By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – As good as anybody for 10 minutes, it was the other 30 that did in Ole Miss on the road on Wednesday night.
The Rebels hit seven of their first eight field goals and stormed to a 15-2 lead, then weathered a run by Tennessee to take a 31-30 halftime advantage.
But it was the Vols who had the answers after the break. Tennessee got inside the lane, and if it didn’t score there it hit free throws or set up shots outside.
The end result was a 73-60 loss for Ole Miss, its third straight and fifth in six games.
The Rebels (15-12, 5-8 SEC) will finish with a sub-.500 conference record unless they win their remaining games against LSU on Saturday, then at Arkansas and at home against Alabama.
Body language on the Rebels’ bench in the final seconds indicated the emotion Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy likes the least – frustration.
“I think we’re all frustrated, but we’ve got do dig down deep and find whatever’s left and just battle and compete,” Kennedy said. “We’ve got to stop talking about it and do it. It’s easy to talk about, easy to write on that white board, but it’s hard to do it.”
The Rebels were outreounded for the fourth time in six games. Once holding a rebound margin of almost plus-10 in conference play, the Rebels are minus-27 in rebound margin over that time.
Tennessee dominated the glass, 40-28.
Vols center Jeronne Maymon had a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds, one of five Tennessee players to score in double figures.
“He brings his hard hat. His approach to his game is one of the best in the league, and I think that will come out in the next couple of weeks,” Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said.
Maymon had seven defensive rebounds, more than the total rebounds for any Ole Miss players.
In a blistering start, the Rebels’ Terrance Henry was able to beat the Vols off the dribble.
If it wasn’t Henry, it was Murphy Hollowing getting to the rim.
Henry hit his first four shots, Holloway his first three.
Meanwhile, Tennessee’s problems were compounded by its inability to get inside the Rebels’ zone.
It took a while, but the Vols were eventually able to use the quickness of Jordan McRae and the bulk of Maymon to loosen things up.
They hit enough 3-point shots to show themselves capable, but the Vols won the game in the second half at the free throw line.
After shooting just 1-for-5 from the line in the first half, the Vols were 17-for-21 in the second half.
From a 31-30 halftime deficit, the Vols (15-13, 7-6 SEC) took control quickly in the final 20 minutes.
“They just dominated us block to block, anything they wanted to do,” Kennedy said. “They killed us on the glass, which has become a recurring theme. They outscore us by 11 points on the free throw line, and hence the difference in the game.”
Tennessee opened the second half on a 17-6 run and was ahead 47-37 after a McRae dunk with 11 minutes, 18 seconds to play.
The lead reached 14, and the Rebels cut it in half, but the Vols surged ahead again.
Kennedy cited his team’s need to do a better job of “playing through contact” in explaining why the last 30 minutes were so different than the first 10 for Henry, who led Ole Miss with 15 points.
“We’ve got to finish. This team defends you in the halfcourt, they’re not going to give you anything,” Kennedy said. “Our team is offensively challenged. We have to manufacture points off the glass, and they didn’t allow us to do that. When we have opportunities we have to be efficient, and tonight we failed in those areas.”