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The SEC's Worst Losses: Tennessee (again)

We've been here before. Since the last look at Tennessee's worst losses, the only team that's beaten them has been the Commodores. After the game in Knoxville, the Volunteers chopped down a feisty Florida squad on a late Scotty Hopson jumper and then blew away LSU and South Carolina to pull even with Vandy in the SEC rankings.

Tennessee heads to Memorial Gym with just a 1-2 record on the road in Jermaine Beal's tenure at Vanderbilt. Both of those losses have come when Tennessee has been nationally ranked and favored - Shan Foster's tip-in beat the Vols in 2007, and Foster's 32 point performance toppled the top-ranked visitors in 2008. Vandy has a chance to sweep the regular season series for the first time since 2005 and just the second time since 2000.

The turning point of that 2007 season.


With no new losses on Tennessee's resume, lets instead look at the keys to Vanderbilt's win January 27, where the Commodores broke apart a tight game in the second half for a rare win in Knoxville.

Tennessee (18-4, AP #12, Coaches' #12)
Key Loss: vs. Vanderbilt (RPI #18KenPom #2676-85

A balanced attack led the Commodores past Tennessee, paced by Jermaine Beal's 25 points and the three point shooting of the Beal/Jenkins/Tinsley backcourt. Five players scored 10 points or more, balancing out below average performances from A.J. Ogilvy and Jeffery Taylor. Andre Walker was another key to the game, as he helped limit Wayne Chism's scoring and chipped in a 9/7/5 jack-of-all-trades performance offensively.

While the backcourt produced on offense, they were unable to be as efficient defensively. Guards Hopson, J.P. Prince, and Bobby Maze combined for 48 points - over 63% of the team's scoring - and 11 assists. In all, 70 of the team's 76 points originated from the Volunteer guards. Prince was especially deadly, shooting 90% on his way to 22 points and three steals. Though Chism only put up eight points, he was still able to make his presence felt defensively, despite being Tennessee's only legitimate big man. The 'Dores went after Chism but couldn't draw fouls against him, and the center responded with 14 defensive rebounds and five blocks.

Tennessee is too talented to shut down completely. Even in a big win they'll have one or two standout performers, so the key tonight will be chipping away and containing the impacts that guys like Chism/Hopson/Prince have - i.e. Hopson's 22 points are tempered by 6-17 shooting, or Chism's double-double came at the expense of six turnovers (see Varnado, Jarvis).

In the last game, the big difference between the two teams was shooting - even though Tennessee shot decently, Vanderbilt shot better. The other aspects of the game were pretty similar across the board in a game that didn't feature many mistakes. If Vandy comes out sloppy, they'll have to find another way to beat Tennessee, a team whose strong guard play grinds into the Commodores' defensive weaknesses.

Keys to victory: 

  • Keep chipping away at Chism – the first attempt to wear him down and get him in foul trouble didn’t work, but if he’s scoring inside he can turn a game around. He’s coming off a game where he absolutely blew up South Carolina, and even if he’s not scoring he’s a big time presence. The longer he’s on the bench, the better. 
  • Fire away from three – Let’s hope (pray?) that Saturday’s game was a total aberration from John Jenkins. In their first match-up, Vandy’s backcourt trio went 8-12 from three point range. Tonight they play at Memorial Gym, where the rims will semm a little bit bigger for the home team. They pulled away from UT using clutch shooting, and they’ll need it again in the return game. 
  • Solid defense at the 1/2/3 – Tennessee’s three guard set killed the Commodores in Knoxville. Though it wasn’t enough to deliver a win, their production was more than any Vandebrilt fan could be comfortable with. The ‘Dores won’t be able to shut the Hopson/Prince/Maze trio down completely, but limited their shooting while forcing turnovers will force the UT offense into a different direction.