published Monday, March 4th, 2013

Tennessee Vols look to put loss to Georgia in the past

Georgia guard Charles Mann (4) jumps Saturday to keep the ball in bounds while defended by Tennessee forwards Kenny Hall (20) and Jarnell Stokes (5) during their NCAA game in Athens, Ga. Georgia won 78-68.
Georgia guard Charles Mann (4) jumps Saturday to keep the ball in bounds while defended by Tennessee forwards Kenny Hall (20) and Jarnell Stokes (5) during their NCAA game in Athens, Ga. Georgia won 78-68.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

ATHENS, Ga. — Tennessee didn't help it's NCAA tournament chances by losing at Georgia.

The season's not over and there's still 13 days between now and Selection Sunday, when the 68-team tournament field will be announced.

Despite Saturday's loss, the Volunteers still can help their postseason chances.

"We just have to look forward," forward Jarnell Stokes said after scoring eight points on six shots and grabbing 10 rebounds against the Bulldogs. "We have to beat Auburn and we have to beat Missouri. That's just how you quiet it down, is just winning games.

As a couple of players mentioned after the loss, moving forward is the only option.

"Without a doubt," Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said of his team's ability to bounce back from a disappointing day. "They don't have a choice. This is our program.

"This is what we do. We lost a basketball game to a team that played well on their home court. We move forward."

In at least one NCAA tournament projection, Tennessee moved forward even with its loss.

The Vols woke up Saturday as ESPN bracket analyst Joe Lunardi's first team out of the tournament and ended it as the last team in the field after many bubble teams, including a couple in the SEC, either missed chances at quality wins or also lost.

Ole Miss lost inexplicably at Mississippi State, which snapped a 13-game losing streak despite having just seven available scholarship players. Kentucky fell at Arkansas, where the Razorbacks are 17-1 this season, and Arizona State lost on the road to a Southern California team with a losing record. Baylor (Kansas State at home) and Alabama (at Florida) missed chances at big wins.

Villanova, another team on the bubble, lost at Pittsburgh on Sunday.

"The 'first team out' and the 'bubble' -- I don't pay attention to all that," said Jordan McRae, the Vols' leading scorer who poured in 35 points on Saturday. "We've still got a chance to do whatever. We're just going to take one game at a time, worry about Auburn on Wednesday [and] keep moving forward.

"We dropped this one, and we can't drop two in a row."

The Vols still have SEC tournament seeding on the line, too. Tennessee is two games out of the second-place tie between Alabama and Kentucky and one game back of Ole Miss and Missouri, the two teams tied for fourth. The league's top four teams receive a bye into the quarterfinals of what could be a wide open tournament in Nashville.

If the tournament started today, the Vols would be the seventh seed and face Vanderbilt in the first round with Alabama waiting in the corresponding quarterfinal.

The implications of what's at stake the final two games can be distractions for the Vols, but Martin doesn't feel that was the case on Saturday.

"You'd have to ask each individual guy, to be totally honest with you," he said. "They're human. You're playing well, you win six in a row, you're excited about what you're doing -- it happens.

"But I don't think that's taking away from the effort."

Said Stokes: "I feel like we've been playing must-win games for the past eight or nine, and we've played well throughout that. I don't think this team will have any problems with that."

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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