Stop me if you’ve heard this before — Tennessee started Saturday night’s game against Vanderbilt in a sloppy fashion. Both sides did, really. Turnovers were the name of the game in the opening minutes as neither side seemed all that interested in finding any offensive rhythm.
Eventually, both sides settled down and began trading buckets. Vandy built a 13-11 lead midway through the first half, but Tennessee took early control from there. Defense from Yves Pons and Jalen Johnson gave Tennessee a spark, with John Fulkerson and Jordan Bowden cashing in at the other end.
A quick 10-0 run gave Tennessee an eight point lead.
That lead didn’t last for long though as the Vols went on a five minute scoring drought from there. The Commodores weren’t anything special offensively either, scraping together free throws to close the gap back to a 21-20 game at the under two minute mark.
...And that was it for the scoring in the first half. Neither side made a three-point attempt in the first half. Tennessee didn’t score for the last 6:29 of the half.
So naturally, Tennessee goes on a 8-0 run to open the second half. The defense sparked the offense, which was able to get clean looks at the rim for the first time in several game minutes.
The Vanderbilt offense continued to struggle. Tennessee took them down deep into the shot clock a number of times, forcing bad three-point attempts and several blocks for the Vols.
Tennessee settled its offense in at the rim. Yves Pons hammered home a few dunks, while Jordan Bowden continuing slashing. The Vols were aggressive when they could be, pushing up the court to find easy looks at the hoop.
With 14 minutes left to play, Tennessee had pushed the lead to 37-23.
Santiago Vescovi hit the first three for either side with 12:30 to play, making it a 42-25 game. It was a 10-11 start for Tennessee from the field in the second half — a far cry from what we saw in the first half.
The only drama left in this one was whether or not the Commodores could extend their three-point streak, which sat at 1,080 (since the three-point line was introduced) games with a shot beyond the arc made.
As we waited on the status of that streak, Tennessee kept attacking the paint. Uros Plavsic hit a hook, Fulky slammed and Bowden hit a runner. The lead had grown to 20 points. Suddenly Tennessee was shooting 55 percent from the field.
As for that three-pointer streak? It ended. Vandy went 0-25 from three-point range, putting the cherry on top of this one. Pour one out for Joe Fisher.
Final Score: Tennessee 66, Vanderbilt 45
Tennessee was led by Bowden, who had a really nice game. 21 point for the senior was his best night in a long time. He failed to make a three, but consistently attacked the rim and set the tone offensively in the second half.
Fulkerson and Pons each added 12 points. Pons ended up with four blocks while Josiah James added three.
Tennessee will be back in action on Tuesday night against Ole Miss.