Tennessee Basketball: Vols thrash Tigers in SEC-opener

Tennessee Volunteers

Antonio Barton had a superb first half to help kick-start the Vols to an easy victory in their conference opener at LSU (Photo credit: allfortennessee.com).

The Tennessee Vols out-rebounded their opponent, yet again, en route to their tenth victory of the season on Tuesday night.

Tennessee basketball improved to 10-4, and extended their win streak to four games against LSU Tuesday night.

For the Vols it was the beginning of conference play, and the third place preseason projected Vols looked like one of the top contenders for the SEC title in their victory over the Tigers.

Despite turning the ball over a season-high 16 times, Tennessee was able to out-battle the Tigers on the boards from start to finish and hold them to a dismal 36.7 percent shooting, including a 2-of-14 effort from beyond the arc, to put them away 68-50.

Jordan McRae again led the team in scoring with 19 points, while Jarnell Stokes added another 15 points and 15 rebounds, seven of which were off the offensive glass.

McRae, who was recently named SEC player of the week for the second time this season, shot an impressive six-of-seven from the field, and also hit all three shots attempted from deep.

While McRae and Stokes were impressive again for the Vols, Antonio Barton was responsible for the early offensive spark to put them ahead. The Memphis transfer connected on all four threes he attempted in the first half before finally cooling down in the second half and finishing with 14 points.

Barton’s perimeter shooting has been huge for the Vols in their recent success, and has helped alleviate some of the pressure off of McRae’s shoulders which was much needed for Tennessee to get back on the right track.

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The only difference in Tuesday night’s victory versus the last three victories for the Vols was the lack of bench production. The past three games there has been some kind of surprise effort come from the bench, but against LSU every starter saw at least 31 minutes of playing time. Darius Thompson saw the most action from the bench, per usual, with 13 minutes. No one else played a second over nine minutes.

Minus the turnovers coach Cuonzo Martin should walk away from his team’s effort fairly pleased across the board. Most of Tennessee’s turnovers could be contributed to LSU’s late-game press, something the Vols have struggled with all season and need to have corrected as they move into the heart of conference play.

Tennessee will return home to face Texas A&M, one year removed from their four-overtime thriller in College Station, Texas, on Saturday, Jan. 11. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. and will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Net.

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