Tennessee freshman point guard Jordan Bone had no problems shooting in the SEC’s oldest and most unique basketball arena last Saturday night at Memorial Gym. Bone led five players in double figures with a season-best 23 points, and the Tennessee Volunteers (9-8, 2-3) beat Vanderbilt 87-75 to snap a three-game skid. Bone, who played in a high school camp on this very floor, went to work right away, knocking down a three-point shot in the opening seconds. Ensworth’s own, handed out five assists with only one turnover in his fifth game back from a stress fracture in his foot that cost him nine games this season. He came into the game having hit only one of 10 outside the arc. He went four of five from three-point range on this night.
Playing in his hometown, Bone helped the Volunteers score the most points ever at Vanderbilt in its history. This was the Vols’ third road win this season, tripling the number they managed last season. Coach Rick Barnes called this Tennessee’s most poised game yet.
Vanderbilt (8-9, 2-3) lost its third straight, despite shooting 53%. Coach Bryce Drew said his Commodores did a lot of things well. However: “It’s hard to win games when you don’t get stops on the defensive end,” said Drew.
Shembari Phillips’s three-pointer put Tennessee ahead to stay and started an 11-point spurt by the Vols. The Vols led 39-34 at halftime. Tennessee had their best shooting game of the season at 59% (34 of 58). Against Vandy, they were eight of 15 outside the arc. Admiral Schofield scored 15 points. Robert Hubbs III, Grant Williams and Lamonte Turner each had 12 for Tennessee.
The Commodores never got closer than two in the second half and played much of the half with their leading scorer, Matthew Fisher-Davis, on the bench after he was called for a charge that also drew a technical foul with more than 14 minutes left. Fisher-Davis fouled out with a minute left in the contest. It was a frustrating night for the black and gold.
Luke Kornet led Vanderbilt with 18 points. Fisher-Davis and Jeff Roberson each had 12. Nolan Cressler and Joe Toye added 10 apiece.
The Commodores’ strong start winning their first two SEC games is a memory. Tennessee was a bad loss for the Commodores. So was Georgia (12-6, 4-2), who has now won their last three of four games. Vanderbilt, which trailed nearly the entire game, has lost four straight—its longest skid since January of 2015, when it dropped seven in a row.
Junior forward Yante Maten made sure the Bulldogs didn’t let up against Vanderbilt. Maten scored 21 points and grabbed four rebounds, as Georgia beat the struggling Commodores 76-68 this past Tuesday night. The Bulldogs committed a season-low six turnovers. Maten has struggled with foul trouble this season, but he stayed whistle-free until the three-minute mark of the second half.
J.J. Frazier finished with 15 points, five assists and six rebounds for the Bulldogs. Juwan Parker added 17 points.
No team in the Southeastern Conference has defended the arc better than Georgia this season. Vanderbilt struggled all night on three-pointers, missing 10 of its first 11 beyond the arc and finishing 10 for 31. The Commodores were outscored by 18 points on free throws as Georgia took the ball to the rim all night, drawing 34 fouls. Vanderbilt only drew six.
The Dores began the second half with a turnover and two air balls. Jeff Roberson did hit consecutive threes to pull the Commodores within three, but their momentum wouldn’t last long. Georgia was back up by 10 with four minutes remaining. Vanderbilt cut the lead to five in the final two minutes before Maten hit a pair of free throws and Matthew Fisher-Davis committed a turnover with over a minute left.
Fisher-Davis, Vanderbilt’s leading scorer, didn’t start for the first time all year. It stemmed from the loss to Tennessee Saturday, when he argued with an official about a charging call, receiving a technical foul. First year coach Bryce Drew put him on the bench for eight minutes against the Volunteers. He was also benched for the entire second half in a loss to Butler back in November. Drew held him out for about six minutes to begin the first half of this game. Drew did the exact same thing in the second half.
“He’s a very good young man,” Drew was quoted as saying. Joe Toye started in Fisher-Davis’ place, scoring just one point in 21 minutes.
Luke Kornet scored 19 points and Riley LaChance had 13 for the Dores. Fisher-Davis finished the game with nine points on four of 13 shooting.
The Commodores visit another tough opponent on Saturday, the No. 23 ranked Florida Gators. It doesn’t get any easier from here.