Santiago Vescovi has had a rough go of it lately.
His shoulder’s been hurt, and he’s not been playing well. But tonight, it looked like he got some of his groove back. He tied for the team-lead with 14 points and hit 4-8 from deep. But when it counted, at the end of the game, he bricked the front-end of a one-and-one chance that would have sealed the game for Tennessee. With four seconds left, Vanderbilt inbounded the ball and got it to Tyrin Lawrence who hit a game-winning 3 as the game clock expired.
The blame never goes on the guy who misses the late free throw — basketball is a team game, and Tennessee had chances to win this game and didn’t execute when they needed to. Vandy’s Liam Robbins, Lawrence and Jordan Wright all had good games.
Freshman Julian Phillips scored the game’s first bucket — a pull-up off a curl, but two-straight 3s from Vandy put the Commodores up 8-4 at the 16:21 mark.
Santiago Vescovi answered on the Vols’ next possession with a 3 that cut Vandy’s lead to 8-7 by the under-16 minute break. Santi had been two for his last 12 from beyond the arc in Tennessee’s last two games.
After the timeout, Tyreke Key caught a pass from Santi in the middle of the key and hit a nice turn-around jumper. At the 14:23 mark, Vanderbilt missed a 3 but snagged the long offensive rebound that ended up in a second-chance layup for the ‘Dores.
Tobe Awaka — notably the first big off the bench for Tennessee — hit a layup on the other end. After an empy Vandy possession, Key hit a 3 off an assisit from Zakai Ziegler.
Awaka hit a beautiful hook shot in the lane at the 11:39 mark, a look that came off an offensive rebound he collected off his own miss.
Vanderbilt immediately answered with another 3, then turned a Ziegler turnover into an alley-oop that tied the game at 18 with just fewer than 11 minutes left until halftime.
The Vols answered with their own alley-oop on their next possession, with Ziegler on the alley and Olivier Nkamhoua on the oop.
After a Commodore turnover, Key missed a 3, but Uros Plavsic collected the rebound, and it turned into a second-chance 3 for Vescovi that made it 23-18 Vols with 9:45 remaining in the half.
Liam Robbins hit his third 3 off the half on a step-back move that Tennessee lucked out on because Uros fouled him on the contest, too. At this point in the contest, Vanderbilt was 5-8 on 3-point attempts.
The Vols didn’t get punished on an Nkamhoua turnover at the 7:51 mark thanks to a missed Vandy 3, but Plavsic picked up his second foul in less than two minutes that took the broadcast into the under-eight-minute media timeout with Tennessee leading 23-21.
Vanderbilt hit its sixth 3 of the half on the possession after the timeout to take the lead, but the Vols took a one-point lead back when Ziegler hit a jumper on the subsequent possession.
Tennessee committed its fourth turnover of the half when Santi tried to hit a roll man on a bounce pass, and Vanderbilt went down the court, missed its initial shot then took a 27-25 lead off an offensive rebound layup.
With 4:45 left in the half, Ziegler picked up his second foul, was immediately taken out of the game and the difference in Tennessee’s offense with Santi at PG was immediately noticeable. The possession ended empty, with Vescovi missing a contested layup around the basket after a pretty lackadaisical offensive sequence. At the under-four media timeout, Vandy led 28-25.
After the timeout, the Vols got the ball into the post to Phillips, and he found Jonas Aidoo at the top of the key, and the big man made the jumper. Tennessee allowed a layup on Vandy’s next possession, but Key nailed a catch-and-shoot 3 with 2:32 left that tied the game at 30-30.
Around the two-minute mark, Aidoo collected a defensive rebound, and the Vols went on the fast break, which they rarely do. But they got the ball to Phillips, who is a transition basket waiting to happen. He ended up getting fouled and hitting two free throws.
Vandy missed a 3 on their next possession, and Key drilled a two that was just barely inside the 3-point line. Naturally, Liam Robertson posterised multiple Vols on Vanderbilt’s subsequent trip down the floor, making it a 34-32 Vols lead that held til halftime.
LIAM ROBBINS WITH THE pic.twitter.com/Zd9VGgYvWQ— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) February 9, 2023
Vandy’s Tyrin Lawrence, a 27-percent 3-point shooter this year, hit 2-3 from deep, while Liam Robbins, an 18-percent 3-point shooter, hit three of his four attempts from beyond the arc. The duo combined for 23 of Vandy’s 32 first-half points.
