By Ron Wynn
The Tennessee Volunteers played one of their best halves Thursday night at Ole Miss on the road, but it wasn’t enough. The Rebels were held to their lowest point total (18) of the year in the opening 20 minutes, but roared back behind the SEC’s leading scorer Mike Henderson to post a 62-56 win over UT.
Henderson had six three-pointers in the second half, many of them from way outside and some just beating the shot clock buzzer. He came into the game averaging 18.9 points per game, and had scored 32 against UT in Knoxville two weeks ago. The Vols did an excellent job on him in the first half, but couldn’t stop him from exploding in the second. His ability to get free and hit from long-range began opening things inside for his teammates. Though he didn’t shoot that well overall from the floor (just seven of 16) he did make all eight of his free throws to end up with 28 points.
Jordan McRae led the Volunteers with 26 points, while Trae Golden had one of his better games, scoring 11. Tennessee led 25-18 at halftime, but their inability to sustain offense caught up with them. Once again, Jarnell Stokes gave them very little offensively, making two of three shots from the floor and two of five from the line for a meager six points. Aside from Golden (who made only four of 11 shots) no one else from Tennessee was in double figures.
Tennessee did a much better job the boards, out-rebounding Ole Miss 41-30. They were leading 46-40 with less than nine minutes remaining, but then Henderson fueled a surge that saw the Rebels catch,then pass the Vols on the way to their fifth consecutive SEC win (16-2 overall). Tennessee is 1-4 in the conference (9-8 overall). Their next game will be Saturday against Alabama in Knoxville at 1 p.m. It will be shown on ESPN 2.
The Lady Vols fared better on the road then their male counterparts. They got a career game from Taber Spani and defeated arch-rival Vanderbil 83-75 Thursday night in Memorial Gym. Tennessee maintained its edge over Vanderbilt in what’s become a bitter rivalry. They have now won 25 of the last 27 games, and definitely avenged last year’s 93-79 loss at Memorial.
It didn’t help that Vanderbilt made only 10 of 39 first half shots. The cold shooting helped UT forge a 41-29 halftime lead. Vandy did rally in the second half, but was just too far back to ever catch UT. The Lady Vols are now undefeated in seven SEC games (16-3 overall). Vanderbilt’s SEC record is 3-3 (13-6 overall). The Lady Commodores travel to Alabama for a Sunday afternoon game at 1 p.m. that will be carried on WUXP-30. The men’s team faces Tennessee Tuesday night in Knoxville at 6 p.m. It will be televised on ESPNU.
Tennessee State University ran into a buzzsaw Thursday night at Eastern Kentucky. With only one conference loss each, it was a game where the winner would be a leg up in the conference race. Eastern Kentucky did that with a 76-67 victory. The Tigers will try to bounce back Saturday as both men and women travel to Morehead State. The women’s game begins at 4:15 p.m., the men’s at 6:30 p.m.
The team ahead in TSU’s division, Belmont, keeps winning. The Bruins overcame a 14-point second half deficit on the road Thursday night, edging Morehead State 64-63. Ian Clark once more led Belmont scorers with 20 points.
Photo By: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis