Yes, Virginia, there is a Vols basketball team
Christmas came late for Tennessee basketball fans, but when it arrived five days after the fact, it was clear the Vols had made Santa’s nice list.
Jordan McRae tossed in 21 points while Josh Richardson and Jarnell Stokes each scored 20 as Tennessee trampled Virginia 87-52, finally giving UT another resume win before heading into Southeastern Conference play.
The Vols were red-hot on a cold Knoxville night, hitting 8 of 11 three-point shots, all 10 free throws and almost 58 percent of all their shots from the floor. And they did that against the nation’s 4th best team against field goal percentage.
Their desire to get off to a fast start was answered quickly as UT went up by 9 barely five minutes into the game. Tennessee led by double digits the last 32:44 of the contest and thanks to a half-court three-pointer by Antonio Barton, they were up by 22 at intermission.
Almost as impressively, the Vols responded when Virginia scored the first two baskets of the second half and snuffed any hopes of a rally. From there the lead ballooned to as much as 37 before the 35 point final margin.
“I thought we did a good job against that defense,” said Vols coach Cuonzo Martin. “If you had asked me before the game, I would have been surprised to be totally honest with you.”
“It got to a point to where I was like, when we shot a 3, I was just running back on defense,” laughed guard Josh Richardson. “I was like ‘good shot’, so. It was a good night for us.”
“For guys like me this game was very important to have my shot falling I came in more confident, not worried about the last game,” said point guard Antonio Barton. “This was a good statement game for us.”
It is indeed a resume win, a badly-needed one as the Vols prepare to move into SEC play in a year when the league’s RPI is low.
Tennessee is now 8-4 with Tusculum coming up Saturday. They open SEC play January 11th at home against Texas A&M.