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Stokes comes up big again as Vols bully Vandy

Stokes comes up big again as Vols bully Vandy

Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2013 7:00 pm

NASHVILLE (AP) — Jarnell Stokes doesn’t want to be labeled as the guy for Tennessee. But the sophomore sure is playing like the big man on campus.
For the sixth straight game, Stokes collected a double-double, scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds as the Volunteers rolled to a 58-46 victory over in-state rival Vanderbilt on Wednesday night.
It marked his 10th double-double of the season, the most in the Southeastern Conference, as Tennessee (13-10, 5-6) swept the regular-season series for the sixth time in 13 years. The Vols picked up their third straight win over Vanderbilt, their longest winning streak in the series in nine years.
“I don’t want to be marked as the guy,” Stokes said. “Other guys made plays and that is how we won the game. I’m not the man. I’m a great piece to Tennessee.”
Stokes wasn’t a solo act as the Vols overwhelmed Vanderbilt early and led by as many as 16 points in the second half.
Tennessee swarmed the Commodores (9-14, 3-8) with an effective scoring trio. Leading scorer Jordan McRae notched his first career double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Point guard Trae Golden made his first start of the month and chipped in 12 points, with nine coming in the first eight minutes.
Despite scoring just 18 points in the second half, Tennessee created distance thanks to shooting 53.3 percent (16-of-30) in the first half. Plus, the Vols committed just nine turnovers, with only two before halftime. When the Commodores threatened late and cut the lead to eight, the Vols responded with six straight points to secure their second straight win. Both have been away from Knoxville after they lost their first six road games.
“Like I said to our guys, I think we can beat any team in this league,” Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said. “We’ve been up and down, haven’t had a lot of consistency. But when you get a road win, it is kind of a sigh of relief. ‘OK, we got a road win. Let’s go get this next one against a rival team.’ So now it doesn’t take much to get up for because you know who you are playing against.”
In the first meeting two weeks ago, Vanderbilt fell behind 12-0 before clawing back and missing two go-ahead shots at the end of a 58-57 loss.
This time, the Commodores didn’t dig a hole quite as early. Vanderbilt scored first on Kedren Johnson’s layup 33 seconds into the game. But he had his next two buckets waved off because of a travel and offensive foul. Golden took advantage of his first start since Jan. 9 and scored nine of his team’s first 15 points. He followed a floater in the lane with a step-back 3-pointer for a 15-11 lead with 12:10 left in the half.
Vanderbilt guard Kyle Fuller responded with five straight points of his own. His 3-pointer from the corner gave the Commodores a 16-15 lead with 10:06 left. McRae responded on the next possession with a running jumper off the backboard and the Vols never relinquished the lead.
During a frenzied stretch, which included more than six minutes without a stoppage in play, Tennessee gained control with a 20-6 run, including eight straight points from Stokes.
“In the first half, it was the best I’ve seen UT play this season,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “Some of it was us. We made it easy on them because we missed shots.”
“We had trouble plugging up the faucet they had running,” Johnson said.
Stokes boosted Tennessee to a 40-28 halftime lead with an emphatic dunk with 1:47 left. The 6-foot-8, 270-pounder charged untouched through the lane for an explosive, one-handed slam. He wore a huge grin as he jogged down the court.
“That was really the most I’ve heard Jarnell talk in the course of a game,” McRae said. “He was talking to us, them, everybody and demanding the ball. That’s the kind of Jarnell we need.”
The Vols pushed the margin to 16 early in the second half before they finally went cold. They missed six straight shots and turned the ball over five times in a 4-minute scoreless stretch. Vanderbilt halved the gap with an 8-0 run. Dai-Jon Parker’s driving layup with 12:08 left cut the lead to 46-38. But coming out of a timeout, Vanderbilt missed a prime opportunity as Rod Odom failed to make an open 3-pointer.
McRae sunk a baseline jumper to end the drought and the Vols woke up. Consecutive offensive rebounds led to second-chance baskets as Tennessee broke off a 10-0 run.
“We had opportunities to make our shots,” Vanderbilt guard Kevin Bright said. “It is really frustrating.”
The Commodores made just 3 of 14 3-pointers and shot 32.1 percent (9 of 28) from the field in the second half. Johnson scored a team-high 11 points and Bright grabbed 11 rebounds.
For the in-state rivalry, Martin donned an orange blazer to honor former Vols coach Ray Mears. But the game was lacking in atmosphere, with empty rows splattered throughout Memorial Gymnasium, which has had just one sellout this season.

Published in The Messenger 2.14.13

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