Vols start slow, rally falls short against NC State
image via Matthew S. DeMaria / Tennessee Athletics
An inexplicable slow start led to an unproductive first half and eventually to a potentially damaging loss for the Tennessee Vols.
UT was coming off a loss at eighth-ranked Wichita State that could easily have been a win, and they were in need of a RPI-boosting, resume-building victory. Yet the Vols stumbled out of the starting gate and couldn’t recover in a 65-58 loss to North Carolina State.
The Wolfpack scored the game’s first bucket and never looked back, dominating the first twenty minutes and taking a 37-20 lead into the locker room at halftime.
“There’s not really much you have to say,” Jordan McRae said. “I mean, we know we’re down 17 at home at halftime. You gotta do something about it.”
And they gave it a pretty good run. The Vols opened the second 20 minutes on a 14-5 binge that included 3 of McRae’s team-leading 21 points. Other than a baseline jumper by Robert Hubbs in the second half, McRae was the only Vol to connect on a shot more than a couple of feet from the basket.
Tennessee got within five points twice in the game’s final nine minutes, but the hole they had dug in the first half was too deep to overcome, despite double-double efforts from both Jarnell Stokes (10 points, 13 rebounds) and Jeronne Maymon (17 points, 16 rebounds).
“Just going out there trying to play one possession,” Maymon said of the second half surge, “just try to chip away, continue to climb back into it, you know. But at the end, I think in the last three or four minutes they had a couple of good baskets that really just kind of put the dagger in it.”
Despite the productivity from Maymon and Stokes, North Carolina State head coach Mark Gottfried was pleased with his defense.
“Other than that stretch to start the second half when they got it in there pretty easily,” Gottfried said, “I thought our guys really executed the way we wanted them to, and that’s big for this group. We want them to lock in mentally, learn and then execute.”
T.J. Warren scored just below his average and led the Wolfpack with 21 points and 11 rebounds. North Carolina State moved to 8-2 on the year.