Trailing 14-2 midway through the first half, Tennessee needed a spark.
It came in the form of Jordan McRae and Dwight Miller. The duo combined for 26 points, helping the Volunteers (15-13, 7-6 SEC) overcome a slow start to defeat Ole Miss 73-60 Wednesday night in Thompson-Boling Arena.
“Jordan McRae and Dwight did a great job coming off the bench and giving us energy and enthusiasm,” UT coach Cuonzo Martin said. “I thought that was great. The one thing I told Dwight and we talk about it all the time is to just stick with it and continue to work and this is the result of him consistently working and not giving up. It paid off for him, and I’m happy to see that for him.”
Miller reached double-figures with 10 points after totaling just four points in the last eight games. His inspiring performance was just what the Vols needed to get the team back on their feet.
“He gave us a huge lift,” sophomore guard Trae Golden said. “He played really well. I think that’s what Dwight does every time he comes into the game. He’s fearless and he’s not scared to shoot the ball. That’s what we definitely needed. He was a big spark for us.”
Junior forward Jeronne Maymon scored 18 points, reaching double-figures for the ninth straight game, and added 11 rebounds. McRae brought UT fans to their feet with a dunk that gave UT at 10-point lead midway through the second half. Martin said McRae brought the team together and put them into the right gear.   
“Jordan set the tone for us and really got us into an offensive flow,” Martin said. “He made plays and made shots.”
 Golden said he thought McRae’s performance really made the difference between a win and a loss.
“I don’t think we would’ve come back if it wasn’t for him,” Golden said. “He played a great game.”
The team’s win came to fundamental basketball and the difference was found in turnovers, rebounds and free throws. UT was 17-of-21 from the free-throw line in the second half, and committed just one turnover on offense over the last 20 minutes.
“We did a good job in the second half of not turning the ball over,” Martin said. “I think we had 10 in the first half and 11 for the game. We just settled down and made plays. It’s just one of those things we consistently work at and continue to get better every day. I thought we did a good job in the second half of defending as a team with them passing, cutting and moving.”
With the win, UT moves into fourth place in the SEC standings. The top four teams at the end of the regular season get a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament.
The Vols return to action Saturday night at South Carolina. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m.