Hoops Preview: #10 Tennessee at Vanderbilt

Vols G Santiago Vescovi / Credit: UT Athletics

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The No. 10 Tennessee basketball team hits the road for a newly scheduled Tuesday night bout with Vanderbilt. Tipoff from Memorial Gymnasium is slated for 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Fans can catch Tuesday’s game on ESPN2 and online or on any mobile device through WatchESPN. WatchESPN can be accessed through the ESPN App, or online at espn.com/watch. Dave Neal and Jimmy Dykes will have the call.

Fans can also listen live on their local Vol Network affiliate to hear Bob Kesling and Bert Bertlekamp describing the action.

Last time out, Tennessee rolled past Texas A&M, 68-54. The Vols were led by Santiago Vescovi who poured in a career-high 23 points on a career-high eight made field goals and a career-high-tying six made 3-point attempts.

Tuesday’s game will be the 200th meeting between Vanderbilt and Tennessee on the hardwood and a victory would keep every current Vol with an unblemished record inside Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gym.

Up next, the Vols will take on Vanderbilt again in the second of the programs back-to-back matchups, when the Commodores make a return trip to Knoxville. The opening tip from Thompson-Boling Arena is set for 6 p.m. ET on SEC Network.

THE SERIES
• Tennessee leads its all-time series with Vanderbilt, 124-75, dating to 1922.
• The programs are meeting for the 200th time Tuesday. Longtime Tennessee athletic trainer Chad Newman has been on the Vols’ bench for 25 percent of those games. Tuesday marks his 51st Tennessee-Vanderbilt game.
• Tennessee has won eight of the last nine meetings in this series, including each of the last six and four straight at Memorial Gym.
• Just 181 miles separate UT’s Thompson-Boling Arena and Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gymnasium.
• No active Vol has ever lost a game at Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gym.

A WIN WOULD…
• Tie Rick Barnes with Phog Allen and Don Haskins for 20th on the all-time Division I wins list (719).
• Extend UT’s win streak over Vandy to seven games.

LAYUP LINES
• Tennessee is set to host Vanderbilt Saturday in Knoxville.
• Tennessee made history in its last trip to Memorial Gym (Jan. 18, 2020), as it held Vanderbilt without a 3-pointer for the first time since the 3-point line was introduced (snapping Vandy’s streak of 1,080 games with at least one make). See Page 3.
• Tennessee has forced nine of 10 opponents to turn the ball over on 20 percent or more of their possessions.
• In their two road games this season, the Vols are shooting .540 as a team with a +5.5 turnover margin.
• Santiago Vescovi is shooting .650 (13-20) from the field and .643 (9-14) from 3-point range in UT’s two road wins while averaging a team-best 19.0 points.
• Senior John Fulkerson was named to the Wooden Award’s Midseason Top-25 List last week.

DEFENSE WINS
• Tennessee ranks second in the NCAA in scoring defense, allowing just 56.8 points per game.
• According to KenPom, the Vols rank second in the NCAA in adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing only 87.0 points per 100 possessions so far this season. College teams average close to 70 possessions per game.
• The Vols are forcing 17.4 turnovers per game while converting those turnovers into 19.2 points per game. Tennessee’s turnover margin stands at +7.4 (fourth nationally).
• Tennessee has blocked 18.2 percent of its opponents’ two-point field goals this season.
• Tennessee has yet to allow an opposing player to score 20 points this season.
• Reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year Yves Pons has an incredible 15 blocks through UT’s first four SEC games.
• Pons has 95 blocks in his last 41 games.

ABOUT VANDERBILT
• Through nine games, the Commodores are 4-5 overall and 0-3 in SEC play. Their most recent games have ended in narrow three-point losses to Kentucky (77-74) and Mississippi State (84-81).
• After a tough 2019-20 season that ended in the first round of the SEC Tournament (11-21, 3-15 SEC), second-year head coach Jerry Stackhouse is relying on the abilities of returners Scotty Pippen Jr. and Dylan Disu to help lead Vanderbilt to a much improved 2020-21 campaign.
• Pippen Jr. has started his sophomore year with nothing short of a bang. The son of NBA Hall of Famer Scotty Pippen, Pippen Jr. leads the team and ranks second in the SEC in both points (21.6 ppg) and assists (5.8 apg). He has scored at least 25 points on four separate occasions and has scored 18 points in each of Vanderbilt’s three SEC games. On the defensive end, he leads the Commodores with 1.6 steals per game.
• His classmate, Disu, has been a steady presence as well, ranking second on the team with 12.7 points per game. Disu’s 8.8 rebounds per game lead both the team and the SEC through nine games. He, too, has been solid on the defensive end, recording more than one block per game.
• Vanderbilt University is named after Cornelius Vanderbilt, the railway magnate who gifted the school its initial $1 million endowment in hopes of healing the sectional wounds left by the Civil War.

