Jarnell Stokes shot 9-for-10 from the field and finished with a career-high 18 points to lead Tennessee (17-13, 9-6 SEC) to a 74-69 come-from-behind win in overtime against LSU (17-12, 7-8).
The 5-star recruit and No. 6 power forward in the country, Stokes signed with Tennessee on Dec. 23 and played in his first game with the Volunteers on Jan. 14. Despite his age and inexperience at the collegiate level, Stokes and fellow forward Jeronne Maymon gave the LSU big men all they could handle.
"Defensively we had a hard time guarding in the post because we gambled," LSU coach Trent Johnson said. "We gambled on a kid like Maymon and Stokes, who I've been very impressed with."
Each team's post players dominated a half.
It was LSU in the first 20 minutes that utilized its post players to perfection. But, unfortunately for the Tigers, the second half belonged to Stokes and Maymon.
A rotation of Justin Hamilton, Malcolm White, Johnny O'Bryant and Storm Warren in the first half kept the Tennessee forwards on their toes.
Maymon, who transferred to Tennessee from Marquette in 2010, played 11 minutes in the first half as he picked up two fouls. He never got into a rhythm and shot 0-for-3 going into halftime.
The aggressive LSU defense kept Stokes in-check as well. Aside from a dunk on UT's first possession, Stokes was held to 6 points in the first half as LSU built a 15-point lead. Of the Tigers 35 points at halftime, all but seven were scored by Hamilton, White, Warren and O'Bryant.
Nevertheless, the second half was a different story.
"They went at us in the second half," Hamilton said. "They were in foul trouble in the first half. They started doing a lot of different counters and stuff to get their big guys the ball. They made a lot of tough shots."
Tennessee out-rebounded LSU as team after the first half 21-14 and scored 22 of its 36 points in the paint. Maymon chipped in with 5 rebounds and added 14 points, 10 of which came with under the 13-minute mark in regulation.
However, Stokes stole the show with 6:57 remaining he connected on an uncontested dunk courtesy of a Maymon pass to cut LSU's lead to 53-51. Around 2 minutes later, Stokes grabbed the offensive rebound off a Dwight Miller miss and slammed it home.
After a Ralston Turner missed 3-pointer, Stokes hit a jump shot to tie the game 57-57 with 3:56 left. The offensive burst from Stokes helped the Volunteers climb back into the contest.
"In the second half (Stokes) got some easy putbacks as opposed to having him shoot over the top," Johnson said. "He's 9 out of 10 and Maymon is everything he should be down the stretch."
"I thought for the most part what hurt us was our inability to guard them. Twenty-five-of-49 says they were real efficient and we weren't doing a good enough job of defending them."