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Tennessee 76 Vanderbilt 73 (OT) - Our State

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An improbable finish in regulation and clutch play in overtime gives Donnie Tyndall's orange blazer a huge win in Memorial Gym.

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

If you play the last 30 seconds of regulation ten times, Vanderbilt wins nine of them.

After breaking Tennessee's press for a Jeff Roberson dunk, the Commodores led 64-60 with 30 seconds on the clock.  Josh Richardson missed a three, the Vols fouled Luke Kornet with 15 seconds left, and we all started lamenting another close loss, including yours truly.  Unlike late misses at Arkansas and Georgia, Tennessee had lots of chances to take the lead in the final five minutes and shot the ball significantly better throughout, 47.5% for the game.

Kornet hit one of two, and we started thinking about going sub-.500 in SEC play and how we'd find enough wins left on our schedule to make the NIT.  Kevin Punter stuck a three in traffic with nine seconds left to make it 65-63.  But the Vols fouled Riley LaChance, freshman sensation and 86.4% free throw shooter.

But he missed the first.  He made the second, and Vandy immediately fouled Josh Richardson instead of defending the three.  Richardson hit both with six seconds left to make it a one point game.  Tennessee fouled Wade Baldwin IV, freshman sensation and 80.0% free throw shooter.

But he missed the first.  He made the second, but now fouls were off the table.  The Vols were out of timeouts, but Kevin Stallings had a pocketful.  He elected to call one after Baldwin's second free throw, giving both teams a chance to set up.  Down 67-65 with 6.3 seconds and the length of the floor to go, the Vols went to Robert Hubbs.  He went the length of the floor, made a hesitation move at the potential-game-winning three point line, and beat his man to the basket for kiss off the glass and a trip to overtime.

Vanderbilt, by the way, shot 30 free throws in regulation.  The Vols shot seven.  But the Commodores made only 17 of them, including an 0 for 4 start and then this in the final five minutes:

  • 4:46 Baldwin 1 of 2
  • 3:35 Jones 1 of 2
  • 2:40 Jones 0 of 1
  • 0:54 Roberson 1 of 2
  • 0:15 Kornet 1 of 2
  • 0:08 LaChance 1 of 2
  • 0:06 Baldwin 1 of 2
From the ashes, Tennessee struck first in the overtime period when Josh Richardson stuck a three as the shot clock expired on the Vols' first possession.  Vanderbilt rallied to take the lead with two minutes to play and got the ball back.  Hubbs the hero was out of the game with cramps.  But Detrick Mostella helped produce a steal in his absence which led to Kevin Punter being fouled.  Punter knocked down both to put the Vols back in front, and when LaChance missed a three, Derek Reese made the first of two really big plays.  His rebound on the LaChance miss gave the Vols a chance to bleed the clock down to around 20 seconds with a one point lead.  And when Richardson missed his jumper, Reese tipped it back to him in the corner for an offensive rebound.

Richardson was fouled, and three days after scoring just two points at Georgia he got points 26 and 27 at the line to put the Vols up three.  LaChance missed another three, Armani Moore rebounded with 0.6 left, missed both free throws (something to work on!), but Vandy's final heave was never a threat.  And this time, Tennessee walks away with the last second victory, 76-73 in overtime in Memorial Gym.

Momentum is slippery in the thick of this schedule, with LSU and Kentucky coming to Knoxville next and Oxford after that.  I'm not sure where Tennessee's season is going to end, but in the moment this felt like a narrative-changing win for this team.  Many of Tennessee's close games were the result of nearly blown leads for the Vols or near misses in a loss.  But this time, Tennessee was the better team in the final seconds of a game that was close throughout - neither team led by more than five in the final 33 minutes and overtime - and while Vanderbilt has to sit with how they missed so many free throws to let it get away down the stretch, the Vols get to walk away knowing they made every play they had to make in the final minutes to get this win, on the road in a building that has gotten the best of us many times.  They got this win because of Richardson's 27 points, Hubbs last-second shot, Punter's late three, Reese's big tip, Mostella being forced into action and getting a steal, etc.  The Vols need something from everyone, and tonight they got it.

This is one to be proud of, to savor, and to build on.  LSU comes calling Saturday at 4:00 PM.  We'll see if they can grow from here, but tonight this is one to celebrate.  After losing four of five, this game shows the scrappy Vols are still capable of not just competitiveness, but winning basketball in the game's most crucial moments.  And getting those moments in Memorial makes them even better.

Great, great win tonight.  Go Vols.