The inability of the Tennessee Volunteers men’s basketball team to make critical free throws and get stops defensively led to their demise as they lost 85-76 to the Vanderbilt Commodores at Thompson-Boling Arena.
UT shot 58 percent (14-of-24) from the line and couldn’t come up with any big plays on the defensive, allowing Vanderbilt to shoot 50 percent from the field.
Senior J.P. Prince led the Vols with a 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting from the field but the rest of the team had trouble finding the basket or were stuck in foul trouble, shooting 43.8 percent from the field.
Sophomore Scotty Hopson poured in 14 points but was saddled throughout the second half with foul difficulties after picking up his fourth with only two minutes gone by in the second half. He eventually fouled.
Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl acknowledged Hopson sitting on the bench affected his play.
“When Scotty came back in after sitting for seven or eight minutes he wasn’t able to get going offensively or defensively,” he said.
Though the Vols led at the half 35-31, a major turning point in the game came when Prince dunked the ball but was called for a technical foul for hanging on the rim which swung the momentum in the Commodores favor. Vandy responded by outscoring the Vols by 13 points in the second half.
Vols senior guard Bobby Maze pointed out that it wasn’t UT’s lack of preparation which led to Vandy’s second half explosion but rather a lack of focus.
“The focus of this team has to be better,” Maze said. “We were well-prepared but we just struggled defensively.”
The teams traded baskets for most of the first half as Hopson and Prince came out firing, scoring over half the team’s points before the intermission. Unfortunately, the Vols lacked contribution from senior Wayne Chism, who was held to eight points on 2-of-9 shooting. Tennessee also struggled from 3-point range, connecting on only 30 percent of their attempts.
Maze noted that he thought the team did well in attacking Vandy’s two-three zone, but didn’t show enough intensity on the defensive end.
“I thought we did a good job penetrating the gaps in the zone and guys got good looks, but we have to play better on the defensive end because even when we have off-nights shooting, we can still rely on our defense,” he said.
Tennessee will look to rebound Sunday against rival Florida at home at 1 p.m.