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John Fulkerson helps lead Vols past Commodores in 65-61 win

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Fulkerson continues a tremendous 2019 season.

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

The Tennessee Volunteers (15-11, 7-6) thought that it would host the Vanderbilt Commodores (9-17, 1-12) on Tuesday night, but as it turned out it was the Vols vs. Jordan Wright’s Commodores.

Wright absolutely went off against the in-state rival to the tune of 23 points. It was enough to lead the team in shooting, but fortunately, it wasn’t enough to win the game.

That’s because the Vols have someone named John Fulkerson.

Sounds crazy, right? Well, Fulkerson led the team in points again (he tied with Jordan Bowden), this time it was 17 points on 4-of-8 shooting as the Vols swept the Commodores and won their sixth straight contest against their in-state rival.

Neither team was able to get on the board until Yves Pons hit a jumper at about the 18:15 mark to give the Vols a 2-0 lead. A Bowden 3 put the Vols up 5-0 as Vanderbilt continued to struggle offensively.

The Commodores didn’t get on the board until a Dylan Disu dunk gave them their first points of the game and cut the Vols lead to 5-2 with 15:28 to go in the first half.

Both teams were struggling on the offensive end, as they started the game a combined 3-of-15 from the floor. To make matters worse for Vanderbilt Scottie Pippen Jr. picked up his second foul within the first five minutes of the game.

Tennessee eventually jumped out to a 9-2 lead, but back-to-back Vandy 3s made it a 9-8 game. It remained that way for the next few minutes until a Pons slam put the Vols up 13-10 with 9:42 left in the first half.

As you’ve probably noticed, the poor offense was lingering around. Neither team was making its shots and it wasn’t due to great defense. A lack of pace/rhythm and undisciplined play was permeating the game.

The Vols used the charity to stripe to jump out to a 17-12 lead, but a Jordan Wright layup and a Braelee Alber 3-pointer tied things up. Vanderbilt took its first lead of the game as Wright then stole the ball and proceeded to make the layup to give his team a 19-17 lead with 5:19 until halftime. It was the first time in the game that either team had made consecutive shots.

Tennessee rode the charity stripe again, but this time it was in an effort to tie the game up. Bowden hit both free throws, but the tie didn’t last long because Maxwell Evans immediately made a layup on the other end to put Vandy back up, 24-22. It was rinse and repeat as Vescovi made two free throws to tie the game, but this time it was Lee who subsequently broke the tie with a quick layup on the other end.

The offense went about 3:15 without a bucket until Pons broke the drought with under a minute remaining. His layup cut Vanderbilt’s lead to 28-26 and Vescovi steal left the Vols with a chance to tie the game as time expired.

Lee blocked the first shot attempt, leaving :03.6 on the clock. A great inbounds play led to Jalen Johnson’s first bucket and allowed the Vols to tie the game at 28 heading into halftime.

Rick Barnes made his feelings clear about the offensive performance at halftime. He literally said the performance was “pathetic” as he walked into the locker room.

Tennessee and Vanderbilt combined for 19-of-56 from the floor, including 6-of-18 from the perimeter. It was Wright who carried Vanderbilt, however, and it was obvious that he was taking advantage of his time on the court. He had 14 of the team’s 28 points. Bowden led the Vols with 12 points.

Well, things didn’t start off so well for the Vols. Blown opportunities at the rim allowed Saban to break the tie on a fast break, but Vescovi pulled his boys out with a three on the next possession to put the Vols up, 31-30. A Lee free throw tied it back up, but Bowden found Devontae Gaines wide open under the rim for an easy bucket and the Vols were back in front, 33-31.

Tennessee maintained a two-point lead for a couple of more minutes until a wild layup from Wright tied the game up, yet again. Disu sunk a 3 a couple of possessions later to put Vanderbilt up, 38-35, with 13:33 left in the game.

Two Bowden free throws evened things out at 40, but Lee continued to dissect the Tennessee defense and broke the tie with another layup. John Fulkerson was able to convert an and-1 play to put Tennessee back in the lead, 43-42, but Wright - just like Lee - made a tough basket in the paint and converted the ensuing free throw, which gave Vanderbilt a 45-43 lead. Johnson made a layup, Vanderbilt turned it over, and then Fulkerson made another bucket to put the Vols up, 47-45 with a little over eight minutes left in the game.

Fulkerson continued to come to life. His hustle was on full display, especially when he blocked Wright to help preserve Tennessee’s 51-48 lead. He then made a layup on the other end of the court and came back to the other side for another block on Wright again. The Vols led, 53-48 with 6:14 left in the game.

All of a sudden, Tennessee was on a 9-0 run and was up, 58-48. The Vols had outscored the Commodores, 23-8 since Vandy took their five-point lead earlier in the second half.

So, things got pretty crazy at the end. The Vols were up, 63-55 with :35 to go. Everything seemed wrapped up and good to go.

Well, this is the Vols, so of course things can’t be easy. Lee hit a 3-pointer to make it a 63-58 game and Pons turned it over on the other end of the court on a boneheaded play where he didn’t realize he had a defender approaching him from behind. The defender punched the ball out and Vanderbilt regained possession. Lee then hit another 3-pointer to make it a 63-61 game with :8.5 left.

Fortunately, Bowden was fouled and made both free throws. The Vols would go to win, 65-61.

The Vols travel to Auburn to take on Bruce Pearl and the Tigers for their next matchup. Tipoff is currently set for Saturday, February 22 at 12PM EST.

You can check out the final score and stats here.