Stokes had 19 points and 13 rebounds for his fourth consecutive double-double Saturday as Tennessee erased an early second-half deficit in an 84-63 victory over Tennessee Tech. During this stretch of double-doubles, Stokes has averaged 18.3 points and 11.8 rebounds per game.
“I think it’s a mentality,” Stokes said. “I came out trying to score the ball, calling for the ball, asking for the ball, demanding the ball. That’s something I wasn’t doing in the earlier games.”
Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin had spent the week emphasizing the importance of working the ball to Stokes and senior forward Jeronne Maymon, both 6-foot-8 and 260 pounds. Stokes has averaged 8.5 points in Tennessee’s two losses and 17 points per game in the Volunteers’ six wins.
Stokes focused on rebounding earlier in the season while relying on teammate Jordan McRae to handle the scoring load. Stokes now realizes he needs to put the ball in the basket more often.
“I want to rebound,” Stokes said. “That’s what I enjoy doing. I let guys like Jordan score because he can score the ball with the best in the nation, but I feel like the team needs me to score also.”
Stokes also had two blocks and two assists Saturday without being called for a single foul in 31 minutes. His presence helped Tennessee (6-2) outrebound Tennessee Tech 43-29 and outscore the Golden Eagles 20-8 in second-chance points.
Tennessee Tech (5-6) entered the day with a plus-7.5 rebound margin, but it hadn’t faced a frontcourt of Tennessee’s caliber.
“We’re a pretty good rebounding team ourselves,” Tennessee Tech coach Steve Payne said. “They took our strength and beat us in it.”
McRae scored 16 points and Josh Richardson had 13 as Tennessee committed only five turnovers all day and broke the game open with a 22-1 run early in the second half. Maymon had 13 points and seven rebounds off the bench after being pulled from the starting lineup for arriving late for the team’s pregame preparations
Jordan Johnson scored 15 points, Ty Allen had 14 and Jeremiah Samarrippas added 10 for Tennessee Tech.
Tennessee Tech led by as many as seven points in the first half as it capitalized on sizzling outside shooting. The Golden Eagles made seven of their first eight 3-point attempts and were 8 of 11 from beyond the arc at halftime.
The Golden Eagles had entered the day shooting just 30.3 percent on 3-pointers this season. Johnson, who was averaging just 3.8 points per game, had a career-high 15 by halftime after shooting 4 of 4 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes.
“The only problem with that is that we hit a lot of shots, but we never established our inside game,” Payne said. “I felt like we could score on the blocks. We never did that the whole game.”
That proved critical when Tennessee Tech’s outside shots stopped falling.
After combining for 25 points in the first half, Johnson and Samarrippas didn’t score the rest of the game. And on a day when they shot 10 of 20 from 3-point range, the Golden Eagles went just 3 of 12 from the free-throw line.
Tennessee Tech led 42-41 with 18:57 left in the game, but the Golden Eagles wouldn’t make another basket for the next 7 ½ minutes as Tennessee scored 22 of the next 23 points.
“Much better effort in the second half,” Martin said. “I thought we did a good job really setting the tone defensively in the second half.”
McRae and Richardson each scored five points during the 22-1 spurt. The Vols also got a spark from Armani Moore, who started 16 games last season but had recently fallen out of the rotation. Moore had five points, six rebounds and two blocks in 16 minutes.
“I talked to the coaches and stuff, and they pretty much told me never give up on yourself, always keep working hard because you never know when your time is going to come,” Moore said. “That’s what I did this week. I went into practice with the same mentality, just trying to go hard and get better. When my name was called, I just went out there and gave my all.”