Vols D-liver

Jarnell Stokes

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Sometimes one play sums up an entire basketball game. Eleven minutes into Monday night's contest with Oakland, Tennessee's Jordan McRae came from nowhere to block Duke Mondy's 3-point try, literally plucking the ball out of the air with one hand, then heading upcourt in transition.

That play epitomized a stifling Vol defense that accomplished the following in the first 20 minutes:

Limited the Golden Grizzlies to 15.6-percent shooting (5 of 32)

Forced two shot-clock violations

Blocked four shots en route to a 38-15 halftime bulge

Simply put, the Big Orange played such dynamic defense in the first 20 minutes that the game essentially was over by intermission. The Vols ultimately romped 77-50 against a team that had beaten them in 2010 and 2011.

"This might have been the best defensive performance we've had since I've been here," senior center Kenny Hall said. "With them shooting 15 percent in the first half, I'd say this was the best."

Hall shook his head in awe when reminded of McRae's dramatic block.

"That was a great block," Hall said. "Jordan's got long arms (seven-foot wingspan), so we pretty much know what to expect from Jordan."

Vol point guard Trae Golden had just one turnover in 31 minutes of action versus Oakland.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)
Trae Golden, a former AAU teammate, certainly knows what to expect when McRae utilizes his athleticism on the defensive end of the floor.

"I didn't get to see his block because I was guarding my man," Golden said. "But I've been playing with him so long I know how he is. His arms are longer than people think. He blocks my shot all the time in practice, so I'm kind of used to it."

Moments after McRae's spectacular block, high-scoring Oakland guard Travis Bader got the ball on the wing and started to launch. Glimpsing McRae out of the corner of his eye, however, Bader reconsidered and passed the ball to a teammate. Clearly, Tennessee's defensive intensity flustered the Grizzlies.

"That's what we do to teams," Hall said. "If you play hard, tough Tennessee basketball teams are going to get frustrated, especially if they're not getting buckets and we're not allowing them to get the ball in to the post."

Vol guards did a superior job defensively, limiting Bader (5 for 14) and Mondy (3 for 13) to a combined 8 of 27 from the floor.

"I feel like our guards did a great job, running 'em off screens and making 'em put the ball on the floor," Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes said. "Coach said that when Bader puts the ball on the floor his shooting percentage drops."

Being something of a defensive zealot, Vol head coach Cuonzo Martin became uncharacteristically animated when the Vols recorded the two first-half shot-clock violations.

"I threw a no-look (assist) to Jarnell, and he (Martin) don't care," Golden recalled. "But when we lock down for 35 seconds, he starts screaming. That gets us into it because we know that's what he wants."

Stokes hit 7 of 8 shots and led Tennessee with 19 points. Playing one of his best games as a Vol, Golden hit 7 of 9 shots and finished with 18 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds and just 1 turnover in 31 minutes at the point. Hall barely missed a double-double, producing 9 points and 11 rebounds.

Tennessee, now 4-1, returns to action Friday night, visiting Georgetown.

InsideTennessee recorded what Martin had to say after the victory. Click play below for an HD look:

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