3 Observations: No. 22 Tennessee 67, Vanderbilt 62

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    Photo credit: Anne Newman/RTI

    For the first time in five years, Tennessee completed a season sweep of Vanderbilt on Tuesday night.

    And it happened in dramatic fashion.

    After jumping out to a 20-point lead with 14:00 left in the second half, Tennessee looked to be on its way to a dominant victory. But a hot shooting performance by Vanderbilt in the second half made things interesting.

    But the No. 22 Vols (14-5, 5-3) didn’t completely falter, and they defeated the Commodores (7-13, 2-6) for the first time in Knoxville since March 1st, 2014.

    Here are three observations from Tennessee’s escape at home.

    Almost Another Late Collapse

    Tennessee was cruising midway through the second half. The Vols had a 20-point lead over Vanderbilt, and Saben Lee had just picked up his fourth foul. There was no reason for Vol fans to be worried.

    Then Riley LaChance got hot.

    Really hot.

    After missing 18 threes in a row, Vandy all of a sudden caught fire. LaChance hit four straight from behind the arc to start the run, and by the 7:02 mark in the second half, the Commodores had made eight consecutive shots to cut Tennessee’s lead down to four.

    The Vols answered by feeding Grant Williams. All Vanderbilt could do was foul him. And the sophomore forward made the most of his opportunities at the line.

    He scored nine points in the final seven minutes. All of those came at the charity stripe.

    LaChance didn’t score a single point in the first half. In the second, he had 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting. With about three minutes to play, Tennessee’s lead was down to two.

    With just a two point lead late in the game, it was Lamonte Turner who gave the Vols a huge bucket. And that just about sealed it.

    Williams finished with 18 points and made 12 of his 14 free throw attempts. The rest of the Vols’ team as a whole attempted 18 free throws.

    Bowden is Back

    Jordan Bowden had been in a mini-slump over the past couple games.

    He got back to his old ways on Tuesday night.

    The sophomore guard knocked down six three-pointers en route to a 19 point performance. He did most of his damage in the first half with 11 points.

    In a set play or on the fast break, Bowden was consistently open. And he made the most of nearly every opportunity.

    At the first media timeout in the second half, Bowden had five less points than Vanderbilt’s entire team. Of course, that changed in a hurry. Despite only knocking down two of his seven foul shots, Bowden was consistent from anywhere on the floor. Without his hot first half, this may have been a deflating loss at home against a bad team.

    Still Need More from the Backcourt

    This observation was different at halftime. Tennessee’s guards looked good on both ends of the court for the first half.

    But they fell apart a bit in the second half.

    Jordan Bone finished with two points and three assists. James Daniel had three points and one assist. Even Bowden only had two points in the final ten minutes of the game, and that came with under a minute left.

    When Tennessee loses, it’s usually because the Vols’ guards don’t perform up to Rick Barnes’ standards. They were at least able to overcome some late mistakes on Tuesday to prevent a total collapse, however.

    Lamonte Turner got hot at the right time, scoring all nine of his points in the second half.

    Without his sudden emergence late, Tennessee wouldn’t have won this game.

    This team rarely has multiple guards playing well at the same time. They need to get more production from Jordan Bone on a nightly basis because they can’t rely on Bowden to shoot as well as he did on Tuesday night every game.

    Tennessee heads into a hostile road environment against Iowa State on Saturday afternoon. They’ll need more from the backcourt in that atmosphere.