Volunteers Stave off Hungry Commodores

Photo Credit: University of Tennessee Athletics

By Keeghan Krause

KNOXVILLE, Tenn — Tennessee staved off a hungry Vanderbilt team in a late-night contest that ended in a much closer than expected margin of 77-68. 

The first half did not go the way the Volunteers wanted it to. A lot of people wrote off the Vanderbilt Commodores coming into this game, but in the words of Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith, they weren’t writing back.  

The Volunteers got off to a solid 7-0 start and held the Commodores scoreless in the first four minutes, but that didn’t last for long. Reason being, for the first time in a few games a team seemed to have figured out Tennessee’s defense. Vanderbilt center Liam Robbins was able to get what he wanted down low, scoring 11 in the first half. Additionally Vanderbilt guard Noah Shelby was finding looks offensively, scoring 12 points and shooting 3-4 from three-point land in the first. 

On the Volunteers’ end, despite an uncharacteristic defensive struggle things weren’t going all that bad. Aidoo led Tennessee’s first half scoring with 8, and the team as a whole was shooting it well, going 52% from the field. But Vanderbilt was just playing better. 

The Commodores took a 39-37 lead into the half, and for the first time in a while, the Volunteers went into the locker room searching for answers defensively. 

As the second half began one could quickly see that those defensive answers had been found and a flip had switched for the Volunteers. They came out hot and did not lay off until the final buzzer sounded. 

A commodores team that had looked unstoppable on offense in the first half, struggled immensely to make anything happen in the second. The latter period saw them shoot a disappointing 9-27 from the field and an abysmal 1-14 from three. Jordan Wright was the one bright spot for them though as he had 8 points in the second half. 

On the Tennessee side of things it wasn’t all peaches and daisies but it was much improved from that first period of play. As aforementioned, they stepped up big defensively weathering the raging storm that was that first half Vanderbilt offense, but they improved immensely on the offensive side of the floor as well. Shooting a much improved 44% from three helping push them to 40 second-half points, and a 77-68 victory. 

The stars in this one were Julian Phillips who scored 15 points dished out 3 assists and grabbed 6 boards amidst many crowd-pleasing plays. Santiago Vescovi was the other big contributor in this one putting up an identical stat line of 15, 3, and 6, and seems to have really found his stride shooting the ball.

The Volunteers continue a loaded rivalry week on Saturday as they take on the Kentucky Wildcats at Noon Eastern.