Vanderbilt rolled over Tennessee in an 86-69 decision in Nashville on Tuesday evening. Here are five quick takeaways from another road loss for the Vols (13-17, 6-11 SEC):
1. Expected results: There was simply too much working against Tennessee in this contest. The Vols had already been smacked 88-74 in Knoxville by Vandy earlier in the season in a game that was worse than the scoreboard even indicated. The Vols are beat up, they have struggled on the road all season and were facing a Vanderbilt (19-11, 11-6 SEC) team with much more to play for. The odds were highly stacked against the Vols coming into Tuesday evening’s game and the results were, largely, as expected.
2. Vols still battle: Despite the overall lopsided contest, you do have to give Tennessee, which was without Kevin Punter and Robert Hubbs III due to injury, and had a limited Armani Moore due to illness, for scrapping in this one. It certainly could’ve been worse for a makeshift Tennessee lineup that included minutes from freshman walk-on Brad Woodson and seldom-used reserve forward Ray Kasongo.
The Vols had the lead in the first half on a couple occasions, and then got Vandy’s big lead down to 10 at the 11:39 mark of the second half. In the end, Vandy was far too much, however. “Some guys really did show some fight,” Rick Barnes said after the game. “We’ve got to get more guys doing it. But, again, we stayed in it in the second half. We got it down, we just couldn’t take advantage of it.”
3. Big night for Phillips: One silver lining to the recent injuries for Tennessee has been the additional minutes that Shembari Phillips has received. It hasn’t always been pretty, but he’s showing some flashes. And he had arguably his best overall game of his young UT career in Nashville on Tuesday evening with a career-high 23 points, seven rebounds and two assists. But you also have to take the bad with the good, and Phillips committed five turnovers in the process, while still struggling to play at the pace that Barnes would like as well. That’s part of the maturation of a freshman, but UT fans have to be encouraged by his upside.
4. Vandy puts together big runs: The game was truly defined by two massive runs for Vanderbilt. The first came late in the second half after UT built a 16-15 lead with just under eight minutes to go in the half. It was all Vandy from there up until the break. Vanderbilt turned that one-point deficit into a 43-24 edge at halftime in what was a 28-8 run during that span. And after UT crept back in it in the second half to cut it to 59-49 with 11:02 to go, again, it was all Vandy for the next stretch. The Commodores went on a 15-0 run over the next four minutes to end any hopes of a complete Tennessee comeback.
5. What’s next?: At least the Vols have no more true road games left on the schedule. They end the season 1-11 in true road game. Instead they return home for Senior Day at Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday (noon ET, SEC Network) against Ole Miss – another team looking to make its case for the NCAA Tournament. The Vols currently sit 12th in the SEC and are hoping to avoid the No. 12 vs. No. 13 first-round matchup in the SEC Tournament. To do so, the Vols need to beat Ole Miss on Saturday and have Mississippi State fall to the Rebels on Wednesday.
Ultimately, any realistic chance Tennessee has of advancing in the SEC Tournament falls on the health of Punter, Hubbs III and making sure Moore is back to 100%. Without that trio – it could easily be one-and-done for UT. With them, however, it’s been a crazy season and UT could surprise a team or two in Nashville starting on March 9.
Final stats from the Vols 86-69 loss to Vandy. Shembari Phillips has a career night: pic.twitter.com/Av7C6CBuU2
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) March 2, 2016
"We stayed in it in the second half, but when we got it down we just couldn't take advantage of it."https://t.co/FyGYwz3Dvm
— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) March 2, 2016