The Vanderbilt frontcourt came alive against an undersized Tennessee team, but it wasn't enough to lift the Commodores to a win over their arch rivals on Wednesday night. Vandy fell to Tennessee, 76-73 in overtime. A lack of veteran leadership reared its ugly head once against as the 'Dores couldn't hit their free throws and hold a late five point lead to fend off their arch rivals
James Siakam continued his string of strong play with 14 points, seven rebounds, and three blocks and the team wasted Jeff Roberson's finest game as a Commodore in defeat. Roberson had 12 points on 4-4 shooting in the losing effort. Josh Richardson led the Vols with 27 points and added seven rebounds as well.
The Vols shot nearly 60 percent in the first half en route to a 35-32 deficit at the break. Vandy had trouble containing UT combo guard Richardson as he sprung for 14 points and frustrated the Commodore D all day. However, Vanderbilt - buoyed by the biggest and loudest crowd of the season - kept fighting in a game where neither team led by more than five points
Vanderbilt had several chances to close the gap in the second half, but Tennessee kept them at bay until Luke Kornet's dunk put the 'Dores up 52-51 with eight minutes to play. From there, the two teams slopped it out in a battle of intense but technically deficiency basketball. Offensive rebounds and deflected passes were the key as the two teams rolled into the final media timeout tied at 56-all.
That's when some Memorial Magic came into play. Damian Jones made the front end of a one-and-one, but missed the second. Fortunately, Richardson's hot night extended to the paint, and he tipped the miss into the wrong basket to make it 59-56 Commodores. The Vols missed the front end of their own one-and-one on the other end, and Vandy capitalized with a Jones and-1 that made it 61-56 but ended with an airballed free throw that deflated the 'Dores momentum.
The Vols battled back to 64-62 when Richardson hit a long, contested two-pointer, but Jeff Roberson decided he didn't want to lose that way by rattling home a vicious dunk against the full court press on the other end. That gave UT some long odds to win, but Tennessee rose up to put pressure on the young Commodores. Kevin Punter hit a three and Richardson made a pair of free throws after the Wade Baldwin IV and Riley LaChance went 2-4 from the line to make it 67-65 'Dores with six seconds to play. Robert Hubbs III answered with a layup at the buzzer to send this one into overtime.
Richardson led off overtime with a three, but the 'Dores battled back and retook the lead on a Siakam layup with 1;58 to play. A pair of Punter free throws gave the Vols the lead, and a missed LaChance three put them in the driver's seat with 49 seconds to go. Richardson missed a long two, but chased down his own rebound and drew the ensuing foul to put Vandy on the ropes. He hit both his shots, and LaChance's last second three missed the mark to seal another overtime loss for the 'Dores.