No. 22 Tennessee nearly blew a 20-point, second-half lead, but hung on to knock off visiting Vanderbilt, 67-62, at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville on Tuesday night.
Guard Jordan Bowden had 19, while forward Grant Williams chipped in 18 for the Vols (14-5, 5-3 SEC). Williams was 12-of-14 from the foul line, with many coming in the second half as the Vols struggled to get field goals.
A pair of seniors, guard Riley LaChance (25) and Jeff Roberson (21), led Vandy (7-13, 2-6) in scoring. All of LaChance’s points came in the second half.
Vanderbilt had cut UT’s lead to 60-58, but Vol guard Lamonte Turner buried an open 3 from the left side with 1:03 left. After LaChance missed a 3, Bowden hit a lay-up with 33 seconds left to provide insurance.
The Vols led by 20 on three different occasions in the second half in the midst of a stretch where VU missed 17 3-pointers in a row. Tennessee was up 41-21 with 14:28 left after Turner hit a jumper from the right side.
But the Vols suddenly had trouble scoring from the field as LaChance hit four 3s in a row. Vandy pulled within four when guard Larry Austin Jr. assisted on a couple of transition lay-ups, the second a pass to Roberson with 7:06 left.
But Tennessee was able to close, and with that, sweep the regular-season series.
Vanderbilt’s Payton Willis hit a 3 on the game’s first possession, aiding the Commodores to a 7-4 lead to start. It took a terrible turn for the Commodores, who trailed 32-15 at half, from there.
Tennessee’s tight man-to-man defense made it difficult for the Commodores to find an offensive rhythm. Even when Vanderbilt got open shots, it couldn’t hit them.
The Vols’ Bowden had no such troubles, hitting 3 of 4 of his first-half 3-pointers, leading all scorers at half.
Tennessee also hit 8 of 12 first-half free throws, while Vanderbilt missed its only attempt.
Vanderbilt announced before the game that guard Matthew Fisher-Davis’s collegiate career is over. The senior, Vanderbilt’s second-leading scorer (11.9) was a preseason first-team All-SEC pick and hadn’t played since Vanderbilt’s loss to Kentucky on Jan. 13. That leaves VU with 10 eligible scholarship players.
—Field Level Media