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Tennessee 76 Vanderbilt 63: Taking the Magic Out of Memorial in Four Minutes or Less

You'll see what you want to see.

Vanderbilt got a ton of the same open looks that other teams drilled, and instead shot 6-for-23 from behind the arc.  Another career high was established by an opposing guard, this time George "The" Drake with 16 points.  Tennessee still hovers at around 30% from behind the arc themselves, 4-of-13 tonight.

But Scotty Hopson scored 11 points, his second consecutive solid performance, giving hope to all who keep waiting on reality to catch up to potential.  Tyler Smith again finished with a stat line that puts him at the forefront of the All-SEC discussion, with 18 points and 7 rebounds.  JP Prince stopped shooting threes and scored 16 points.

And Wayne Chism came off the bench and singlehandedly eliminated Vanderbilt's homecourt advantage before the first media timeout.  Those who've had a question about Tennessee starting fast got an answer tonight, and those who complain about Chism shooting threes - including yours truly - didn't have much to say when he stepped on the floor and buried consecutive treys to push the Vols to a 10-1 lead.

The whiteout was effectively over.

Credit the Vols for never letting Vanderbilt get close enough to really think about it from there on out.  They took the crowd out of the game and never let them back in it, Chism (20 and 7) dominated AJ Ogilvy (7 and 4) again, and in the end Tennessee gets a much-needed win, an important SEC road win, and improves to a much better sounding 12-5, 3-1 in conference.

We still don't know exactly what to make of this team.  The shadows of the exact same problems were present tonight, but never manifested themselves into something more.  The things we want to see - Hopson's development, better shot selection (the Vols shot 50% on the nose tonight), playing well on the road, better defense (Vandy had to be hot in the second half to finish at 34.5%, because they couldn't have been much worse at 18.5% in the first) - there were clear signs of progress in those areas tonight.

We'll get another update on Saturday afternoon, in a game that in many ways offers a much greater reward than risk.  Tennessee will follow up with home dates against LSU and Florida next week to end a brutal January schedule.  All in all, this team still appears relatively safe for the NCAA Tournament...we just continue to play wait and see with exactly how good they can be beyond that.

But tonight was a nice step in the right direction on the road.

And now...bring on Memphis.