Lawrence hit another jumper on the Commodores’ first possession after halftime, giving Vandy the 36-34 lead, but Robbins picked up his third foul at the 18:56 mark. Unfortunately, Ziegler also picked up his third foul a couple possessions later and went immediately to the bench.
Phillips hit a layup on a drive to the bucket with 17:48 left, making it 39-38 Vols. Vanderbilt turned it over on its next possession, and Awaka got the dunk off the dish from Josiah-Jordan James, who also created the possession with the steal on the possession prior.
With 15:35 left, Key missed a look near the hoop, and Phillips snagged the offensive board and turned it into two second-chance points. Vols up 42-39 at the under-16 timeout.
Awaka hit another hook shot over his right shoulder after the break, which made it at 8-0 run for the Vols. Key hit a layup — his team-leading 12th point off the bench, and then we saw a barrage of 3s. Vandy hit a 3, James answered with his first points of the game on a 3, and then the Commodores went down and hit a second-straight 3. All the sudden, Tennessee's 8-0 run became a Vandy 7-0 run that Key ended on a step-back jumper. With 10:30 left, after another James miss, Vandy led 51-50.
After Key’s stepback, Vandy missed its initial shot but collected the offensive rebound and drew a foul on Aidoo. Vandy hit one-of-two from the charity stripe.
Ziegler, plagued by foul trouble all game, gave the Vols the lead back with his first points of the game on a 3-pointer. After an empty Vandy possession, Phillips hit a jumper in the paint to up the Vols’ lead to 55-52.
After an initial missed shot, Robbins got the ball in the post on Vandy’s next trip down the floor and put up a hook shot off the backboard that may or may not have gone in — we’ll never know because Tennessee got called for a goaltend. Vols up 55-54 with 7:57 left.
Vandy went back and forth with its defenses in the second half, going from man-to-man to a 2-3 zone. Against the zone, Nkamhoua got the ball on the far-side baseline and got stripped.
With 6;28 left, Jordan Wright hit his second 3 of the half, with all 10 of his points at this juncture coming after halftime. Vandy led 58-55 with 5:18 left in the game.
With four minutes left, Vescovi nailed his third 3 of the game to tie it at 58, but Wright answered right back with a driving layup to give Vanderbilt the lead back. At the 3:31 mark, Awaka missed a layup, but, of all people, Vescovi was there to clean it up with a second-chance layup to tie the the game at 60 with 2:54 until the end of the game.
On two-straight Vols’ possessions, Awaka got the ball down low and one got blocked by Robbins and the other he airballed right at the rim. On the subsequent Vanderbilt trip down the floor, Awaka fouled a 3-point shot and Vandy hit all three freebies.
Vescovi answered, again, with another 3, to tie the game at 63, off an Nkamhoua offensive rebound. Vandy’s next trip down the floor ended in an empty possession, and Nkamhoua hit a jumper from right around the free-throw line to give UT the lead with fewer than a minute left.
Vandy went straight to Robbins in the post, and Nkamhoua did a good job to contest without fouling and Robbins missed the shot. The rebound careened back over the half-court line where Ziegler corralled it.
Worth noting, in all the chaos, Josiah-Jordan James turned his ankle and had to be helped off the floor with what looked like a turned ankle. Bad, bad news, regardless of how this game finishes.
Vanderbilt had to foul four times to get Tennessee to the free-throw line — on the third one, Phillips ended up with a clear path to the bucket that would have led to a dunk and make it a two-possession game, but he chose to drive past the hoop in hopes of killing more time. Barnes immediately went nuts about Phillips not dunking the ball.
The Vols nearly got called for a five-second time on their fourth-straight inbounds attempt but got the timeout called. UT got the ball in the next time, to one of the best late-game free-throw shooters around, Vescovi, and he went up and straight-up bricked the front-end of the one-and-one opportunity.
Vanderbilt had four seconds left, and hit a near-corner 3-pointer to win the game, 66-65.
- Vanderbilt had to foul Tennessee five times to get the Vols to the free-throw line before Vescovi missed his chance to ice the the game
- Tyreke Key, coming off the bench, had his best game in recent memory: 14 points, 6-12 from the field and 2-4 from deep
- Zakai Ziegler continued his trend of getting into foul trouble early. He ended up playing just 24 minutes and scored five points with seven assists
- Tobe Awaka, outside of the couple poor decisions late to test Robbins in the paint, played well. He scored eight points and led the team with nine rebounds.
- Tennessee hit two of its three free-throw attempts, while Vanderbilt hit eight of their 12 free throws
- Anybody who doesn’t have serious concerns about this team’s ceiling got a wake-up call tonight