NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt head coach Jerry Stackhouse wanted a signature win, and his Commodores handed him a permanent marker.
Tyrin Lawrence’s 3-pointer from the left corner flew true as the buzzer sounded, and Vanderbilt beat No. 6 Tennessee 66-65 on Wednesday at Memorial Gymnasium. Pandemonium ensued.
It had been nearly six years since Vandy had beaten Tennessee. The Commodores had endured 11 straight losses to the Volunteers, and all that pent-up frustration flooded onto the court as students and fans rushed the court in a jubilant celebration so many seasons in the making.
“I knew it was good. It felt good coming off,” Lawrence said of the shot. “That’s the stuff you dream about, man.”
Tyrin called game.#MemorialMagic pic.twitter.com/BeGOVAujzS
— Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball (@VandyMBB) February 9, 2023
— Chad Bishop (@MrChadBishop) February 9, 2023
Lawrence had 19 points, just three off his career high. His game-winning shot came one week after Stackhouse held him out of the game against No. 4 Alabama.
The junior made amends with one of the biggest shots in Stackhouse’s tenure and, indeed, in recent Vanderbilt basketball history.
“Just an unbelievable night,” Stackhouse said. “We finally experienced the Memorial Magic we were looking for. An unbelievable game, unbelievable effort—the guys never quit. It didn’t look great there for a minute, but we just kept battling.
“When you got the right people and you’re about the right things, good things happen for us.”
Vandy, trailing 65-63, had 4.8 seconds left on the clock and the ball at midcourt. Coming out of a timeout, Jordan Wright inbounded the ball to Liam Robbins, who dropped it off to point guard Ezra Manjon.
Manjon drove the left side of the lane, rose toward the basket and then fired to Lawrence in the right corner. The lefty set his feet, let the ball fly and fell to the ground as he was mobbed by teammates and a good chunk of the 10,483 in attendance.
“It was crazy,” Lawrence said. “The whole student section came out. I didn’t know where I was at for a second.”
Vanderbilt had last defeated a top-10 team on Feb. 4, 2016, when it beat Texas A&M. It had not beaten the Volunteers since Feb. 22, 2017, and had not beaten them at home since March 1, 2016.
And all the way up until late Wednesday, it looked like those dates would stay in the books.
With the game tied up at 60 as the clock crept down toward two minutes, Colin Smith was fouled on a 3-point attempt in the left corner. The freshman made all three free throws to put the Commodores ahead 63-60.
But Santiago Vescovi cooly drilled a 3 on the other end to tie the game. Then Olivier Nkamhoua splashed a jumper from inside the lane with 50 seconds to go, putting the Volunteers up 65-63.
Robbins had a good look at a game-tying jumper with 27 seconds on the clock, but the ball rimmed out. Vandy then needed to foul four times to force Tennessee into the bonus and to the free throw line—the clock read eight seconds before that finally happened.
Vescovi went to the line and missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Vandy got the rebound and called timeout with 4.8 seconds remaining.
Then came the Memorial Magic.
“I told (Stackhouse) last year after we lost to Kentucky in the (SEC) tournament that we’re going to beat every team that we hadn’t beaten so far,” Wright said. “To beat (Tennessee) in (Memorial) like this, and for Tyrin to hit the shot like that—it’s unforgettable.”
Robbins finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. Wright added 12 points, all in the second half. Manjon and Smith each scored seven, and Manjon had five assists, none bigger than his final one.
Vandy now heads to Florida (13-11, 6-5 SEC) to play the Gators at 2:30 p.m. CT Saturday.
“A win like this could spur us on,” Stackhouse said. “Now we got to validate it. We got to go on the road into a hostile environment and try to bring this same type of energy.”
An entertaining, end-to-end first half saw eight lead changes swung Tennessee’s way thanks to a 7-0 run by the Volunteers that gave them a 34-30 lead. A Robbins dunk cut that deficit in half, and that’s how the score would stand going into the break.
Vandy finished the first 20 minutes with seven assists on 12 made field goals and shot 48 percent from the field. Tennessee, meanwhile, had nine assists on 14 buckets and shot at a 50-percent clip.
The second half featured more of the same as the familiar foes traded haymakers. Tennessee went on a 8-0 run to build a 44-39, then the Dores reeled off seven straight to get ahead 51-48 with 11 1/2 minutes to go.
Vanderbilt (12-12, 5-6 SEC) found itself down 55-54 with 6:30 to go, two seconds before Wright buried a 3 from the right corner. But at the 4-minute mark, Vescovi connected on a 3 of his own to knot the score at 58-all.
Wright and Vescovi then traded layups to knot the score at 60, setting up the final three minutes.
“We had to play so hard to beat this team,” Stackhouse said. “We got to find our second wind. They’re going to make a run, we got to find our second win. When we make a run, we still got to find our second wind. I thought our guys really exhausted themselves and gave us everything that they had. It was an unbelievable feeling.”
Vescovi and Tyreke Key each had 14 points to lead Tennessee (19-5, 8-3 SEC).
- Wright now has 1,038 career points, four behind Sam Howard for 47th on Vanderbilt’s all-time scoring list.
- Robbins still has the seventh-most blocks (60) in a single Vanderbilt season. Damian Jones is sixth with 70 during the 2014-15 season.
- The Commodores are now 2-8 this season when trailing at halftime, 11-5 when shooting better than 40 percent and 4-11 when scoring fewer than 75 points.
- Vanderbilt is now 76-129 all time against Tennessee and 59-53 in home games.
- Vandy won its eighth home game after winning 11 in 2021-22. The team has four home games remaining this season.
— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.