Stokes, who picked the 2014 NBA Draft over his final season of collegiate eligibility, has a 6-foot-9, 260-pound frame that would come in mighty handy against the talented Tiger tandem of Jordan Mickey (6-feet-8, 235 pounds) and Jarell Martin (6-feet-10, 235 pounds).
Mickey (17.0 points, 10.8 rebounds) and Martin (16.2 points, 9.0 rebounds) combine for 33 points and nearly 20 rebounds per game. They represent the sternest test to date for an inexperienced and undersized Vol frontline that has struggled against taller foes all season.
Obviously, containing the LSU duo will be Job 1 for the Vols, who are expected to start juniors Derek Reese (6-feet-8, 220 pounds) and Armani Moore (6-feet-5, 210) on the inside, backed by freshmen Willie Carmichael (6-feet-8, 210) and Tariq Owens (6-feet-10, 192). If this quartet can’t hang with Mickey and Martin Saturday could be a long afternoon for the Vols.
"They're going to do some good things in the game,” Moore said. “But, most importantly, our job is to try to limit them from doing a lot of good things in this game.”
Though undersized, Moore leads the Vols and ranks eighth among SEC players with an average of 6.7 rebounds per game. Amazingly, he averages 2.8 offensive rebounds per game. Reese is second on the team at 5.3 rebounds per contest. They know they have their work cut out for them against LSU’s dynamic duo.
“They’ve got two really good inside guys,” Moore said. “They’re really great down low. We’ve just got to really focus in this week on keeping them off the glass. If we can do that and limit them to making a whole lot of outside shots it should be a good game.”
Tennessee’s head coach believes both Mickey and Martin will be playing for pay someday.
“They’ve got two guys on the frontline that are NBA players,” Donnie Tyndall said. “Whether it’s going to be this year or in a year, they’re both guys that are going to play in the NBA. They’re long, they’re athletic. And, as we’ve talked about all year, the deficiency of our team is our frontline size and physicality, so we’re going to have to do a good job of packing in our zone, doubling down when they catch (the ball) and doing the best we can to keep them off the glass.”
Tennessee’s best chance to neutralize Mickey and Martin is to disrupt LSU’s guards, keeping them from getting the ball inside and taking their legs as the game wears on.
"We do a whole lot of things to try to get our opponents to go weak by the end of the game," Moore said. "We use the press as one of our keys to wear down our opponents."
If that doesn’t work against LSU, there’s always the option of sneaking Stokes into a uniform.
GAME NOTES: The Vols bring a 14-9 overall record and a 6-5 SEC mark into Saturday’s game. The Tigers are 17-7 and 6-5…. Both teams play better on the road than at home. LSU is 5-2 on the road with wins at West Virginia, UAB, Ole Miss, Florida and Vanderbilt. Tennessee is 4-2 in SEC road games, boasting wins at Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina and Vanderbilt…. Tennessee won last year’s game in Baton Rouge by a 68-50 score. Jarnell Stokes starred with 15 points and 15 rebounds for the Vols…. Tiger guard Keith Hornsby, son of Grammy-winning recording artist Bruce Hornsby, scored nine points in a loss to the Vols at the 2012 Puerto Rico Tip-Off while representing UNC Asheville…. Saturday’s tipoff is set for 4 p.m. with TV coverage provided by the SEC Network.