Jordan Coleman vividly recalls the celebration.
There was yelling, hugging and water being tossed everywhere. This wasn’t just a regular win for Vanderbilt. This was a win over Tennessee and its legendary coach Pat Summitt.
“It was awesome. It was almost surreal,” Coleman said. “We got in the locker room and we were all just screaming. We were like, ‘Did that just happen?’ ”
That was three years ago and it was the last time the Commodores beat the Lady Vols.
Coleman, now a senior, would like nothing more to repeat that moment and have her current teammates experience that feeling when No. 11 Tennessee comes to Memorial Gymnasium on Thursday (8:05 p.m., CSS). On a team filled with freshmen and sophomores, Coleman is the only player left from that 2008-09 team.
Vanderbilt since has dropped seven straight to Tennessee.
“I would love to share that [feeling] with this team,” she said. “That would be really exciting.”
Celebrations like that have not been uncommon across the Southeastern Conference this season.
Last month, Kentucky, currently ranked seventh, rallied late and scored the game-winning basket with five seconds left to snap Tennessee’s 36-game SEC winning streak that spanned two years. Last week, South Carolina handed the Lady Vols’ their first SEC home loss in nearly four years. The Gamecocks, now ranked 24th, ended the game on a 9-0 run, won in Knoxville for the first time in 21 tries and their first win against UT since 1980.
“I don’t view any team as vulnerable,” center Stephanie Holzer said. “I don’t look at their past losses or wins. I know they are a good team.”
Tennessee (17-6, 8-2) enters with its lowest ranking in the series since sitting at No. 18 when the teams met on March 1, 2009 — the start of UT’s current win streak over Vanderbilt.
“I think the SEC is better this year from top to bottom than it has been in a long time,” Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said. “I think a lot of us deserve to be ranked and have really high RPIs. I think there are eight teams ranked RPI 40 or less [with Tennessee ranked a conference-best fifth]. The conference hasn’t been there in a long time. I think, top to bottom, anybody can beat anybody right now.”
Vanderbilt (18-5, 6-4) is riding a four-game winning streak but is just 7-58 all-time against UT. The Commodores hung with Tennessee for more than 20 minutes last month in Knoxville, trailing by just three points at halftime. But the press got to Vanderbilt, resulting in 24 turnovers. The Lady Vols turned those into 28 points and sprinted to an 87-64 victory.
“They have ways of scoring off their defense like nobody’s business,” Balcomb said. “You have to be able to take care of the basketball and not play in a race. They want you to go fast and use their size and athleticism and we need to slow them down.”