Well, Vanderbilt missed a pair of potential game-winners late when Kedren Johnson and Kevin Bright could not convert around the rim. Tennessee survived on Tuesday night, but the story of the game was once again about their star forward, Jarnell Stokes.
It wasn’t pretty for the Vols, but a win is a win, given their situation and postseason push. A rugged start to conference play instantly put Tennessee in a tough spot, but the win over Vanderbilt moves them up to 3-4 within the league. The victory also marked their second consecutive win and third over the course of the past four games.
Meanwhile, Stokes continues to show his worth to the Volunteers’ potential. A double-double in which he scored 19 points and snagged 11 rebounds was more than necessary on Tuesday night. On the season, Stokes is averaging 11.1 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds per game.
It’s no secret who holds the key to the Vols’ postseason potential. If Tennessee is going to make a stab at the NCAA Tournament, Stokes needs to have nights like he had against Vanderbilt. Volunteer fans are well aware of the late season surge that Stokes provided them a season ago, as a late run within conference play nearly allowed Tennessee to steal a bid within the Big Dance.
In 2012 it was not to be, but with increased expectations in 2013, the Volunteers’ current situation has come as a bit of a disappointment. Some of that hinges on the unfortunate injury that forced Stokes’ front court mate Jeronne Maymon to redshirt this year.
Tennessee once again faces a must-win situation this weekend as they hit the road to Arkansas on Saturday.
Follow Paul Seaver on Twitter: @PaulSeaverRS