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Vols lose to Ole Miss: Second half heat ices game for the Rebs

Vols lose to Ole Miss

Golden looked more like the Golden we need, but it wasn’t enough.

So, I’m walking out the door this morning, thinking about Tray Golden’s three that rimmed in and out on one of the Vols’ last possessions — a three that would have tied the game at 59 — when a thin sheet of ice totally puts me on my ass.

Oh, the irony. Ten hours earlier, it was a total ass who’d put the game on ice.

It started so promising. The Vols got out to a quick lead. We dominated the glass. And we played tenacious defense, holding the Rebels without a field goal for ten full minutes during one stretch.

Trae Golden even looked like Trae Golden again, scoring five early points including a beautiful runner and a rare three. But it was his next bucket, an awkward double clutch effort from 15 feet which he inadvertently banked home, that had me believing that last night would belong to the Orange.

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Sure, Jordan McRae got off to a slow start. He was sloppy with the ball and missed his first three shots (though two of them were total bailouts compelled by a dwindling shot clock). But with five minutes to go in the half, he sliced through the Rebel D from the right-hand side, then tucked under the rim for a nifty reverse that extended the Vols’ lead to nine, tying their largest of the game. And with that, you got the sense that all would be well with Jordan.

Heading in to the locker room, the Vols enjoyed a 7-point lead, McRae and Golden combining for 16 of the Tennessee’s 25 points. Ole Miss’ 18 were the lowest total for Ole Miss in any half this year. To add insult to injury, UT grabbed 10 more boards and held the Rebels to a paltry 16.7% from the floor.

Best of all? Marshall Mathers Henderson, the shit-talking sharp shooter who’d dropped 32 on the Vols just 15 days prior, was 0-4 from the field, scoring each of his meager four points from the charity stripe. And it couldn’t have happened to a bigger asshole. But then something funny happened.

They played the second half.

The Rebels started strong and Henderson caught fire, sinking back-to-back threes to bring the Rebels within one. Nick Williams added another trey which put Ole Miss up 33-32, their first lead since being up 5-4. They’d push that lead to four and suddenly, it no longer felt like the Vols’ night. Instead, it felt like an inevitable collapse was imminent.

To UT’s credit, though, they fought back thanks largely to Jordan McRae who finished the game with 26 points. But, ultimately, Henderson proved to be too much, nailing six from downtown, the last three of which occurred in a span of less than two minutes, the very last of which put the Rebels up for good, 56-53. Which prompted me to do take to Twitter to share the following observation:

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UT had its chances. Down 56-58, McRae missed two huge free throws. Moments later, with UT still down by the same score, Armani Moore missed two huge free throws of his own.

Even so, the Vols had two good looks from three with under a minute that would have tied it, but McRae was off the mark and Golden saw his go in and out. Then Thug McGillicutty stepped to the stripe and did what neither McRae or Moore could do — drained ’em both, extending the lead to five with just 20 seconds left.

Ball game.

Say what you want about Marshall, and believe me, I say plenty, but that kid’s got one of the prettiest jumpers I’ve ever seen. In a blink, he’s caught and released, in another, he’s shredded the net. Several of his shots drew not even the faintest hint of iron. All nylon. He’s a sick-ass player. And the dude totally balls out. I hate him. But I respect him.

So a game effort, but at the end of the day, the Vols fell to 9-8 overall and 1-4 in the SEC. Some observations:

Skylar McBee

He looked horrible. How horrible? So horrible that his 11 minutes looked like 11 too many.

Trae Golden

He’s adjusted well to coming off the bench, and his 11 points were encourage, but he only had one dime. His 4-11 from the field, while better, still isn’t good enough to get it done. We need more from our leader.

Jarnell Stokes

Any of you still wondering if he’s going pro next year? Gimme a break.

Look, it’s this simple. He’s a physical specimen. But he’s not a very good basketball player. At least not at this point. Sure, he was 2-3 from the field. But how is a guy that menacing only getting up three shots in 27 minutes? And how does a guy that physical only grab four rebounds? And why does he always foul out with like six points?

Poor Jarnell. Things looked so promising for him this time last year. Now, not as much. Hopefully he’ll keep grinding and find some semblance of a game. If the Vols are to make the NIT, he HAS to improve.

Kenny Hall

I thought number 20 played a pretty good game. His 8 points and 50% shooting from the floor and six boards were all encouraging.

Josh Richardson

I love this kid and I firmly believe that he could be our second best player (behind McRae). He’s a great on-ball defender, but that cat’s gotta find a way to score more than just three points. Newsflash: it ain’t gonna happen unless he hoists up more than two shots.

Jordan McRae

What can you say? Kid played his guts out. Always seems to keep his cool. Really like his demeanor. But, in keeping it real, his seven turnovers were way too many, and his (uncharacteristic) misses from the line down the stretch really hurt the Vols. Possibly even cost them the game.

Armani Moore

Yes, he missed a couple of huge free throws as well, but I love this kid. He’s a great athlete and he had three gnarly-ass blocks. Left it all on the floor. Period. Next thought: bro’s gotta score.

Derek Reese and Yemi Makanjoula

Neither were a factor. Reese’s three that got swatted all the way up to Memphis seemed to pretty much take him out of the game. And Yemi? I kept hoping he’d sharpen up those pointy-ass elbows and place one of them in Henderson’s schnoz. Accidentally, of course.

I mean, I’d hate to see the kid get hurt, but Papa needs a new pair of shoes, too. Know what I mean? And let’s just say that I got some action.

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