By Steve Megargee
AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Jordan McRae scored 26 points and shot 6 of 7 from 3-point range Wednesday as Tennessee defeated Ole Miss 86-70 to end the Rebels’ four-game winning streak.
McRae’s efforts helped Tennessee withstand a 26-point performance from the Rebels’ Marshall Henderson, who was hurt in the opening minute and was held scoreless for the first 13 1⁄2 minutes of the game. Henderson has averaged 28.7 points in three career games against Tennessee.
Jarnell Stokes had 13 points and 14 rebounds for Tennessee (13-7, 4-3 SEC). Jeronne Maymon and Josh Richardson each added 16 points as the Volunteers went 11 of 20 on 3-pointers. Jarvis Summers had 16 points for Ole Miss (14-6, 5-2).
Ole Miss had swept its two regular-season meetings with Tennessee last year. Henderson had scored 32 points in the Rebels’ 92-74 victory in Knoxville and 28 in their 62-56 triumph in Oxford.
While the Rebels entered this game on a roll, Tennessee was trying to bounce back from a 67-41 loss Saturday to No. 3 Florida, which was ranked sixth at the time. Tennessee responded by using a new lineup, as freshman guard Darius Thompson made his third career start in place of Antonio Barton, who had shot 3 of 20 over his last three games. Thompson came through with seven points and seven assists.
Tennessee’s starting backcourt of McRae, Richardson and Barton had shot a combined 2 of 29 for seven points against Florida. The trio of McRae, Richardson and Thompson exceeded that point total in the first three minutes of Wednesday’s game.
The Vols dominated just about every phase of the game early on to lead by as many as 19 points in the first half.
Tennessee outrebounded Mississippi 26-15 and outscored the Rebels 12-0 in second-chance points in the first half. Although the Rebels entered the night ranked third among all Division I teams with 7.1 blocks per game, Tennessee swatted away eight shots – all in the first half .
The Vols also got a break when Henderson, their nemesis last season, got hurt in the first minute of the game. After passing the ball on the Rebels’ opening possession Henderson went to the floor and stayed down. He eventually limped to the bench holding his right side. After doing some knee bends on the corner of the Rebels’ bench, Henderson returned to action with 15:12 left in the first half. By that point, Ole Miss already trailed 13-4.
Henderson wasn’t effective immediately upon his return and didn’t score his first points until sinking a 3-pointer with 6:24 left in the first half. But he caught fire shortly before halftime and helped Ole Miss get back into the game.
The fiery guard sank five 3-pointers during a stretch that lasted just over five minutes and began with 1:11 left in the first half. Henderson’s flurry got Ole Miss within single digits after trailing by 16 early in the second half. A 3-pointer by Ladarius White cut Tennessee’s lead to 50-45 with 14 minutes remaining.
But that’s as close as the Rebels would get.
Maymon scored six points during a Tennessee 10-2 run that got the lead back to double digits. McRae’s outside shooting assured that Tennessee wouldn’t get threatened again.