For the third time this season Jordan McRae put the team on his back, and for the third time this season Tennessee fell short of victory.
On Saturday afternoon, Dec. 14, the Tennessee basketball team traveled to Wichita State to face the No. 12 Shockers, who made their Final Four debut a year ago under head coach Greg Marshall.
The Shockers entered Saturday’s game 9-0, much like they did a season ago before dropping their first game against the Vols in Knoxville, Tenn.
Coming into the game the best start for any Wichita State team had been halted at 9-0, but history was finally rewritten for them Saturday afternoon as they finally moved to 10-0 at the Volunteers expense.
To help their tournament hopes once late February and early March come around, the Vols really needed just a quality win over a quality opponent. The fact they were facing Wichita State on the road would’ve just been an added bonus.
Instead they drop their third game of the season, still seeking a seemingly elusive quality win to help their post-season resume. The Vols have also yet to win a true, non-conference road game under third-year head coach Cuonzo Martin, which doesn’t help his presumed ‘hot seat’ status some may feel he is on pending the results of this season.
The only bright spot in Tennessee’s performance against Wichita State was again McRae’s ability to light up the scoreboard, as he was seemingly the only one putting points on the board for the Vols in Saturday afternoon’s contest.
Jarnell Stokes saw limited minutes due to foul trouble, and didn’t post any points for the Vols until late, perhaps too late, in the second half. After posting only eight points he would later foul out with two minutes to go for just the second time this season, the first coming in the season opener against Xavier when he finished with only four points.
Tennessee led the Shockers at the half, and continued to hold a small lead over them until the latter part of the second half. The real turning point came when a wide open Jeronne Maymon under the basket went up soft for an easy lay in that was rejected and led to an ‘and-one’ opportunity at the other end of the floor for Wichita State.
From there the Vols never saw the lead again as the Shockers outscored Tennessee 28-16 en route to a 70-61 victory and improve to 10-0 for the first time in school history.
Although a season-high 26-point output from the Vols’ leading scorer, McRae’s efforts weren’t enough to single-handedly will his team to victory in a pivotal game for Tennessee.
Tennessee will return to action when they return to Knoxville, Tenn. to face North Carolina State on Wednesday, Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.