published Saturday, November 30th, 2013

Tennessee Vols much sharper in avenging Xavier loss

By Tim Reynolds
  • photo
    Tennessee's Jordan McRae, right, goes up for the basket over Xavier's Quinton Chievous, center, as teammate Jarnell Stokes looks on during their NCAA basketball game in Paradise Island, Bahamas, Friday, Nov. 29, 2013. Tennessee won 64-49.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — A few hours sleep was all Tennessee needed.

Jarnell Stokes scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, Jordan McRae added 16 points and the weary Volunteers beat Xavier 64-49 on Friday afternoon at the Battle 4 Atlantis, earning a trip to the tournament's fifth-place game and avenging a loss to the Musketeers two and a half weeks ago.

Jeronne Maymon scored 14 poins on 6-for-8 shooting for the Vols (4-2), who led by as many as 21.

"Our guys played with emotion -- the right emotion, level of energy, toughness and pride for the University of Tennessee," Vols coach Cuonzo Martin said. "They represented each other well. But we had to compete."

Xavier (5-2) was led by Matt Stainbrook's 10 points. Semaj Christon, who dealt with cramps in Thursday's loss to Iowa, was held to four points, snapping a streak of 25 straight double-figure outings for the Xavier guard.

The Musketeers will play in the seventh-place game this afternoon.

"We came off a hard-fought game last night, and our guys just weren't who we needed to be against Tennessee," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "Give them a lot of credit. They were a very physical team. They had their way with us around the basket, and to me that was the story of the game."

Tennessee outrebounded Xavier 41-29 and held a whopping 26-4 edge in second-chance points. The Musketeers were just 3-for-10 from the foul line as well.

By the time Stainbrook scored with 2:20 left to get to double figures, Tennessee already had three players with 14 or more. Friday's outing was Xavier's third in five days, and the Musketeers shot only 41 percent.

"To me, it doesn't really matter," Mack said, asked about the fatigue factor. "Nobody really cares about the labor. Just show me the baby."

Tennessee's first-round loss to Texas-El Paso ended at 12:16 a.m. Friday, and the Volunteers were back in the ballroom-turned-arena at the Atlantis Resort before lunchtime with hopes of salvaging something from their holiday weekend in paradise. They wasted little time in doing just that, outscoring the Musketeers 23-12 in the final 10 minutes of the first half and then opening the second half with an 8-2 spurt.

That was a 31-14 run over 14 minutes, more than enough to doom a reeling Xavier team.

"We've got a lot of experience here," Vols guard Josh Richardson said. "We were in the locker room before the game, we watched yesterday, but we couldn't dwell on that loss. So we definitely came out with the right intensity."

Xavier lost Thursday night to No. 23 Iowa in the tournament quarterfinals -- and that was a gut-wrenching loss for the Musketeers, who didn't trail for a single second of regulation against the Hawkeyes but wound up bowing in overtime.

And they didn't look like the same team Friday.

"I'm grossly disgusted with how I played, how everyone played," Stainbrook said. "I'll take full responsibility for that."

For 10 minutes, it was close, just like the teams' matchup on Nov. 12, when Xavier won 67-63. But this time the Vols found a much better groove.

Robert Hubbs III made a pair of jump shots, one of them a 3-pointer, to spark the big run that closed the first half for the Vols. Stokes had a tip-in with 6:21 remaining in the half to put Tennessee ahead by double digits for the first time at 29-18, and the lead just kept growing from there. Antonio Barton's drive with 3:44 left make it 35-22, and the margin was 39-26 at the break.

The Vols shot 52 percent in the first half, then cooled down in the second, but the Musketeers didn't take advantage. Xavier managed only five points in the first 8:14 of the second half, and even with Tennessee missing more shots, the Vols still pushed their margin out to 51-31 with 11:58 left.

For Martin, it made what largely amounted to a sleepless night of breaking down tape worthwhile.

"We kind of imposed our will around the rim," Martin said.

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