After tallying an exciting 54-53 win in a down to the wire finish versus conference rival Alabama, the Tennessee Vols (10-8, 2-4) look towards getting another SEC win versus fellow state and SEC rival Vanderbilt (8-10, 2-4) Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in Thompson-Boling Arena.
"They shoot a lot of threes, shoot them well, and space you out to dribble penetrate and find their shooters, especially when they go small," said Tennessee head coach Cuanzo Martin. "It's a good test for our guys."
Vanderbilt's reliance on guards and other perimeter players likens them to the opponent the Vols just beat, Alabama. The Crimson Tide's guards scored 41 of the team's 53 points. Vanderbilt's offensive attack is keyed by guards Kedren Johnson and Kyle Fuller, who average 14.9 and 10.2 points per game.
Sophomore forward Jarnell Stokes sees those similarities between Alabama and Vanderbilt.
"They play with four guards, they play one big, basically a defender, a sort of put back kind of guy," said Stokes. "It's a similar team to Alabama, same playing styles."
A key to the Vols' success in their matchup with the Crimson Tide was the effectiveness of Stokes. The big man's performance against Alabama saw him score 15 points on 7-11 shooting.
"I feel like I rebounded better last game," said Stokes. "I had fun playing, I think that was the biggest thing, I just had fun playing."
Stokes has averaged 11.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game this season on 53 percent shooting from the field, but there has been a significant difference in his play in Tennessee's wins and losses.
In Tennessee's ten wins, Stokes is averaging 14.2 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, in Tennessee's eight losses; Stokes is averaging 7.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.Stokes' offensive rebounding is a key to the Vols success as it allows him and the rest of the team more offensive opportunities.
"He had eight offensive rebounds (versus Alabama), keeping that ball alive," said Martin. "That was a credit to his hard work."
Stokes agreed with Martin's assessment that his work on the boards can change games in the Vols' favor.
"That's something I had learned this year as far as dealing with double teams and not being able to be an offensive factor as much as I expected," said Stokes. "( I learned) just how can I affect the game without scoring. I definitely want to go into every game trying to rebound the best I can."
Some of the adjustments Stokes has had to make this season are getting used to double teams and the tough foul calls that come with being a big man in the SEC. Those foul calls actually spurred Martin into sending a letter to the SEC after last Thursday's loss to Ole Miss about how Stokes was being officiated.
Stokes maintains it is up to him to keep his head up when adversity strikes during games.
"If things don't go good early, just don't get mentally frustrated," said Stokes. "Just go out there, play my game and have fun."