For the second straight rivalry game, Vanderbilt played a horrid first half.
This time, however, it came up short on defense.
The Commodores failed to make stops or come up with answers for Jarnell Stokes and Co. in a 58-46 loss to Tennessee on Wednesday night in front of 12,868 at Memorial Gymnasium.
Unlike the first meeting in Knoxville last month where Vanderbilt had issues on offense and fell behind 12-0, Tennessee scored at will en route to its second straight road win. The Volunteers shot 53.3 percent and scored 40 points en route to a 12-point halftime advantage. It was their highest first-half point total in an SEC game in more than a year.
“To defend them that poorly in the first half was disappointing,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “In the first half, it was the best I’ve seen UT play this season. Some of it was us.”
Stokes continued his recent flurry of double-doubles with his sixth straight, finishing with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Jordan McRae had the first of his career with 14 points and 11 boards, and Trae Golden added 12 points.
The trio accounted for much of the early success for Tennessee (13-10, 5-6), which swept the regular-season series for the sixth time in 13 years. The Vols have also won three straight against Vanderbilt — their longest winning streak in the series since 2004.
The Commodores (9-14, 3-8) trailed for most of the final 30 minutes.
McRae banked in a jumper off the glass to spark a 20-6 run. Stokes scored eight straight points and the Vols had brief success from the 3-point line. They made four of their first six before reverting to their old selves — they rank last in the SEC in 3-point shooting — and missing their final eight.
An easy, uncontested one-handed Stokes dunk with 1:47 left gave the Vols a 40-28 lead at halftime.
“We gave up a whole bunch of easy baskets and some of the guys got going from the 3-point line,” guard Kedren Johnson said. “We had trouble plugging up the faucet they had running.”
After the lead ballooned to 16 in the second half, the Commodores pulled within eight on Dai-Jon Parker’s layup with 12:08 left. Rod Odom missed an open 3-pointer that would have made it a two-possession game and Tennessee took over from there.
The Vols scored on three straight possessions as Vanderbilt once again failed to get stops and grab rebounds. Tennessee won the rebounding battled 38-28 and grabbed 13 offensive boards. The physicality of the game played to the Vols’ advantage, especially with only 21 fouls called and 14 free throws attempted.
“You have to make shots at some point,” Stallings said. “We’re a team that’s challenged to score. It was definitely tough tonight because they wouldn’t call fouls. I knew coming in it would be a physical game. That plays to their advantage. You get certain guys and let them just go.”
Johnson finished with 11 points despite missing more than eight minutes after he was fouled on a layup and went down hard early in the second half. It marked the third straight game and fifth time this year he has aggravated his right (shooting) shoulder.
Parker and Fuller each added seven points off the bench and Kevin Bright grabbed 11 rebounds. The Commodores made just 37.7 percent of its shots and missed 11 of 14 3-pointers.
Vanderbilt has has dropped five of six and has its highest loss total since 2004-05.
“It is really frustrating, especially as a young team,” Bright said. We're going through a lot of ups and downs, but like coach says, we’re all behind each other.”