Feb. 1, 2006
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl wore his bright orange jacket and the 13th-ranked Volunteers rewarded him with a win over a Southeastern Conference division rival.
The Volunteers (15-3, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) needed a push at the end to overtake Vanderbilt and improve to 11-0 at home.
They maintained their lead in the SEC East over Florida and Kentucky.
"This is the biggest win of the year for us. The reason I say this is such a big win is Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt and Tennessee are all competing for the Eastern Division title. When you beat one of those three, it counts twice, a win for you and a loss for them," Pearl said.
Tennessee has beaten Florida once but hasn't faced Kentucky.
Many Tennessee fans have compared the excitement at basketball games in Pearl's first year to the era of coach Ray Mears from 1962-77. Mears often wore an orange blazer while coaching and was known for his showmanship. He has attended some games this season.
"I told him I wanted his permission and his blessing to bring out the orange jacket for the Vanderbilt and Kentucky games. He fully approved of it," Pearl said.
The Commodores (12-6, 3-4) were coming off a 23-point loss at Florida, but they had impressive wins at Georgetown and Kentucky already this season.
Neither team could keep a lead for long or pull away if they did, setting up a frantic finish.
Vanderbilt tied it at 58, and Tennessee went ahead when Bradshaw made the second of two free throws. This time, the Vols never trailed again.
Wingate scored on a putback, then missed two free throws and JaJuan Smith made a 3 from the wing to give Tennessee control and a 64-58 lead with 1:05 remaining.
Vanderbilt's Julian Terrell cut it to four with 48.6 seconds left, and the Commodores were down to intentionally fouling. C.J. Watson made one of two free throws and Chris Lofton and Smith each sank a pair to ice it.
Watson finished with 11 points and five assists and Smith had 10 points. Andre Patterson added 11 rebounds and eight points.
Vanderbilt made Tennessee play slower and held Watson and Lofton, the Vols' best outside shooters, to a combined 5-of-19 from the field. So Tennessee went inside to Wingate.
"It just shows we're a well-rounded team. You have to guard everybody on our team if you want to win," Wingate said.
The Vols, who were averaging a league-high 81 points in SEC games, shot only 36 percent (21-of-58) from the floor, but they took advantage of Vanderbilt's miscues.
Tennessee scored 27 points off the Commodores' 16 turnovers.
The Vols were aggressive and were fouled often. They were 23-of-32 from the foul line while Vanderbilt was only 2-for-5.
Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings didn't like that and often argued with the calls. He was whistled for a technical in the first half.
"We are one of the lowest-fouling teams in the league. We have put a big emphasis on not fouling. Obviously, we were not able to master that today," Stallings said.
Vanderbilt was leading by five with 10 minutes left, but Wingate scored five straight points. The Commodores' last lead was 56-55 with 4:57 left.
Vanderbilt was led by DeMarre Carroll with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Derrick Byars and Terrell each scored 12 points before fouling out. Terrell also had 10 rebounds.
"I was fine with how we ran our offense, and I was fine with how we played defense," Stallings said. "We turned it over a few more than our average. Tennessee is good at making you do that."
The Commodores had won three in a row over Tennessee.