anywhere against anybody when you shoot 27%."

(On the new wrinkles)
"We're tying to run a lot more ball screens than we've run to try and get their big guys out of the paint and it worked. We tried to do the right things, we just didn't have it in the gas tank today to come out with the energy and discipline and toughness that we need to be good. We tried as the game progressed, but it was just to much to overcome. We did some good things in the second half, but those first 10-12 minutes of the game sunk us." 

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

 

 


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