Jan. 27, 2010
BY JOSH PATE, UTSports.com
The stat line looked good: 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting, including a pair of 3-pointers. But the stats didn't get it done for J.P. Prince and Tennessee on Wednesday night.
The No. 14 Vols lost 85-76 to No. 21 Vanderbilt at home despite Prince's pick-me-up in time of need. Prince's 22 was one shy of his career-high when he dropped 23 against Xavier in 2007.
"I thought J.P. played terrific. He had a special night," said UT head coach Bruce Pearl. "He really stepped up against Vanderbilt at home in the SEC."
The downside for Tennessee (15-4, 3-2 SEC), however, was that it came when Wayne Chism had an off night in offensive production. It came on a night when the Vols allowed another opponent to shoot 50 percent from the floor; in UT's previous loss to Georgia, the Bulldogs shot 56.3 percent. It came on a night when foul trouble plagued UT most of the night; starter Kenny Hall had four, and Scotty Hopson fouled out.
Bobby Maze said it wasn't the night to have all those negatives in one corner, despite Prince's efforts. While Prince was hot offensively, Maze said the rest of the team should have picked up defensively.
"You can miss a shot and be upset with yourself. In saying that, don't get upset when you miss a shot," Maze said. "Defensively, you can control that. Going into the game, you should say `I'm going to lock my man up. I'm going to do the best job defensively.'"
But Vanderbilt (16-3, 5-0 SEC) shot 50.9 percent. And Prince tried to match the Commodores' efforts.
A fiery joust early in the second half when Prince and Vanderbilt's Andre Walker both went after the ball left Prince with a technical foul and two fouls assessed to Walker. That's when the spotlight shined on Prince with the game tied at 39.
He nailed a 3-pointer from the corner, then he threw down a dunk on an assist from Maze to make it 44-39 with 15:34 to play. Another technical foul was assessed, however, because Prince was hanging on the rim. Vandy's Jermaine Beal made two free throws, and things changed.
"The technical foul on J.P.'s dunk was a momentum shifter," Pearl said. "It is certainly a call that can be made because he was on the rim. I've seen that call made. I've seen that call not made. Vanderbilt's experience obviously took over in crucial situations."
The Commodores slowly crawled back into the game and took the lead for good on an A.J. Oglivy basket in the paint to make it 56-55 with 9:26 to play. They put the game away when Beal got a driving layup and then two consecutive 3s to extend the Vanderbilt lead to 71-60 with 5:20 remaining.
Prince's line remained the highlight of the night for Tennessee.
Vanderbilt's defense shut down Chism, holding him to just eight points on 2-of-9 shooting. Scotty Hopson managed 14 points in 22 minutes, but his offensive firepower never found rhythm. So that left Prince, and the senior responded.
"J.P. is one of our best players now," Pearl said of Prince. "He was always a very effective player and one of the important pieces to our puzzle, but now he is one of our best players and he's playing like it. He's always been a stat sheet stuffer. He looks at the roster right now, and he looks around and he says, `I better step up.'"