LAST MEETING WITH VANDERBILT
•  Tennessee defeated in-state rival Vanderbilt for the sixth consecutive time on Feb. 18, 2020, 65-61, at Thompson-Boling Arena.
•  The Vols fended off a furious late push by the Commodores to secure the home victory.
•  Senior Jordan Bowden and junior John Fulkerson led the Big Orange with 17 points each.
•  Fulkerson, who recorded 16 of those points in the second half, also accounted for seven rebounds and three blocks.
•  Jordan Wright came off the bench to lead Vanderbilt in scoring, posting 23 points.
•  Tennessee shot 42 percent from the field on the night.
•  While both teams struggled early from the field, the Vols held a 9-2 advantage after six minutes of action. Along with providing strong defensive play, Josiah-Jordan James corralled four rebounds during that early stretch.
•  The game was tied, 28-28, after 20 minutes, with Bowden leading the Vols with 12 points at the break. Yves Pons was 3-of-5 from the field at the half.
•  In a back-and-forth start to the second stanza, a Commodore basket six minutes into the half tied the game for the fifth time.
•  Just prior to the under-12 media timeout, a Santiago Vescovi jumper snapped a 9-0 run by Vanderbilt.
•  Midway through the second half, Bowden and Fulkerson converted three-point plays on consecutive possessions. Then, quick, scoring cuts to the basket by Jalen Johnson and Fulkerson allowed the Vols to maintain momentum.
•  Thompson-Boling Arena came alive after Tennessee blocks on two straight possessions and a nifty layup by Fulkerson off a feed from Vescovi. That series was followed by a 3-point make by Vescovi, giving Tennessee an eight-point lead.
•  Vescovi darted to the rim and finished with a finger roll with just over four minutes remaining. He finished the game with 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting.
•  Tennessee clinched the victory on a pair of made free throws from Bowden in the closing seconds.

THE NIGHT THE STREAK ENDED…
• Nearly one year ago, on Jan. 18, 2020, Tennessee ended Vanderbilt’s decades-long 3-point streak during a 66-45 win at Memorial Gym.
•  The Vols held Vanderbilt to an 0-25 night from 3-point range. It was the first time since the 3-point shot was introduced in the 1986-87 season (spanning 1,080 games) that the Commodores failed to knock down at least one 3-point attempt.
• The 0-for-25 effort represented one of the worst 3-point-shooting performances by a men’s Division I team in 20 seasons. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, only Northwestern State’s 0-for-26 effort in a game in 2012 was worse during that span.

MEMORABLE VOL PERFORMANCES AGAINST VANDERBILT
• Grant Williams (now with the Boston Celtics) erupted for a record-setting performance as the No. 1-ranked Volunteers held off Vanderbilt, 88-83, in overtime in Nashville on Jan. 23, 2019. Williams finished with a career-high 43 points and also tallied eight rebounds, four blocks, two assists and a steal. The junior forward was 10-of-15 from the field and a program-record 23-of-23 from the free-throw line.
• Josh Richardson (now a starter for the Philadelphia 76ers) helped the Vols rally from two separate double-digit deficits in the second half by scoring 15 of his game-high 22 points in the final stanza to lift Tennessee to a 67-61 comeback win over Vanderbilt in the 2015 SEC Tournament in Nashville on March 12, 2015. In what was the second-to-last game of his career, Richardson also led all players with three steals and was a perfect 6-for-6 from the foul line.
• Dyron Nix (17 points, 18 rebounds) and Doug Roth (10 points, 10 rebounds) recorded double-doubles and Tennessee beat Vanderbilt 79-69 in overtime in Stokely Athletics Center Feb. 4, 1987, in Knoxville.
• Dick Johnston made six free throws in double overtime to lift UT to a 77-72 win over the Dores in Nashville on Feb. 2, 1970. Jimmy England led the charge with 27 points, and Bobby Croft had an 18-16 double-double.
• Tennessee All-Century Team member Paul “Lefty” Walther (1948-49) never lost to Vanderbilt during his career as a Vol. The Covington, Kentucky, native helped lead Tennessee to a 4-0 record over the Dores, beating Vandy by an average of 9.8 points.

VOLS SUCCESSFUL ON THE IN-STATE CIRCUIT
• Tennessee has won its last three games against in-state opponents and is 18-5 vs. in-state foes under coach Rick Barnes.
• Those 18 wins include triumphs over Chattanooga, ETSU (twice), Tennessee State, Vanderbilt (8x), Tennessee Tech (3x), Lipscomb (twice) and Memphis.

-UT Athletics

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