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Vols come up short against Vandy, 67-56

A sleepy start proved too much to overcome in the second half for Tennessee.

NCAA Basketball: Vanderbilt at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee, most likely needing a win at home against Vanderbilt to keep reasonable NCAA Tournament hopes alive, came out cold in the first half and couldn’t close the gap in the second, losing to the Commodores 67-56.

The opportunity was there, both to take another step toward the Big Dance and to nudge a competitor for one of those precious spots further to the back of the line, but the Vols didn’t hit their first field goal until five minutes in, they committed three turnovers in their first 10 possessions, and grabbed only one offensive rebound the entire first half. They went to the locker room down 28-18, their lowest first-half point total of the season.

The second half was almost entirely different. The team came out energetic, they had 16 offensive rebounds, and they solved the Commodores’ double-team of the low post with 7’1” Luke Kornet by spinning quickly toward the baseline and driving for a bucket or a foul almost every time. They got Vandy’s lead down to one point with about five minutes left and looked like they were about to take the lead and the opportunity.

But instead Vanderbilt pulled away. Things turned a bit ugly toward the end, as the entire arena turned on the officials and the team had to resort to desperation shots and fouls.

Congrats to Vandy, who played a complete team game and had five players in double figures in a 67-point game. Kornet was especially good, finishing with 11 rebounds and seven blocks to go with his 13 points.

Robert Hubbs led the way for the Vols with 16 points, and Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield each had 11, but no one else had more than six. As a team, they shot 29% from the field, 17.6% from the arc, and 65.4% from the free throw line, and they had only 12 assists to 10 turnovers.

Next up for Tennessee is a trip to NCAA-bound South Carolina on Saturday and then a trip to LSU and a home game against Alabama. Should they win all three, they’ll finish the regular season 18-13.