After two straight NIT appearances the past two seasons Tennessee basketball comes into the 2013-2014 season looking to right the ship, and get back into the NCAA Tournament. However, they didn’t open the season on a good note.
After falling behind early the Vols found themselves chasing a lead that was impossible for them to overcome as they fell to Xavier 67-63 on the road Tuesday night.
The first half was plagued by terrible shooting for both teams from all over the floor. While Xavier took a 27-20 lead into the half, they were only shooting 12-of-29 from the field. Tennessee ended the first half shooting a daunting eight-of-30 from the field.
Both teams had a poor shooting performance not only from the field, but the free throw line as well. Tennessee, as they notoriously do, shot seven-of-19 from the free throw line. Coupled with a 42 percent field goal percentage they still, however, managed to mount a late comeback while still falling just four points short.
While Semaj Christon led his Xavier in scoring with 18 points, it was Myles Davis who put the game away for the Musketeers by connecting on five-of-six late free throws while the Vols tried to mount a late come-from-behind victory.
Jordan McRae led Tennessee in scoring, and also led the late charge, connecting on back-to-back three’s as time winded down. The team’s reigning leading scorer from a year ago dropped 23 points for the Vols, 13 of which came in the first half in which the rest of the team had only seven points combined.
Redshirt senior Jeronne Maymon made his long awaited return to the hardwood on Tuesday night. He scored the Vols first three points, but had a dismal shooting performance like the rest of the team for the remainder of the night. He was, however, the only player for either team to reach the double-digit mark in rebounds as he finished the game with seven points and 10 rebounds.
On the other side of the post, Jarnell Stokes had a night to forget. The junior forward finished with only four points and four rebounds before fouling out of the game with just over two minutes remaining.
Outside of McRae the only real flash of light for the Vols came from senior transfer Antonio Barton and junior guard Josh Richardson. Barton, who transferred from in-state rival Memphis over the offseason, finished out his Volunteer debut with 10 points, four assists and two steals. Richardson contributed another 13 points shooting three-of-four from beyond the arc, and four rebounds.
Tennessee will return to the court from the comfort of their home at Thompson Boling Arena on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. when they face USC Upstate, who knocked off the Virginia Tech Hokies in Blacksburg, Va. one week ago.