Jan. 20, 2009
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Tennessee winning at Memorial Gym doesn't make up for a loss to Vanderbilt a year ago. However, the Volunteers do consider it a bit of a step toward redeeming their painful loss a week ago to Kentucky.
Wayne Chism scored 16 of his 20 points in the first half, and Tennessee beat Vanderbilt 76-63 on Tuesday night for its second straight and third win in four games.
"My first win in this building," Tennessee junior Tyler Smith said. "It feels good. Last year we came up short, but they were playing great last year, just as great as we were. We came in knowing we needed another road win. That's something that the team focused on. I think it all comes down to that meeting we had as a team."
That meeting followed the Vols giving up 54 points seven days ago to Kentucky's Jodie Meeks. That wasn't a problem Tuesday night as the Vols made up for their last Southeastern Conference road lost, which came in Memorial Gym on Feb. 26 of last year _ only a day after becoming ranked No. 1 for the first time in school history.
"Neither team is as good right now (as a year ago)," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "We're both trying to get there, but certainly it's a good step for us."
After J.P. Prince scored the opening bucket, Tennessee never trailed and led by as much as 14 in helping Pearl improve to 5-2 against the Commodores.
This was Tennessee's first game since falling out of the Top 25 rankings on Monday.
Vanderbilt even asked fans to wear white once again, trying to tap into that same magic. It didn't help as the Commodores (12-6, 1-3) lost their second straight and for the third time in four games.
They came in tied for the nation's stingiest field goal percentage defense, but struggled to find the basket themselves. They went about eight minutes between field goals in the first half and missed 22 of 27 shots.
"I thought we missed some makeable shots early, and it might have gotten in our head a little bit," Vandy coach Kevin Stallings said. "It seemed like there was a lid on the basket for most of that first half. We kind of dug ourselves a hole and every chance we had to get it, maybe, where we needed it, we missed a shot or missed a free throw."
George Drake came off the bench and led Vandy with 16 points. Brad Tinsley added 10. Vandy's three leading scorers _ A.J. Ogilvy, Jermaine Beal and Jeffery Taylor _ were a combined 3 of 20.
Pearl held Chism out of the starting lineup to help keep him out of foul trouble. Chism came in and hit consecutive 3's before going inside to keep scoring.
"He played well," Stallings said. "He didn't just play well with those two 3's, he played well thereafter."
For Chism, it was a strong performance.
"I would've got like three technicals last year, but I did a good job even though I got one tonight. It was a good tech. Basically, I had fun out there," Chism said.
Tennessee came in as the SEC's top-scoring team, averaging 83.4 points per game. The Vols didn't match that, but did become only the fifth team to shoot better than 40 percent and fourth to score 70 or more against Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt got within 37-30 with 14:54 to go in the second half on consecutive baskets by George Drake.
Hopson answered with a bucket, Smith stole an inbounds pass and finished off the fast-break with a three-point play. Bobby Maze scored underneath to cap the run and push Vols' lead to 44-30. They padded that lead to as much as 18 in the final two minutes.
With the Commodores struggling to find the basket, Tennessee jumped out to a 10-1 lead before Vandy hit its first field goal, and it didn't get much better. The Vols cooled off a bit themselves and couldn't push their lead past 11 points.
Chism hit a jumper to make it 26-15 with 1:13 left in the first half and drew the foul. As he celebrated, he drew a technical. Beal hit both free throws, Chism then missed his attempt _ Tennessee's lone free throw try in the first half. Brian Williams scored just before halftime for a 28-20 Tennessee lead at the half.