The end result was expected, but the methods certainly weren't. After a dead lackluster start, Tennessee came back in force - and it wasn't thanks to Jeronne Maymon, either. Amazingly, Dwight Miller and Jordan McRae led the charge back before Maymon, Cameron Tatum, and Trae Golden came in to help finish the job.
This game certainly didn't look good at the start. Ole Miss jumped out to a quick 15-2 lead thanks to Terrance Henry and Murphy Holloway combining to physically dominate the Vols for the better part of the first six minutes of the game. Frustrated, Cuonzo Martin basically did a complete subbing out of the starters (with the exception of Jeronne Maymon) to see if that would provide a spark.
It worked. Tennessee promptly (well, as promptly as this team does anything on offense) went on a 21-2 run over the next 6 minutes thanks to Miller and McRae dropping seven each on that run. Somewhere in there, the rest of the game fell into place - defense, rebounding, ball control to an extent (although that took until the second half to really get nailed down) - so when the Rebels responded with a late 9-0 run to close the first half, it didn't feel like the game was over. It felt a little like the last gasp.
The second half was straight anaconda. Ole Miss had a chance according to the scoreboard, but there was no way they were going to actually come back. A 31-30 Tennessee deficit turned into a 39-33 Tennessee lead turned into a 47-39 Tennessee lead turned into a 60-50 Tennessee lead and by that point, it was just too late.
I'm floored at the team maturity in a game like this; quite frankly, I thought this game was over after the 15-2 Revel opening. After that, the Vols outscored the Rebels 71-45, which is just absurd for a team that is still in many ways a year away. (We're not talking NCAA here, don't start. There's too far to come and not enough time to get there.) That's a credit to CCM, who I'm becoming more and more impressed with as days go by.
McRae gets the POG award with 16 points, 6 boards, 4 assists, and one thundering tomahawk dunk that will show up on highlight reels for at least a night. Miller gets some serious props for an out-of-nowhere 10 points, 7 boards, and 2-3 from beyond the arc . Game notes are below the fold.
- Not to be outdone, Maymon had 18 points and 11 boards, and was critical in the second half anaconda action. Great interior control, especially after getting bossed around early by Henry and Holloway (who ended up fouling out).
- Speaking of fouls, kind of weird story from the line: Ole Miss had 22 fouls to only 10 by Tennessee. Normally you'll see a few random calls to even things out a bit, but not so much in this case. The Vols ended up 18-26 from the line, which doesn't sound like a big deal except they started 1-7 at the stripe. Weird way to get there, but no complaints about the end result.
- Nothing doing for Skylar McBee tonight, who couldn't hit from downtown at all, was picked on a bit on D, and ended up riding pine with McRae did his thing. Maybe only one McPlayer can go off on any given night.
- Jarnell Stokes had a couple of huge, that-guy-is-wildly-talented moments, but on the whole, 8 points on 7 shots and 8 boards isn't much to write home about.
Saturday puts the Vols in Columbia for a game against South Carolina. It's an evening tip (8 PM), ad the Vols don't have much of a margin for error.