UT rides strong first half past VU

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Jarnell Stokes scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his sixth straight double-double to lead Tennessee to a 58-46 victory over in-state rival Vanderbilt on Wednesday night.

Jordan McRae had 14 points and 11 rebounds as the Volunteers (13-10, 5-7 Southeastern Conference) won their third straight over the Commodores to match their longest winning streak in the series in nine years.

Tennessee led by as many as 16 and swatted away a late rally by Vanderbilt (9-14, 3-8), which was swept in the season series for the sixth time in 13 years.

After a 3-pointer by Kyle Fuller less than 10 minutes in, Tennessee stormed in front thanks to 53.3-percent shooting (16 of 30) in the first half. McRae responded on the next possession with a running jumper off the backboard and the Vols surged ahead.

During a frenzied stretch, which included more than 6 minutes without stoppage in play, Tennessee gained control with a 20-6 run, including eight straight points from Stokes. His emphatic dunk with 1:47 left gave the Vols a 40-28 lead. Stokes charged untouched through the lane for an explosive, one-handed slam. The sophomore, who recorded his SEC-best 10th double-double of the season, wore a huge grin as he jogged down the court.


Trae Golden made his first start in more than a month and scored 12 points for the Vols.

Kedren Johnson scored 11 points and Kevin Bright grabbed 11 rebounds for the Commodores, who have lost five of six.

In the teams’ previous meeting in Knoxville, Vanderbilt fell behind 12-0 before charging back only to fall short 58-57.

This time, Vanderbilt didn’t dig its hole quite as early. In fact, the Commodores scored first on Johnson’s layup 33 seconds into the game. But Johnson had his next two buckets waved off because of a travel and offensive foul. Golden took advantage of his first start since Jan. 9 and scored nine of his team’s first 15 points. He followed a floater in the lane with a step back 3-pointer for a 15-11 lead with 12:10 left in the half.

Vanderbilt guard Kyle Fuller responded with five straight points of his own. His 3-pointer in the corner gave the Commodores a 16-15 lead with 10:06 left. Jordan McRae responded on the next possession with a running jumper off the backboard and the Vols never relinquished the lead.

Tennessee entered as the SEC’s worst 3-point shooting team, making just 28.6 percent from beyond the arc. But the Vols were hot from the perimeter early, making four of their first six.

The Vols pushed the margin to 16 early in the second half before they finally went cold. They missed six straight shots and turned the ball over in a 4-minute scoreless stretch. Vanderbilt closed the gap in half with an 8-0 run. Dai-Jon Parker’s driving layup with 12:08 left cut the lead to 46-38. But coming out of a timeout, Vanderbilt missed a prime opportunity as Rod Odom missed an open 3-pointer.

McRae sunk a baseline jumper to end the drought and the Vols woke up. Consecutive offensive rebounds led to second-chance baskets as Tennessee broke off a 10-0 run. Shortly after a jumper by Quinton Chievous gave the Vols a 58-42 lead with 4:02 left, Vanderbilt fans starting filing toward the exits.

For the in-state rivalry, Tennessee’s second-year coach Cuonzo Martin donned an orange blazer to honor former Vols coach Ray Mears. The game lacked in atmosphere with empty rows splattered throughout Memorial Gymnasium, which has had just one sellout this season.