The Tennessee Volunteers finally did something they hadn’t done recently: win convincingly inside Memorial Gymnasium.
The Vols used a huge second half surge to defeat the Vanderbilt Commodores 75-62 on Saturday night. Tennessee trailed 35-30 at the half.
Dalton Knecht continued his absolutely scorching play lately, finishing with 32 points on 13-21 shooting. Tyrin Lawrence led the Commodores with 21 points.
Despite the margin of victory, it took a while for the Vols to get going. Vanderbilt jumped out to an early lead and managed to stay just in front of the Vols for the majority of the first half.
The Commodores took their biggest lead of the game nine points on a very controversial series. Vandy’s Ezra Manjon drove the ball to the basket with a little over a minute left in the half and was rejected by Josiah-Jordan James. However, a foul was called on Zakai Ziegler, although there appeared to be no more than negligible contact at most. The play was also called a goaltend despite the ball coming nowhere close to the backboard. The play was reviewed and the goaltend was overturned.
However, despite missing the foul call, the officials had the gall to call a technical foul on Rick Barnes. Manjon got to shoot (and make) four free throws and Vandy held a 35-26 lead.
From that moment, Tennessee completely flipped the switch on the game, outscoring the Commodores by 22 points the rest of the way. Dalton Knecht provided the juice with 21 of his 32 points coming in the second half.
With the Vols down 43-39 early in the second half, Knecht single-handedly gave the Vols the lead for good. He outscored Vanderbilt by himself 12-5 over a three-and-a-half-minute stretch, after which Tennessee emerged ahead 51-48.
Tennessee’s defense kicked in from that point, holding the Commodores scoreless for another three and a half minutes as Tennessee built a 10-point lead at 58-48.
Vanderbilt tried to make one last run, getting to within 63-55, but Knecht shut the door with five straight points to put the game out of reach late.
Next up: Tennessee hosts South Carolina on 1/30; Vanderbilt travels to Auburn on 1/31.