The best way to get a disappointing back on track? How about ruining your arch rival on their home floor?
Vanderbilt destroyed Tennessee, 88-74, to climb to 3-3 in SEC play on Wednesday night. The Commodores earned their third straight win behind six three-pointers from Matthew Fisher-Davis and a career night from freshman Camron Justice. Justice, the former Kentucky high school player of the year, was a former Volunteer recruit. He stuck it to his one-time team with 12 points (via four three-pointers) after scoring only nine combined points in the previous eight weeks. Wade Baldwin, who was last seen in Knoxville getting cussed out by his head coach, led the team with 25 points after a late rally where he scored nine points in fewer than two minutes.
The Commodores' 13 three-pointers came from only three players. In comparison, Tennessee made their second three of the night with 6:04 remaining in the game. That shooting turned out to be the difference. Vanderbilt built a 58-31 second half lead and didn't look back. Vandy never trailed despite having to play in hostile territory at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Justice made three straight three-pointers midway through the first half to give the 'Dores a double-digit lead that they would not relinquish in Knoxville. The freshman paired with Fisher-Davis to erase a glacial cold streak from Riley LaChance. The sharpshooting sophomore missed all nine of his shots against the Vols, but was bailed out by Vandy's depth in the kind of showing that preseason pundits had banked on when they placed this team in their top 15.
Tennessee took advantage of an inevitable Commodore cold streak late in the game to cut Vandy's lead to 14 points. Wade Baldwin IV responded with a one-man 6-0 run that put the Vols back in their hole and ensured a .500 conference record for a team that started the new year with three straight losses. While Damian Jones had only six points before fouling out, the hot-shooting 'Dores proved that their offense can carry them to big wins without their star big man.
With the win, Vanderbilt improved to 11-7 and 3-3 in SEC play. Tennessee fell to 9-9 and 2-4. The Commodores will return to the court on Saturday afternoon when they travel to No. 23 Kentucky in a game that will have huge implications on their NCAA Tournament hopes.