Playing with just approximately 12 hours of rest after falling to UTEP, Tennessee put together its best performance of the year in an easy win over Xavier.
“They did a great job of bouncing back today,” said coach Cuonzo Martin. “It was an emotional game last night and a tough loss. We had our pregame meal at 10 a.m. and played at 1 p.m. – as a staff we might have gotten two hours of sleep last night with scouting. I thought our guys did a good job of bouncing back and playing at a high level.”
Now the Vols have a chance to leave the Bahamas with some momentum and a pair of decent non-conference wins if they can knock off Wake Forest, which defeated Southern California 77-63 on Friday afternoon. The Vols will face the Demon Decons Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET (AXS TV).
“They played well and they rebounded,” Martin said of the duo of Stokes and Maymon. “It was just like last night, they rebounded but the only difference was we didn’t capitalize on the free throws and the layups. It was a big turnaround. It’s emotionally taxing when you’re missing those layups around the rim and those free throws.
“It takes a lot out of you because it’s so hard to score against good teams. We capitalized today and played well. When those two guys play well, we play well as a team. We have to go through those guys. They rebounded, defended and put pressure on [Xavier] on defense.”
On Friday, the Vols’ frontcourt of Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon was dominant in posting a 64-49 victory over Xavier (5-2) at Imperial Arena. Stokes posted his second double-double in as many days with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Maymon scored 14 points, making 6 of 8 shots from the floor, for one of his best games since returning from a redshirt season in 2012-13.
Jordan McRae also scored 16 for the Vols (4-2). It was the first time in six games McRae did not lead Tennessee in scoring.
Tennessee gained a measure of revenge against the Musketeers after dropping its regular-season opener at Xavier, 67-63, on Nov. 12. The Vols now hold a 12-5 lead in the series with the Musketeers having played three times in the last 11 months.
Frontcourt play keyed the victory as the Vols outscored Xavier in the paint, 41-29. Tennessee also outscored Xavier 26-4 in second-chance points. UT grabbed the lead less than four minutes into the game and held it for the remainder of the contest.
The Vols took a commanding 20-point lead on a Stokes’ layup with 12 minutes left in game at 51-31. UT maintained a lead of at least 15 points of the rest of the game as Tennessee’s defense buckled up. Xavier shot just 40.3 percent from the field for the game.
Xavier’s leading scorer Semaj Christon (16.0 ppg entering the game) was limited to just four points. Christon’s 24-game streak of scoring in double-figures came to an end.
“We told our guys if they listened to the scouting report we would give ourselves a tremendous chance at winning games,” said Martin. “Last night we didn’t do a good job of carrying out the assignments on our scouting report. Then you have to take pride in defending. We can’t win at a high level if we don’t defend and that was the result last night. It gets to a point where you can’t hide basketball players. You have to be able to guard somebody. At some point you have to be able to step up and defend.”
Information from UTSports.com was used in this report.