No. 10 Tennessee defeated Vanderbilt 81-61 on Saturday night inside of Thompson-Boling to win its fourth consecutive game after losing its first game of the season to Alabama two weeks ago.
Four Vols reached double-figures as they shot 49% from the field and held the Commodores to 39% shooting. Keon Johnson scored a team-high 16 points while John Fulkerson chipped in 15 and Victor Bailey Jr. had 11, respectively. Jaden Springer scored 10, grabbed seven rebounds and assisted on five shots in his second career start.
Sophomore forward Dylan Disu led the way for Vanderbilt with a game-high 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting. He also had five rebounds while star sophomore guard Scotty Pippen Jr. scored 18 points despite fouling out.
Here’s the four biggest things we learned from Tennessee’s 20-point win over Vanderbilt.
Barnes tied Allen and Haskins
Not only did Tennessee win the 200th meeting between the two schools, but Rick Barnes also tied legendary coaches Phog Allen and Don Haskins for 20th all-time on the Division I wins list. Barnes now has 719 career wins under his belt. Barnes ranks seventh in career wins among active head coaches and now has 115 victories at Tennessee.
“All that means is I’ve had a lot of good players,” Barnes said following the game. “Some great players, obviously. Great coaches with me. Been at some great universities where they’ve allowed us to build the kind of programs we want to build. But when those things happen, it’s a compliment to everyone.
“I love what I do. If I ever get to where I don’t enjoy practice, I’ll know it’s time to step away from it. But I truly love coming to practice everyday, I love the game of basketball. I love the fact that I get to learn something new everyday. I love the way the game continues to change and see if we can keep up with it, do the things that we need to do. And I love watching players get better as a group. That’s something we take pride in with our staff. I’ve been blessed. I thank the good Lord for the opportunity he’s given me at so many different places.”
Vols slow down Pippen
Scotty Pippen Jr. entered Saturday’s game against the Vols as the second-leading scorer at 21.6 points per game. Pippen led the team in scoring, assists (5.8) and steals (1.6). He had scored at least 25 points on four separate occasions and has scored 18 points in each of Vanderbilt’s three games to begin conference play.
The Vols held Pippen below his season averaged in all three key categories. He finished with 18 points on 5-of-12 shooting, one assist and one steal. Pippen fouled out with 4:35 for the second time this season and had a season-high six turnovers.
“We knew that he had to really do a good job on Scotty Pippen Jr.,” Barnes said. “The first half I thought we did a nice job. The second half, not so much. We talked about it at halftime. He was going to come out and continue to get even more aggressive. We felt like we had a couple defensive breakdowns where we were trying to go for home run plays, opposed to staying solid and staying on the ground, going to try to get steals and giving them kick-out three’s. But overall we knew it was going to be a hard fought game and it was.”
Keon’s best performance of the season
One of the reasons Tennessee was able to slow down Pippen was because of the play of Johnson. The former five-star presented Pippen with a ton of problems in the first half as he held Pippen to just five first half points on 1-of-6 shooting.
“I think he was really good,” Barnes said of Johnson’s play. “We knew that he had to really do a good job on Scotty Pippen Jr.”
Johnson was just as good on the offensive end. He scored a season-high and team-high 16 points on 4-of-8 shooting. The Bell Buckle, Tennessee native was 7-of-8 from the free throw line while adding three rebounds, three assists and a steal.
Victor Bailey Jr. heats up
The game never felt in doubt after Tennessee went on a 19-3 run to end the first half to respond to a four-point Vanderbilt lead with 9:12 remaining in the opening frame. But the Commodores did begin the second half on an 11-7 run and began to gain momentum. Bailey quickly ended Vandy’s quick start.
Bailey hit three consecutive three’s to spark a streak of five three’s in a row for the Vols. Johnson, and then Springer, followed Bailey’s three 3’s with a three apiece, respectively.
“I think you need a player like VJ (Bailey) that can do that,” Barnes said. “We watch him do it. He does it in practice. I’ll tell you this, VJ, Keon (Johnson) and Jaden (Springer), most of the time, again we’re watching minutes because we want to stay fresh, we really think we can wear some people down if we watch their minutes, Santi (Vescovi) included. But most of those guys, we’re more concerned about them defensively because when they get winded, that’s when they breakdown first. And they sometimes get lost on the offensive end.
“That’s what is exciting to us, that we think we can get so much better the more consistent those guys can get. But VJ is a guy that, prior to the season starting, he was shooting 45 percent from the 3-point line. So we’ve watched him do it. For the most part, when he takes good shots, we think they’re going in because we see it a lot. There’s no doubt we need that from him.”
Bailey finished with 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting from the three-point line. He added three rebounds, an assist and a steal in 27 minutes of action.
Tennessee now turns its attention to a matchup with the Florida Gators. The Vols will head to Gainesville on Tuesday night for a 7 p.m. ET tip on ESPN before returning to Knoxville next Saturday for an 8:30 p.m. tip on the SEC Network with No. 17 Missouri.