Tennessee was dealt their first loss since November on Saturday when Kentucky stomped all over them in Lexington. Now, the Vols are being given a perfect chance to bounce back and beat up on an inferior team.
The No. 5 Vols (23-2, 11-1 SEC) host in-state foe Vanderbilt (9-16, 0-12 SEC) on Tuesday night in Knoxville. Vanderbilt has lost 13-straight games, and they’re winless in the year 2019. The Commodores’ last win came on December 31st, 2018 against UNC-Asheville. Since then, Vanderbilt has lost every game they’ve played in the new year.
The last time these two teams played, the Commodores gave the Vols a heart attack in Nashville. Vanderbilt hosted Tennessee back on January 23rd, and that was the first game for the Vols as the No. 1 team in the country. And just like back in 2008, Vanderbilt was looking to play spoiler and knock Tennessee off their throne.
Vanderbilt did just that in 2008. But this year, they fell short, though it was much closer than Vol fans wanted.
Tennessee rode Grant Williams’ record-breaking 43-point performance to victory in overtime against Vanderbilt a month ago, winning 88-83. Williams set a school record by going 23-of-23 from the free throw line in that contest, and he was the biggest reason Tennessee wound up surviving Vanderbilt’s upset bid.
Since that game, Vanderbilt has lost seven-straight games by an average of 15.6 points.
The Vols are coming off a 17-point loss to Kentucky on Saturday, and it cost them the top spot in the AP and Coaches Polls. Tennessee remains a top-five team, but they’re no longer the No. 1 team in college basketball.
Tennessee’s players and head coach Rick Barnes said after Saturday’s game that they were “selfish” against Kentucky, and they looked forward to fixing what went wrong. And Vanderbilt should provide the Vols with the perfect opportunity to go out and take out some frustrations on the court.
Tuesday night’s game will also be Donate Life Night for Tennessee. “The goal for Donate Life Night is to encourage Tennessee fans to take action and register as donors,” said Tennessee Assistant Athletics Director Tom Satkowiak, who underwent an 11-hour liver transplant surgery in October. Fans who attend Tuesday’s game and use their mobile device to register as an organ or tissue donor from 5:30 p.m. ET through the end of the game will be invited onto the court to take a group photo with Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes following his postgame radio interview. New registrants will be asked to show their registration confirmation email in order to access the court for the photograph
Here’s everything you need to know when the Vols host Vanderbilt on Tuesday night.
Cool Down Nesmith
Freshman forward Aaron Nesmith has been on fire lately for Vanderbilt. And Tennessee can’t let him keep the Commodores in Tuesday’s match-up.
After scoring just eight points against Arkansas and six points against Alabama, Nesmith has scored over 20 points in back-to-back games for Vanderbilt. He totaled 26 points and nine rebounds against Florida and put up 24 points and 14 rebounds against Auburn.
Nesmith has done a lot of his damage by getting to the free throw line, too. Against Arkansas, he was 12-of-15 from the charity stripe, and he connected on all nine of his free throws against Auburn. He’s also made five of his last 15 three-pointers and has logged 37 minutes in back-to-back games.
The last time Vanderbilt played Tennessee, Nesmith set a then-career-high with 24 points and brought down six rebounds. He was 4-of-7 from three against the Vols, and he was a big reason the Commodores almost pulled off the upset.
That’s Not Good
Vanderbilt hasn’t just been bad this season; they’ve been the worst or almost the worst in the SEC in just about every major statistical category.
The Commodores are winless in SEC play for a reason. They rank dead last in conference play in field goal percentage (39.5 percent), two-point field goal percentage (45.9 percent), free throw percentage (64.0 percent), offensive rebounds (111), assists (122), points per game (62.7), opponent free throws made (221), and opponent free throw percentage (77.5 percent).
Over their last two games, Vanderbilt hasn’t scored over 60 points. In fact, since their 88-83 loss in overtime to Tennessee, the Commodores haven’t totaled 70 points in a single contest. Vanderbilt is averaging just 59.6 points per game over their last seven games.
Over that same period of time, the Commodores are giving up an average of 75.1 points per game.
Stop the Madness
Tennessee may have a three-game winning streak going against Vanderbilt, and they may have won four of the last five games against the Commodores, but Vanderbilt has had a great deal of success in Knoxville over the last few years.
Up until last season, Vanderbilt had won three-straight games in Thompson-Boling Arena. The Vols’ 67-62 victory over the Commodores on January 23rd of last year marked Tennessee’s first home win against Vanderbilt since 2014.
The Vols are 71-20 all-time against Vanderbilt in Knoxville, but four of those 20 wins for the Commodores in Knoxville have come since 2010.
Tennessee can’t afford to let the Commodores find a way to win in Knoxville on Tuesday, and all signs point to that not happening. Still, Vanderbilt’s success in Thompson-Boling Arena over the last few years has been surprising to say the least.
Jordan Bone is Ready
Junior point guard Jordan Bone is from Nashville, and he likes to show his hometown school what they missed out on by not recruiting him very hard out of high school.
Over his last three games against the Commodores, Bone has totaled 12 assists and whopping zero turnovers. In fact, in five career games against Vanderbilt, Bone has just three turnovers and has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 6.33 against the Commodores.
In his five games against Vanderbilt, Bone is averaging 9.8 points and 3.8 assists while shooting 51.4 percent from the floor, including 61.5 percent from three.