Tennessee edges Vanderbilt, 68-61


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP)– Senior Cameron Tatum scored 18 points to help Tennessee clinch a first-round bye in the Southeastern Conference tournament with a 68-61 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday.

The Vols (18-13, 10-6 SEC) can earn the No. 2 seed in the tournament if Florida loses to No. 1 Kentucky on Sunday. Vanderbilt had locked up a bye in the tournament before Saturday’s game.

Tennessee overcame its 18.8 percent shooting (3 of 16) from 3-point range by making 12 of 15 free throws down the stretch. Freshman Jarnell Stokes had a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds.

John Jenkins, the SEC’s leading scorer, did his best to keep Vanderbilt (21-10, 10-6) in the game, scoring eight of his team-high 18 points in the final 11 minutes.

The Vols threatened to put the game out of reach on several occasions — three times pushing their lead to nine — but Jenkins consistently scrapped out an answer on an off-shooting night for the junior.

Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor scored consecutive baskets to pull the Commodores within 56-53, but Tatum made four straight free throws to give Tennessee a late cushion.

The Vols, whose RPI is 81st according to RealTimeRPI.com, should get a boost to their thin NCAA tournament hopes from this victory. The Commodores are 19th in the latest RPI.

Trae Golden added 15 and Jeronne Maymon 12 for Tennessee.

The Vols cut down significantly on the season-high 25 turnovers that contributed to the Commodores’ 65-47 win on Jan. 24. Tennessee finished with just 10 on Saturday.

Tennessee made only eight field goals in the second half but made 79.3 percent of its free throws (23 of 29), compared to its season average of 69.8 percent.

The Vols led early, but Jenkins hit three 3-pointers and Brad Tinsley added another in a 12-1 run that put Vanderbilt on top 21-15. Tennessee countered with a 13-2 run of its own and led 30-29 at halftime.

With the loss, Vanderbilt will be either a No. 3 or 4 seed in the SEC Tournament depending on the result of the Kentucky-Florida game on Sunday.