In a game that could effectively serve as an elimination game from NCAA Tournament contention, the Vols got off to arguably their worst start of the season. And they never could fully recover.
Vanderbilt left Knoxville with a 67-56 victory over the Vols in an ugly game that saw both teams combine to shoot 32.8 percent from the field. The Vols were able to hang around thanks to getting to the free throw line and attempting 26 free throws, but Vanderbilt nailed eight three-pointers compared to the Vols’ three.
Tennessee trailed by as much as 15 points in the first half and started out missing nine of their first 10 shots. The Vols trailed by 10 at halftime and were able to cut the deficit to just one point a couple times in the second half. But Vanderbilt hit enough shots to keep the Vols at bay.
Here are three observations from the Vols’ deflating loss to Vanderbilt
Vols’ Abysmal Start Costs Them
Tennessee shot a putrid 23.1 percent from the floor to start the game and missed all six of their three-point attempts in the first half. The Vols would start out the second half much better and wound up raising those numbers slightly thanks to a better second half, but the ugly start was too much to overcome.
The Vols managed a meager 18 points in the first half and grabbed just one offensive rebound in the game’s opening half. Vanderbilt didn’t do much better, but they did enough to score 28 points and held a 10-point halftime lead.
The Vols have given up double digit leads many times this season, but they didn’t even give themselves a chance to grab even a one-point lead in this one.
Too Many Open Looks
Vanderbilt didn’t have a great shooting percentage from behind the three-point line, but they had plenty of open shots and made enough of them to brush aside the Vols.
The Commodores hit just three of their 14 threes in the first half, but they responded by nailing five of their 12 shots from beyond the arc in the second half to squash any comeback attempt the Vols tried to make. Matthew Fisher-Davis only made four field goals, but three of those were threes, and he was one of five Vanderbilt players in double figures.
Tennessee’s perimeter defense struggled all night against Vanderbilt, and that was largely why the Commodores were able to find a victory on the road.
Just Like in Football
Vol fans know what it’s like to have a crushing defeat to Vanderbilt ruin postseason plans. The Commodores defeated the football Vols to end the regular season and crushed any hopes Tennessee had of making the Sugar Bowl. And this loss in basketball could very well end the Vols’ NCAA Tournament hopes.
Tennessee came into this game very much in a “must win” situation if they wanted to stay on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Now with 13 losses in the regular season and the potential of losing at least one or two more in the regular season and SEC Tournament, the Vols’ hopes of making the Big Dance are likely gone.
Also of note: Vanderbilt’s victory in Knoxville was their third-straight in Thompson-Boling. The Commodores hadn’t won three straight games in Knoxville since 1955-57 before this game.