KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Stopping the blood coming from the wrist of Johnny O’Bryant was rather easy.
With just inside six minutes remaining in the first half, O’Bryant was ushered to the sideline by an impatient official. Gauze was promptly applied, and tape was coiled around his cut.
He returned to the court less than 30 seconds later.
But LSU needed more than a few medical supplies to slow down Tennessee’s hot-handed Jordan McRae on Tuesday night.
An 82-72 loss at hands of the Vols at Thompon-Boling Arena capped the Tigers’ grueling span of three games in six days.
“I thought we gave great effort,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “(Tennessee) is probably playing as well as anyone in the league right now. I think they showed that again tonight. They were hot tonight.”
Riding the momentum of a historic 30-point beatdown of Kentucky on Saturday, Tennessee’s McRae finished the night with 34 points.
Whether it was the 7-foot-3 Andrew Del Piero or the 5-foot-10 Andre Stringer contesting, McRae couldn’t be slowed.
The Vols’ guard was a perfect 6-of-6 from 3-point range.
But the Tigers wouldn’t fade.
LSU clipped at the lead until the final buzzer sounded.
O’Bryant’s 24-point effort and a second half application of a full-court press was simply too little, too late.
An LSU team that once found itself languishing in the conference cellar after a 0-4 start in league play opened the game’s second half against a tough Tennessee team with purpose.
In front of a rowdy, orange-clad crowd, the Tigers cut a 10-point Tennessee lead at halftime to six with less than five minutes to play.
But time after time, McRae answered from behind the arch.
“I thought we tried everything we could tonight,” Jones said. “We ran at them, tried to press and double them and they did a great job of knocking down early shots. They were comfortable. They just got into a rhythm.”
An Anthony Hickey steal on the defensive end and a layup in transition put the score at 66-60 with 5:46 left.
But sure enough, a McRae 3-pointer pulled the Vols lead back to nine on the ensuing possession.
“They were able to keep us at bay and they didn’t allow us to get there,” Jones said. “McRae made big plays at the 3-point line, he was just, he played extremely well. We really just didn’t have an answer for him.”
The Tigers entered the game holding opponents to an SEC best 25.8 percent from 3-point range.
Conversely, Tennessee took the court ranked 13th in the conference in 3-point shooting. The Vols finished the evening at 66.7 percent.
After the game, Jones joked that he needed to recheck his Tennessee scouting report.
“I have to make sure it’s right,” Jones said with a smirk. “We thought, percentage-wise, it would eventually catch up to (McRae) and balance out and turn at half in our favor.”
But that wasn’t the case.
McRae hit four of his six 3-pointers after halftime.
Back-to-Back O’Bryant buckets cut the Vols’ lead to six once more and, in the night’s theme, was expectedly undone by McRae’s sweet stroke.
“We did a bad job of getting stops when we needed it, man,” O’Bryant said. “We’d get stops, get stops, get stops and then give up a 3. That really hurt us. To keep gaining the momentum and then letting it get away, that really hurt us tonight. We didn’t play bad, they just played real good.”
O’Bryant fouled out with 3:21 left. He finished two rebounds shy of a double-double.
Hickey scored 14-points, and Malik Morgan added 12.
“We look at it as improvement,” Morgan said. “A lot of people did a lot of things better (Tuesday night) than we usually do. We have to keep taking it day by day and keep working.”
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