Cuonzo’s Vols top the Tigers
If you watched the Tennessee Vols basketball team in November or even early December, forget what you think you know.
A clear-the-air session over dinner after a disappointing showing at home against North Carolina State has so far been a turning point for UT. They proved it by going on the road to Baton Rouge and easily dispatching LSU 68-50 for their fourth straight win.
The Vols offense kicked into gear in the early going of the first half. Leading 20-18, transfer guard Antonio Barton lit up the Bengal Tigers from the 3 point arc. Barton knocked down a trio of triples in a little over five and a half minutes to bump Tennessee’s lead to 35-22. Jordan McRae added a trey of his own as Cuonzo Martin’s squad went to the halftime locker room up 38-24.
LSU scored the first basket of the second half, but never got closer than 12 points the rest of the way as the Vols continued their string of stellar performances. UT shot 46 percent from the floor on the road to get the first January league win away from home in Martin’s three seasons. It was the earliest a Tennessee team had won an SEC road game since 2005.
“I thought our guys were locked in,” said Martin. “I though the guys had a tremendous amount of focus.”
Jarnell Stokes celebrated his 20th birthday with his seventh double-double of the season; 15 points and 15 rebounds. Reigning SEC Player of the Week Jordan McRae tossed in 19 to lead the Vols, while Antonio Barton added 14.
“My gauge is whenever Jarnell and Jeronne (Maymon) are assertive and aggressive whether they’re making shots or not,” said Martin, “as long as they are aggressive, in attack mode, rebounding and putting pressure on that way, I think we’re in good shape.”
“Now when our guards are making shots, I just think we’re a tough team to go against,” Martin added.
The Vols are now 1-0 in SEC play, 9-4 overall. Tennessee returns home Saturday for a 6 pm tip-off with Texas A&M.