Donnie Tyndall had a victorious first trip to Nashville as the head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers, as the Vols took down Vanderbilt 76-73 in overtime.
Tennessee entered this game on a 2-game skid while Vanderbilt was on a 2-game winning streak. Despite their recent success, the Commodores haven’t had much luck in conference play this year, as they were 3-7 in the SEC heading into their matchup with Tennessee last night.
The Vols got off to a hot start, going up 5-2 on a Hubbs three-pointer and Josh Richardson layup. Richardson had a great start, making his first three shots for seven early points. Vanderbilt started off 5-5 from 3-point range, taking advantage of Tennessee’s match-up zone and spreading the floor. Both teams were getting up a lot of shots, and they were falling. Ten minutes into the first half, both teams were shooting over 50 percent from the field. Tennessee was able to secure a 3-point lead right before heading into the break.
Robert Hubbs III shot 3-4 from the field for seven first half points and also grabbed four rebounds. Josh Richardson shot 5-7 from the field, including 2-3 from deep for 12 points and also grabbed three rebounds and recorded two assists. Tennessee shot the ball well in the first half, going 14-24 from the field and 5-9 from deep.
Damian Jones was a beast in the paint for Vanderbilt in the first half. He shot 3-5 from the field for six points and also recorded four rebounds. Jeff Roberson was the lead scorer for Vandy at halftime; he shot 2-2 from the field for seven points. Vanderbilt also shot 5-9 from 3-point range, but shot an awful percentage from the line, going 3-7 from the stripe. The ‘Dores also gave the ball away eight times.
After Vanderbilt started 5-5 from the 3-point line, they managed to miss their next six attempts. This allowed Tennessee to build a small lead, which fluctuated from four points to one point for the first 10 minutes of the second half. Tennessee, once again, faced another offensive cold spell late in the game, allowing Vanderbilt to build a 6-point lead. Tennessee was able to get open looks in the first half, and they converted. But Vanderbilt adjusted their defensive scheme at halftime, came out with a hand in the face of every shooter and did not give up any good opportunities in the second half.
The Vols then geared up for what would be an amazing comeback. Richardson hit some late-game jumpers, and Kevin Punter hit a clutch 3-pointer with only seconds remaining on the clock. Vanderbilt helped the comeback effort by missing multiple free throws, and Hubbs capped it all off with a buzzer-beating layup, tying the game at 67.
The Vols were able to hold off the ‘Dores in a scrappy overtime, making it two games in a row won against their in-state rival.
Josh Richardson led both teams in scoring, shooting 10-18 from the field for 27 points. Derek Reese was also in rare form last night, shooting 5-6 from the field including a perfect 2-2 from deep for 12 points and also recorded eight rebounds.
Vanderbilt’s leading scorer was their anchor down low, Damian Jones, who scored 16 points on 6-9 shooting from the field. It isn’t wrong to say that Vanderbilt deserved to lose this game. They over-shot the long-ball, going 6-17 from 3-point range and shot a horrid 17-30 from the free throw line, which ultimately cost them the game.
This game was another indicator that Tennessee’s roster is more mature than most think. It takes maturity, experience and talent to truly win a game. The Vols traveled to the home of their in-state rival, while riding a 2-game skid, and got the job done as underdogs in a fashion that was as beautiful as Coach Tyndall in that orange blazer.
Tennessee picked up some major momentum last night with this win, but can they ride it all the way to the “field of 64?”
Edited by Maggie Jones