Vandy stuns top-ranked Tennessee

Tuesday, February 26, 2008 at 10:13pm

Tennessee needed 99 years to achieve its first No. 1 basketball ranking.

It took less than two days to lose it.

Falling prey to another night of Memorial Magic, the top-ranked Vols were stunned 72-69 Tuesday by No. 18 Vanderbilt before 14,325 fans at rocking Memorial Gym.

Four straight No. 1 teams have entered Memorial since 1987. Each has been defeated.

This time, the victim was arch-rival Tennessee, which received its first-ever top ranking Monday, two days after winning at previously top-ranked Memphis.

At Vanderbilt, such games are called Memorial Magic. On Tuesday, it was also about desire.

“Vanderbilt deserves all the credit,” UT guard Chris Lofton said. “They came out with passion and had more intensity in their eyes. They wanted it more than us tonight, and it showed.”

The Commodores beat a No. 1 foe for the second straight season after also knocking off Florida a year ago.

This one, they say, was equally memorable.

“Everybody was jumping around, happy, hugging each other,” VU guard Jermaine Beal said in describing his team’s post-game scene in the locker room.

Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, however, wasn’t in a nostalgic mood.

“Tonight is big,” he said. “I don’t know. I’ll let you know if it was special in a few days. Right now I’m tired.”

Shan Foster scored 32 points to lead the Commodores, who extended their winning streak to seven games and improved to 24-4 overall and 9-4 in Southeastern Conference play.

Tennessee [25-3, 11-2] was led by Lofton’s 25 points.

Beating the Vols required the Commodores to grind it out in the second half as both teams struggled to shoot from the field while one foul after another was called.

Vanderbilt didn’t score a basket in the final 5:26, instead relying on 8-for-10 shooting from the free throw line down the stretch to secure the victory.

The inspired Commodores, hoping to atone for last month’s 20-point loss at Tennessee, charged to a 23-9 lead and seemingly had the Vols on the ropes.

However, six points early in the second half by guard Chris Lofton gave Tennessee a 36-33 lead.

In addition, Vanderbilt center A.J. Ogilvy, one of the team’s primary offensive weapons, was plagued by foul trouble and played only eight minutes in the second half and 12 for the game.

The Commodores turned to senior swingman Shan Foster, who poured in 19 of his game-high 32 points in the second half, including a key 3-pointer with 5:26 remaining to hand VU a 64-56 advantage.

“Your job as a team is to find ways to win,” Stallings said. “If our main guys are in foul trouble, someone has to come in and win it for you.”

Vanderbilt made 17 of its 25 free throws in the second half.

“I thought we put ourselves in a position there in the second half, on the road, to be able to gut one out again,” Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. “We fouled and sent them to the foul line a boatload of times. I thought that was a real difference because both teams were having a real hard time scoring.”

The Commodores led by eight two more times in the final 3:25 before Tennessee made its final charge, cutting the deficit to 69-64 with 2:09 left on two free throws by Ramar Smith.

Vanderbilt got the ball to Foster on the next two possessions, and he made three of four three throws.

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