Snake-like Vanderbilt squeezes the life out of UT

Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 11:01pm
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J.P. Prince led the Vols in scoring, but his second technical foul may have been the turning point for A.J. Ogilvy and the Commodores.

KNOXVILLE — As Vanderbilt continues to snake its way through the Southeastern Conference schedule, it's looking increasingly more like a python. The 21st-ranked Commodores strike with lightning speed and eventually suffocate the opposition.

Wednesday’s 85-76 victory over the University of Tennessee, before 19,103 at Thompson-Boling Arena, was just the latest example. It was their first road victory in the series since 2004-05 and made them — at 5-0 — the SEC’s only unbeaten team in conference play. Three of those triumphs have been on the road, and they have travel plans for Saturday in Lexington, where they will face No. 1 Kentucky.

“I think our guys believe in what we do,” coach Kevin Stallings said. “Sometimes it’s just matter of refocusing on what it is we do. I thought we did that … at halftime, and we came out and played with a little more purpose in the second half.”

For the fourth time in conference play, VU squeezed out a victory after having trailed at halftime. Its ability to sort out an opponent and find ways to score manifested itself in the form of 54 points in the final 20 minutes, 23 more than they scored in the first 20.

The Commodores (16-3, 5-0) actually led by one with less than two minutes to play in the first half but gave up a 3-pointer to J.P. Prince with 1:13 remaining and a reverse layup to Steven Pearl with only seconds to go. They went to the locker room down by four, 35-31. Then again they also trailed Florida (by two), Alabama (seven) and Auburn (11) after 20 minutes but rallied each time behind poise and a lengthy bench.

“We knew we shouldn’t have given up points like that close to the half,” junior center A.J. Ogilvy said. “But they made some great plays. We just went to the half with confidence knowing that we’d come out and start the second half a lot better than we finished the first.”

They opened the half with an 8-4 run but did not go in front until an Ogilvy layup made it 56-55 with 9:28 left. 

Then the quick strike was initiated by senior point guard Jermaine Beal, who scored eight straight points in 46 seconds and stretched a six-point advantage into a 14-point spread that sucked the life out of the home crowd as much as it did the home team.

“I made a couple shots early in the game and I felt confident about my shot,” Beal said. “So I just kept shooting. It came in the flow of the offense. … I was open, so I shot it.”

Tennessee (15-4, 3-2) never came up for air after that. It got no closer than nine points over the remaining 4:58 as foul troubles mounted for both sides. Prince — UT's leading scorer with 22 points — eventually fouled out, and Kenny Hall finished with four.

Vanderbilt managed to keep all of its players eligible, but four of them had four fouls. Its bench outscored UT’s by seven (19-12), which meant the starting five for each side played almost evenly.

“We had a lot of foul trouble,” UT coach Bruce Pearl said. “… We had the lead, but it put us in a situation where we had to go to the bench.”

Beal scored a season-high 25 points (two short of his career-high), 18 of them after halftime, and did not commit a turnover in 38 minutes on the floor. Four others, led by Ogilvy with 12 (10 in the second half), also scored in double figures.

“The game was kind of even there for most of the first half, and they made that run at the end of the first half. I was afraid we were going to look back and be really disappointed in that,” Stallings said. “… Obviously we were able to overcome that.

“This was a fun one to win. This was big for our team.”

9 Comments on this post:

By: TITAN1 on 1/28/10 at 5:41

Great road win, Vandy! Hope you can do the same to Ky!

By: richgoose on 1/28/10 at 5:52

A victory in Knoxville deserves special applause.

I know the UT people are probably mad at the Knoxville police department for arresting the gun handlers and dope haulers. I spoke to one UT booster last evening who thinks that the University overreacted to these police related incidents.

His take was that this is the kind of athlete that UT recruits and that provisions should be made for their type of behavior.

In this country today I believe that one could rationalize almost anything.

By: TITAN1 on 1/28/10 at 7:20

frank, why can't you just enjoy the victory instead of try to take jabs at UT?

By: that_danryan on 1/28/10 at 8:14

Great win by the Dores in what can be a tough place to play. The crowd in TB last night seemed rather subdued, maybe even asleep.

Jermaine Beal is the leader of this team and he presents the same challenge to UK that Devan Downey and Brandis Raley-Ross did on Tuesday, senior leadership.

I have a good feeling about Saturday and hope this Vandy team continues down the path they are one.

Kudos to Coach Stallings also. He had the foresight to invest his own personal money into a trip last summer that continues to pay dividends. This team plays 9 or 10 every game and their chemistry is very good. That trip certainly helped this.

Go Dores!

By: Dore4Life on 1/28/10 at 11:50

Congrats to the Commodores on the great win!

Hopefully, they can do it again on the road at Lexington on Saturday because if so, only Ole Miss, Florida, UGA, and Arkansas are left on the road and it would put VU in an amazing position to win the SEC regular season championship. Go Dores!

By: ckoslin on 1/28/10 at 11:53

This is one of the more exciting years of Vandy hoops I can remember. Even more encouraging is taking a look at the roster, from top to bottom, and seeing that Stallings is strengthening the PROGRAM for the longterm, not just this season. It's good to be gold!

By: wiseguy1 on 1/28/10 at 6:43

OK, I'll get down in the gutter ... comments like this deserve it. The Knoxville Police have taken this kind of behavior into account .. called an arrest record. At least the arrested player still get to wear orange!!

Even the most highly educated UT booster cannot spell THUG without UT.

No oplace in collegiate sports for these guys.

"I know the UT people are probably mad at the Knoxville police department for arresting the gun handlers and dope haulers. I spoke to one UT booster last evening who thinks that the University overreacted to these police related incidents.

His take was that this is the kind of athlete that UT recruits and that provisions should be made for their type of behavior."

By: Dore4Life on 1/28/10 at 8:14

Wiseguy1,

FYI, VU won the game against UTK. Don't take any of the attention away from that by yacking about UTK's dumbass football and men's basketball players. It's pointless and gives VU fans a bad reputation for caring more about UTK losing than VU winning.

By: joe41 on 1/29/10 at 11:10

Great victory. I attended with a friend from Virginia Tech. He left impressed along with several orangeclad people sitting near us. We were all impressed. Hundreds of Vol fans left with five minutes to go. Obvious that they had given up.

Saturday should be an exciting game. I hope we can stand tough against Demarcus Cousins as he looks like an NBA center. I assume he and Wells will head to the NBA after the season.