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College Basketball: Tennessee holds off Vanderbilt to win, 67-62

That was entirely too close.

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

In what began as a blowout, this game turned into a collapse. Tennessee had to hang on for dear life to hold off Vanderbilt, but they found a way. Here’s how it happened.

It was a slow offensive start for Tennessee. They scored just two points in the opening five minutes of the game as Rick Barnes shuffled the lineup early. Derrick Walker entered the game and immediately grabbed two offensive rebounds to jumpstart the offense Tennessee scored off of both those boards.

Unlike their last meeting, the open looks from outside weren’t falling early on for the Commodores. Their offense started even slower than Tennessee’s, putting them in an early hole midway through the first half.

The Volunteers got some separation behind the hot shooting of Jordan Bowden. After a mini-slump, Bowden came out firing tonight. The sophomore guard went 3-4 from three point range, which included a four point play.

Tennessee sliced up Vanderbilt’s zone defense looks, doubling up the Commodores before halftime. The Volunteers led 32-15 at the break. The key stat was Vanderbilt shooting just 1-13 from long range, despite finding some good looks.

It was more of the same to start the second half. Bowden stayed hot, hitting a couple more open looks. Vanderbilt kept missing good looks, until Riley LaChance connected on back to back possessions to revive the Commodores.

It was as close as Vanderbilt had been in a while, trailing by just 12 points with 11 minutes to play. LaChance hit two more three balls, cutting the Tennessee lead all the way down to just eight points.

Tennessee was forced to key in on LaChance, which opened some things up elsewhere for Vanderbilt. Suddenly, the ‘Dores were getting open looks at the basket from the paint.

On the other end of the floor, the Tennessee offense went ice cold. After leading by 20 earlier in the half, the Volunteer lead was just four points.

Tennessee went back to what they do best, which is pounding the ball down low to Grant Williams. Grant got Vanderbilt forward Clevon Brown in foul trouble, eventually getting him out of the game with four minutes remaining.

The Vols and ‘Dores just kept trading baskets though. Tennessee’s defense wasn’t even close to what it was in the first half. If I had to guess, Rick Barnes is going to tell us all about that lacking defense after this game.

Grant kept getting to the free throw stripe and hitting. That was the Tennessee offense down the stretch, essentially.

Finally, Tennessee finished them off. It was a three from Lamonte Turner and a fast-break bucket from Bowden that broke the Commodores’ back. Tennessee finished this one off, winning 67-62.

Jordan Bowden led Tennessee with 22 points. Grant Williams scored 18. The Volunteers improve to 14-5 and 5-3 in the SEC.

They will be back in action on Saturday afternoon at Iowa State.