No. 5 Tennessee got back to its winning ways on Tuesday evening, defeating Vanderbilt 58-46.
Coming off an embarrassing loss to then-ranked No. 5 Kentucky on Saturday, Grant Williams scored a team-high 14 points to push the Vols (24-2, 12-1 SEC) to a win. Losers of now 14-straight, Vanderbilt (9-17, 0-13 SEC) was held to 32 percent shooting from the field on the night.
“I thought our guys did everything right leading into this game,” Rick Barnes said following the game. “We came back, and I thought they, very seriously, took a look at the game after Saturday night, and understood the mistakes that we made.
“We came out yesterday and had as good of a practice that we’ve probably had in about three weeks.”
Tennessee led 36-27 at halftime, but a quick 5-0 run out of the gates in the second half from the Commodores cut it to a four-point game. Vandy’s run would extend to an 11-6 advantage, cutting the Tennessee lead to 42-38.
The Vols then reeled off a 9-0 run to push the lead back to double-digits. Following five straight points – capped with a three – from Admiral Schofield, UT led 51-38 at the 6:10 mark of the second half. The Vols would make just two more field goals the entire game – a Grant Williams jumper with 3:01 to go and a Schofield three with three seconds remaining.
During the six-minute stretch, Vanderbilt wasn’t able to establish a flow on the offensive end despite Tennessee’s inability to get anything going either. The Vols held Vandy to just 19 second half points.
In the first half, Vanderbilt made 45 percent of their shots. Despite the Commodores shooting 5-of-12 from the 3-point line, UT was able to build a nine-point lead heading into the break. Lamonte Turner led all scorers at halftime with 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting from the 3-point line.
On the offensive end, Tennessee shot 43.8 percent from the field and out-rebounded Vanderbilt 19-12. Schofield had just two points on 1-of-4 shooting in the first half. He finished the game with 12 points and five rebounds. Grant Williams had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Here are our main takeaways from the Vols’ second win of the season over the Commodores.
Tennessee’s offensive struggles carried over from the Kentucky game on Tuesday night.
Against the Cats, the Vols shot 40.7 percent from the field and 28 percent from the 3-point line. Against Vanderbilt, Tennessee shot 41.1 percent and 28.6 percent from three. And after receiving nine points from their bench on Saturday, the bench produced just eight points on Tuesday.
None of the “speciality” stats were pretty for the Vols. They scored just 24 points in the paint, 12 second chance points, and three fastbreak points. For a team that prides itself on getting the ball inside and running in transition, those numbers aren’t very pleasing to the eye.
“We had some shots that we didn’t make,” Barnes said. “Jordan Bowden and Lamonte Turner didn’t have great shooting nights.
“I thought we were tentative because some of the things we wanted to correct, we overdid tonight; making the extra pass, doing some things, you can’t hesitate.”
Individually, no Vols had a particularly clean game.
It looked as if Turner was going to break out tonight. The redshirt-junior made three of his first four three-point attempts, including a four-point play. But Turner went on to finish with 12 points on 3-of-9 shooting from distance.
After scoring 43 points against the Commodores in the first match-up between the two teams, Williams scored just 14 points in the rematch. Williams was efficient, making seven of his 13 attempts, but it took until late in the second half before Tennessee made a conscience effort to get the potential SEC Player of the Year the basketball. Williams did pull down 11 rebounds, however, as he recorded yet another double-double.
“It wasn’t like we weren’t executing,” Barnes added. “We had some looks at the basket, and we missed shots. There’s not much else I can say.”
Schofield also struggled aside from a five-point stretch late in the second half. Seeming to have lost his confidence, the senior was 5-of-12 from the field, though he was 2-of-5 from three. Schofield finished with 12 points and five rebounds.
It’s not just Schofield who looks like he’s lost his confidence, though. Jordan Bowden and Kyle Alexander seem to be struggling with confidence issues, too. Bowden had just four points on 1-of-6 shooting while Alexander scored three points – all from free throws – and missed his only shot from the field.
Stepping up on defense
Though the offense struggled for a second-straight game, Tennessee’s defense was much better than it was against Kentucky, as it held Vanderbilt to its season-low point total (46).
“I thought defensively, we were very good,” Barnes said.
For Vanderbilt, Saben Lee (13.1), Semisola Shittu (11.5), and Aaron Nesmith (11.4) are the leading-scorers. Against Tennessee, Lee finished with eight points, Shittu finished with nine, and Nesmith – the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week – scored 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting.
Tennessee held Vanderbilt to 18-of-56 shooting (32.1 percent) from the field. Furthermore, though the Commodores were hot from three to begin the game, they finished 6-of-21 (28.6 percent) from deep.
Tennessee now turns its attention to No. 13 LSU (21-4, 11-1 SEC). Both teams are tied atop of the SEC standings, though the Tigers face Florida on Wednesday night before their date with the Vols.
Tip-off in Baton Rouge is set for 12 p.m. ET.