In their conference opener, the Tennessee Volunteers couldn't keep the Old Miss Rebel Black Bears off the board. Rebounds, field goals, fouls and free throws all played a part in the 92-74 loss at Thompson-Boling Arena Wednesday night.
Junior guard Jordan McRae led the Vols with 26 points for the night. Regardless of his personal performance, McRae shook his head over the outcome of the game.
"It's embarrassing," McRae said. "At the end of the game they were laughing and having fun and it was embarrassing."
The Rebels took the lead early in the first half. While the Vols managed to keep up with Ole Miss for the majority of the game, the Rebels took the lead five minutes into the game and never let go. Key to the Rebel win was Ole Miss junior Marshall Henderson.
Henderson's field goal percentage was nothing to speak of, but the Vols couldn't stop fouling him, giving him easy opportunities at the foul stripe. The guard finished with 32 of the team's 92 points.
McRae said it was tough to see the team make an effort and not see the results.
"We were getting the stops we needed to, and then they would get an offensive rebound or a foul every play down in the second half and that can't happen," McRae said.
Head coach Cuonzo Martin said he thought the team needed to focus on identifying shooters, forcing the tough shots and taking pride in doing just that. Martin said to give Henderson the props he deserved.
"Give him credit for being creative on the offensive side of the ball," Martin said.
Sophomore forward Jarnell Stokes said he felt it was important for the team to hit shots and keep guys out of the lane, but still not lose confidence in themselves and their teammates.
"We feel like we can win every game here on out," Stokes said.
McRae's performance as a starter caught Martin's eye. He said the junior earned his spot in the lineup.
"I thought Jordan played well again," Martin said. "Very assertive."
Junior guard Trae Golden went 3-10 with only seven points and two rebounds for the night. Martin said Golden needs to work on playing more confidently.
"I think it's more Trae getting himself going," Martin said. "He gets some minutes, he's in the rotation, but having the confidence to play the way he's capable of playing, I think that's the biggest key. On the defensive side of the ball, he has to take pride in defending his man. I just think it's more Trae just getting the confidence and not really thinking anything and just playing the game.
"But it gets tough when you have consecutive games where you don't feel like you're playing the way you're capable of playing. You start thinking, you start doubting and you start second guessing. Trae should be fine, but he just has to be aggressive and stay focused."
McRae said that looking forward, the team just needs to compete and play hard. He said it's important that they don't let the Ole Miss game hurt their confidence on the court.
"We keep playing," McRae said. "We talk about 17 games left and most important is the next game."
After Thursday, the Vols will be focusing on Saturday and their upcoming opponent.
"We're not really gonna think about this game after tomorrow. We're gonna learn from it, watch film on it and then it's on to the next," McRae said.
The Vols head to Tuscaloosa, Ala. on Saturday for their next SEC matchup. Tipoff is at 1:00 p.m.