One Tennessee Volunteer had his coming out party about four months late. Another went on with his regularly scheduled parade.
Backup point guard Antonio Barton drilled four 3-pointers, Jarnell Stokes scored a predictable, game-high 20 points and Tennessee sprinted past Georgia, 67-48, on Tuesday night in Thompson-Boling Arena.
Barton has come off the bench in the Vols' last seven games after freshman Darius Thompson took his starting job, but the senior proved to be UT's hot hand from the outside Tuesday.
He buried four of the Vols' six shots from beyond the arc to finish with 12 points and three assists.
The Memphis transfer has underperformed one too many times this season, leaving a gaping hole in the Vols' lineup that head coach Cuonzo Martin was ecstatic to see filled — at least for a night.
"It takes us to another level," Martin said, "because now you have five guys out there. Jeronne (Maymon) and Jarnell do what they do around the rim, you have three perimeter guys that can make shots and also have the ability to drive the basketball.
"It just takes you to another level."
The Vols (16-10, 7-6 SEC) shot 47.2 percent on the night and were eventually able to distance themselves in a back-and-forth first half thanks to Stokes' early emergence. The junior forward hit his first four shots from the field en route to 13 first-half points.
Stokes finished nearly as hot as he started, going 9-for-13 from the field with 20 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, three blocks and a steal.
The SEC's leading rebounder made it clear how he wants to be recognized in the wake of one of his most balanced performances as a Vol.
"I don't want anyone saying I did a good job scoring the ball," Stokes said of his stuffed stat sheet. "I want you to say I did a good job creating offense for the rest of my team."
After the Vols' loss at Missouri on Saturday in which Stokes went 6-for-7 but failed to see the ball down the stretch, it was all but understood the talented junior would see an added number of looks.
But according to Martin, that's always the plan.
"The key is always to get him the ball," Martin said. "It's no different than any other game. It's just a combination of having better opportunities to feed him the ball but also him posting aggressively."
Stokes received a resounding ovation from the crowd of 13,852 after subbing out with just more than a minute left after logging his 33rd career double-double.
The lead changed six times in the first 12 minutes of a back-and-forth first half that UT eventually ended with a six-point lead. The Bulldogs (14-11, 8-5) quickly cut it to three early on in the second.
Then, a spread-it-out offense pointed the momentum in UT's favor for the rest of the way. Five different Vols scored the team's next five field goals throughout a 12-3 run that transformed a 38-35 game into a 50-38 lead that looked to be impenetrable.
Barton carried a ghastly shooting slump into Tuesday, only hitting three of his last 29 3-point attempts over his last nine games. But his coaches haven't stopped telling him to put up shots, and it's finally paying off.
"It felt kind of good," Barton said. "They always tell me to keep shooting. I just knew it was going to fall one day or later. I've been putting up the shots. I was just waiting on the right time for them to fall."
Kenny Gaines — one of Georgia's two notable sophomore guards — got off to a high-flying start with five of his team's first seven points. J.J. Frazier had 10 points in the first half, and finished with a career-high 12 points.
The Bulldogs went 4-for-6 from long range in the first half before cooling off.
"I thought we did a poor job defending those 3-point shots in the first half," Martin said, "especially on Frazier because he probably doesn't look like it, but he makes some big shots and he shoots from deep."
"We just did a better job of getting up in those guys, trusting the scouting report and allowing your bigs to help you."
The Vols didn't end without their struggles, either, missing six straight free throws at one point of the second half. But the Bulldogs hit one of their last 10 shots and four of their last 20 to end Tuesday's game.
It wasn't just contesting shots that propelled the Vols to victory. They also had seven blocks and seven steals as a team, pestering Georgia's scorers all game long and giving the Vols some much-needed momentum.
"Stuff like that as far as momentum plays," UT junior guard Josh Richardson said, "big blocks, stuff like that, they put a flame under us a little bit."
Momentum will be a coveted commodity for the Vols heading into the weekend with a road trip to Texas A&M looming on Saturday. A win would give UT its second two-game win streak of the SEC season.