Stokes responded by scoring 20 points and pulling down 11 rebounds in one of his most dominant performances of the season as Tennessee trounced Georgia 67-48 to snap the Bulldogs’ four-game winning streak.
“Stokes just had a monster game,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “We tried a number of different things, sent different people at him and, boy, he really overpowered us.”
Stokes went 6 of 7 for 13 points Saturday in a 75-70 loss at Missouri, but the 6-foot-8 forward didn’t shoot in the last 17 ½ minutes of that game. Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin quipped Monday that the Volunteers needed to pass the ball to Stokes more often, even if Martin had to do it himself.
Martin said Monday that Tennessee’s guards had to do a better job of getting the ball inside and that Stokes had to be more assertive in demanding the ball. Martin said as much when Stokes discussed his frustrations after the Missouri game.
“He basically said I need to call for the ball more,” Stokes said. “Of course, I’d say, ‘Coach, can you tell them to pass me the ball more?’ I did a better job of demanding the ball, constantly being in guys’ ear. Sometimes I feel Coach wants me to rip a guy’s head off if he doesn’t pass me the ball, but I’m not that type of player. I really like my teammates, off the court also.”
Both the guards and Stokes followed Martin’s advice Tuesday.
Stokes shot 9 of 13 and posted his SEC-leading 15th double-double as Tennessee (16-10, 7-6 SEC) outscored Georgia 34-18 in points in the paint. By halftime, Stokes already had exceeded his shot total from the Missouri game.
“For us to be successful at a high level, you’ve got to pound the ball inside,” Martin said.
Stokes pointed out that working the ball inside didn’t necessarily mean he was going to shoot it all the time. Stokes also is a willing passer, and he tied for the team lead with three assists Tuesday.
Indeed, three Tennessee guards scored in double figures against Georgia. Antonio Barton had 12 points, Jordan McRae had 11 and Josh Richardson added 10.
Kenny Gaines scored 13 points and J.J. Frazier added 12 for Georgia (14-11, 8-5), which was held to its lowest point total of the season.
Both teams got production from unlikely sources.
Frazier, a 5-foot-10 freshman who was averaging just 2.5 points per game, already had a career-high 10 points by halftime for Georgia. Frazier made each of his four first-half shots, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Barton shot 4 of 7 from 3-point range for Tennessee and matched a season high in 3-point baskets. Barton had gone just 3 of 29 from beyond the arc in the nine games leading up to this one.
“It was a big relief,” Barton said. “It was a huge change in the game. When I’m shooting (well), it just feels like a lot of people are just having fun and it changes the whole scenery of the game.”
After a first half that featured four ties and six lead changes, Tennessee pulled away in the second half. Georgia shot just 6 of 24 after halftime.
Georgia had succeeded in SEC play by relying on rebounds and free-throw attempts, but Tennessee limited the Bulldogs in both of those areas.
Tennessee outrebounded Georgia 37-30 and became the first SEC opponent to outrebound the Bulldogs all season. Georgia entered the night averaging an SEC-leading 32.1 free throws per game in league competition, but the Bulldogs were just 8 of 11 from the line Tuesday.
Fox said he was concerned his team might be sluggish Tuesday. Georgia was playing its third game in seven days, and Fox said the Bulldogs were recently dealing with a flu bug.
“You’ve got to show up and play when the lights come on, and I’m not comfortable with the effort we gave tonight,” Fox said. “But we’ve been playing super hard.”