The Tennessee Volunteers returned to Thompson-Boling Wednesday to take on Ole Miss, led by SEC villain Marshall Henderson.
The Vols were able to grab their 4th SEC win, as they dominated in every area of the game. Jordan McRae rebounded from his awful Florida showing with 26 points including six three-pointers. Josh Richardson and Jeronne Maymon both scored 16 points and Jarnell Stokes finished with 13 points and 14 rebounds, his 11th double-double of year.
Armani Moore once again acted a spark for Tennessee’s play, contributing to the win from all areas, scoring 2 points, grabbing 4 rebounds, dishing out 3 assists, and recorded 3 monster blocks. Freshman Darius Thompson got his third start, replacing Antonio Barton in the lineup, and finished with a strong performance, recording 7 points and 7 assists.
Marshall Henderson led Ole Miss with 26 points, going 8-19 from three-point range and was able to keep Ole Miss in striking distance for most of the game.
Tennessee jumped out to an early lead thanks to three-pointers by McRae and Richardson, and the Vols were able to keep up their good shooting, which was missing last Saturday against Florida. Tennessee also controlled the paint offensively and defensively, as Stokes and Maymon combined for 11 rebounds at the half. Henderson was not to be found for most of the first half, until the trigger-happy guard was able to put down a short barrage of 4 three-pointers before the half, which saw the Volunteers up 41-29.
Tennessee knows from experience that no lead is too comfortable, especially with a scorer like Marshall Henderson playing for the other team. Ole Miss came out of the break looking to get the ball to their star, and they did so on the first possession, as Henderson knocked down his 5th three pointer of the game.
The Vols were able to respond with a 7-0 run to keep the lead at double-digits, but Henderson came right back with more threes and led a run by Ole Miss that saw the Rebels cut the lead to 5 with 14 minutes remaining in the game. Tennessee was able to run away with the game after a good timeout by Coach Martin after another Henderson 3-pointer to earn their 13th win on the year and move out of .500 in SEC play.
Coach Cuonzo Martin was happy with how his team performed and was not surprised that his team was able to rebound so well after a devastating loss to Florida just 4 days earlier.
“We simply made shots, made 3′s, and did better against the zone because we practiced hard against it this week.” Martin said. “I hang my hat on rebounding, playing hard, and playing good defense, because you can’t predict how you are going to come out and shoot. We had trouble with that against Florida but tonight we knocked down shots.”
Jordan McRae also knew that the performance his team had against Florida was just an off game, “We just had to get back into the gym and find our rhythm, the worst feeling after Florida was feeling like I didn’t help the team in any way, but, nights like that are going to happen.”
Jarnell Stokes complimented the guards for working hard to come back from their poor shooting performance on Saturday, “I have a lot of respect for our guards. After the Florida game they didn’t get discouraged, they got angry, and went to the gym to work on their shots and it payed off tonight.” Stokes said. “Even though Ole Miss threw us a zone look like Florida, we were able to make shots and they did not expect us to shoot the way we did.”
Coach Martin also had great compliments for Marshall Henderson of Ole Miss, “He’s the only guy in the league you can’t fall asleep on when up 15 because of his skill.” Martin said. “I hope Jordan and Josh get the same mentality as Henderson one day, if you shoot well, then shoot.”
Jordan McRae knew what Henderson could do, and made it his duty to shut him down. “I stay attached to Henderson, I wasn’t going to help anyone else.” McRae said. “He started the trash-talking early, we were at the free-throw line and he just told me little stuff like, ‘I’m coming, I’m coming’, but we were able to win the game so the talk didn’t mean much.”
Tennessee travels to Tuscaloosa Saturday to take on Alabama and try to pick up another SEC win to put them at 5-3 in the conference.
Edited by Zach Dennis