Tennessee opened up the season Tuesday night in Cincinnati against Xavier. The game started extremely slow. Tennessee could not buy a basket, and Xavier was struggling offensively as well. At the 10 minute mark in the first half, Tennessee had a total of 4 points. Jordan McRae began to heat up for the Vols, and got them back into the game. Antonio Barton also hit some important shots to keep the Vols within striking distance. Amazingly, Tennessee was only down by 7 points at the half. Tonight was Jeronne Maymon’s first game in two years. Despite scoring the first three points for the Vols, Maymon looked rusty. Cuanzo Martin made some questionable decisions throughout the game. Martin called timeouts at bad times that killed Tennessee’s momentum. For some reason the Vols abandoned Jordan McRae after he had gotten them back into the game.
Neither team had a great night offensively, but both had some impressive individual scorers. Semaj Christon led the Musketeers in scoring with 18 points going 4/10 from the field. Matt Stainbrook was also in double figures for Xavier with 12 points going 6/15 from the field. Myles Davis was also in double figures for Xavier with 13 points. Jordan McRae led the Vols with 23 points going 8/18 from the field and 3/7 from the 3 point line. Josh Richardson had 13 points, and went 3/4 from the three point line. Antonio Barton also had double figures coming off the bench for the Vols with 10 points, and two 3 pointers.
Free throws and poor shooting were the main stories from this game. Neither team could hit their free throws consistently. Tennessee shot 37% from the free throw line as a team. That is 4 percentage points less than they shot from the three point line. Xavier shot 54% as a team from the free throw line, but a number of misses down the stretch gave Tennessee a chance at the end. Xavier held on to win by a final score of 67-63.
Tennessee did not look very impressive tonight. They looked very similar to last year’s team which is a little scary. It is just one game, but Cuanzo needs to improve his in-game adjustments. Jordan McRae had the hot hand, but Tennessee went away from him and got themselves in another hole. Antonio Barton may earn himself a starting spot pretty soon, if not by the next game. Jerronne Maymon did not look great, but he has not played in over a year. Jarnell Stokes has to finish at the basket. The whole team will hopefully adjust to the emphasis on hand-check fouls, and begin to eliminate those. This team has plenty of talent, and should make the tournament if they make the right adjustments. (all stats from espn.com)