Unlike in the past two seasons, the Tennessee Volunteers came to play from the opening tip in their matchup against the Oakland Golden Grizzlies, and the Vols cruised to an easy victory as a result.
After giving up 89 points in defeats to Oakland in 2010 and 2011, the Vols held the Golden Grizzlies to 15 first-half points en route to a 77-50 victory. Tennessee held Oakland to a dismal .286 field goal percentage and outrebounded their opponents 41-23.
As expected, Jarnell Stokes paced the Volunteers against the overmatched Oakland interior, scoring 19 points and adding five rebounds in an efficient performance. Stokes attempted just eight shots from the field, missing one, and needed just 24 minutes of playing time to make his impact felt.
Another pleasant occurrence for the Vols was the strong play of point guard Trae Golden, who contributed 18 points on seven-of-nine shooting to go along with seven assists. Stokes' shooting night was excellent was well, but for a point guard to make nearly 80 percent of his shots is truly fantastic and a testament to Golden's decision-making.
Stokes and Golden are this team's leaders, especially while Jeronne Maymon continues to rehab his knee injury, so their strong performances in what was a potential trap game are a very good sign for the Volunteers.
In each of the past two seasons, a poor performance against Oakland had led to a key non-conference losing streak. Now that the Vols are past this game, they can focus on upcoming tilts with Georgetown, Virginia and Wichita State.
If Tennessee can take two of these three games, the Volunteers will likely be in good at-large position heading into SEC play. Even one of three would not be a disaster. The potential disaster is behind the Vols now, and they can look forward to building their NCAA résumé