Vanderbilt's 54-point 2nd half overwhelms Tennessee

Luke Kornet

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings had a tough time explaining his team’s pinpoint accuracy down the stretch.

Tennessee had an even harder time stopping it.

Luke Kornet scored 18 of his 21 points in the second half as Vanderbilt made its last 13 field-goal attempts to beat Tennessee 73-65 on Thursday night and hand the Volunteers their fourth straight loss. Six of the first nine shots during that torrid stretch were 3-pointers.

“I don’t know how that happens,” Stallings said. “We usually can’t do that when we’re running five-on-oh and there’s no defense. Guys started making them, then the basket starts looking bigger and they start feeling better about each other and better about themselves, and good things happen.”

Vanderbilt (16-12, 6-9 SEC) erased a 13-point, second-half deficit by making a season-high 13 3-pointers on 25 attempts.

The Commodores’ sizzling finish was all the more surprising because of how poorly they’d played earlier in the evening. After being outscored 25-3 in the final 12 minutes of the first half, Vanderbilt shot 84.2 percent (16 of 19) overall and 9 of 11 from 3-point range in the second half.

“There was nothing at halftime that gave me confidence because for the last 12 minutes of the first half, we got our tails kicked in every way — on the boards, outfought, outhustled, out-everythinged, outcoached, out-everythinged,” Stallings said. “Our guys made the choice at halftime to make it a little better.”

Kornet was 5 of 6 from 3-point range and 6 of 7 overall. Wade Baldwin IV and Damian Jones each added 13 points for Vanderbilt, which went on a 27-5 run to turn a 45-32 deficit into a 59-50 lead. Josh Richardson scored 20 points and Derek Reese had 13 for Tennessee (14-13, 6-9).

Since winning four of its first five SEC games, Tennessee has lost eight of its last 10. The Vols also have lost four straight home games for the first time since 1994-95.

“It’s tough,” Richardson said. “I don’t want to end my career here on a losing streak.”

Vanderbilt’s shooting accuracy helped the Commodores win on a night when they were completely dominated on the boards.

Tennessee out-rebounded the Commodores 37-19 and outscored them 24-0 in second-chance points. Vanderbilt’s 19 rebounds were the fewest Tennessee has ever allowed at Thompson-Boling Arena, Tennessee’s home floor since 1987-88. Vanderbilt only had one offensive rebound all night.

“They just shot it incredibly well,” Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall said. “We tried every defense. We changed our zones, we went man-to-man, we tried to trap the corner to get them out of rhythm. We just couldn’t get the shooters.”

Vanderbilt avenged its most painful loss of the season. Tennessee had won 76-73 at Vanderbilt in overtime on Feb. 11 after the Commodores’ missed free throws helped the Vols erase a five-point deficit in the final 15 seconds of regulation.

“This game was a must-win,” Jones said. “We really blew it the first time. We weren’t going to let that happen again.”

Vanderbilt: Freshman forward Jeff Roberson returned to action Thursday after missing two games with concussion-like symptoms. He had five points and four fouls in 12 minutes.

Tennessee: Reserve guard Detrick Mostella didn’t play Thursday due to injury. Tyndall said Mostella “tweaked his ankle” in practice. Tyndall said he hoped Mostella could return for Saturday’s game at Florida. … The Vols have now lost all five games in which they’ve allowed their opponent to shoot at least 50 percent. Vanderbilt ended up shooting 57.5 percent (23 of 40) overall.

Vanderbilt hosts Alabama on Saturday. Tennessee visits Florida on Saturday.