Dec. 13, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Trae Golden scored 19 of his season-high 25 points in the second half, Jordan McRae added a season-best 17 points and the Tennessee men's basketball team fought off No. 23 Wichita State for a 69-60 home victory on Thursday.
Golden led Tennessee (5-3) with an inspired performance to hand Wichita State (9-1) its first loss of the season. He had the best game of his career from the charity stripe, hitting 13-of-16. As a team, Tennessee was an outstanding 29-of-36 from the line. McRae had 17 big points off the bench and was a perfect 8-of-8 from the stripe.
"I thought Trae Golden was huge tonight," UT head coach Cuonzo Martin said. "He really attacked the rim, made plays and forced the referee to make calls. He was very aggressive. I thought it was his best game all season, just being assertive and being in tune on both ends of the floor. I thought he was outstanding defensively. He was huge for us."
Tennessee celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first season of the legendary career of former head coach Ray Mears (1962-77) at halftime.
"First I'd like to recognize Coach Mears and the lettermen who were in attendance," Martin said. "I'd also like to recognize Bill Justus, who spoke to our guys last night. I thought he did a tremendous job just really telling them about being a family. Not so much about about basketball, but being a family and that being part of the Tennessee basketball family is for a lifetime. I thought our guys responded really well to that. He was talking to them the same stuff we tell them as staff about being a family, being a unit and appreciating the opportunities."
Wichita State's Carl Hall and UT's Jarnell Stokes battled in the paint to start the second half. Hall made a layup 22 seconds into the second half to tie the game at 30-30, ending the Vols' stretch of 12:37 with the lead. One minute later, Stokes made a layup to push UT ahead, 32-30. Hall had a put-back layup on the ensuing WSU possession, but yelled in Stokes' face afterwards to merit a technical foul.
Golden caught fire for Tennessee after the technical. He made one of the ensuing free throws and scored eight of the Vols' next 10 points and his drives through the lane allowed UT to keep pace with the Shockers, who started to find their own offensive momentum.
Jake White made two free throws at the 13:08 mark to open a 7-0 Wichita State run. Fred Van Vleet hit a 3-pointer 30 seconds later to give Wichita State a 45-42 lead.
With UT trailing 50-46, McRae scored six straight points for Tennessee to push the Vols back in front. McRae's free throws with 9:05 left tied the game at 50-50. His jumper at the 8:08 mark gave the Vols a 52-50 lead.
Golden and McRae were outstanding down the stretch, making big shots to carry the Vols. Golden hit a big jumper from the paint with 7:19 remaining to spark a 6-0 Tennessee run. McRae's 3-pointer with 5:56 left put UT up, 58-52, and tie its largest lead of the game.
The Shockers responded with a 7-0 run over the next two minutes. WSU pulled ahead, 59-58, when Carl Hall converted a layup and made a free throw with 3:55 left in the game.
Tennessee climbed back in front, 61-59, just 45 seconds later after Kenny Hall made two free throws.
Golden drained five more free throws in the final three minutes of the game. Tennessee closed the game with an 11-1 run (all free throws) in the final 3:29 to secure the win.
Both teams struggled offensively early in the game, combining to go just 3-of-11 from the field with a total of eight turnovers after the first four minutes of play. UT started to find some offensive rhythm after the first media timeout. Yemi Makanjuola ended a four-minute scoring drought and with a hook shot from the right baseline to even the game at 4-4 with 15:09 left in the first.
With the Shockers up, 9-6, McRae hit a jumper from the left side with 13:01 remaining in the period to spark a 10-2 run. In that stretch, Tennessee was 4-of-6 from the field with two made free throws. The Vols held the lead for the final 12:15 of the first half.
Makanjoula made two free throws at the 7:37 mark to give the Vols their largest lead of the half at 20-14. Wichita State's Ron Baker answered quickly on the other end, hitting a 3-pointer 10 seconds later.
Carl Hall's hustle on the Shockers' end of the floor kept the game close late in the first half. Hall drained a jumper and drew a foul with 5:35 left, bringing Wichita State to within 22-19. He made two free throws a minute later to cut the Vols' lead to 22-21.
D'Montre Edwards came up big for Tennessee late in the first. He ended a two-minute UT scoring drought with a trey from the left wing with 4:33 on the clock. Edwards made a layup at 3:16, keeping the Shockers at arm's length with a 27-24 UT lead as the two teams began trading baskets.
Both teams failed to get a shot off on their respective final possessions of the first half and Tennessee took a 30-28 lead into halftime. The Vols shot 48.0 percent from the floor, held the Shockers to 38.0 percent shooting and had an 18-15 rebounding edge in the first half. Makanjoula's energy off the bench was key for Tennessee as he posted team highs of six points and five rebounds before the break. WSU's Carl Hall led the Shockers in the first half with 10 points and three rebounds.
The Vols will continue their six-game homestand on Tuesday, Dec. 18, when they host Presbyterian at 7 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena.