Tennessee welcomed back coach Bruce Pearl this weekend with a loss to Florida. The loss stung because it drops UT to 5-5 in the SEC and a tie for fourth place in the east. Tennessee had it chances as they were up by as much as eight points in the second half and got a strong performance from sophomore Scotty Hopson who scored 22. UT shot 49 percent from the field easily their highest mark in SEC play and forced 14 turnovers. That should be enough to win the game but the gritty Gators roared back and the Vols let them by not knocking down there free-throws. The Vols have had trouble all season closing out close games as they lost to Alabama and Florida the first time in similar fashion. If the Vols (15-10) are to make a run at the NCAA tournament it has to start Wednesday against South Carolina. Pearl knows this as he tries to ease himself from his 8-game suspension, Pearl stated “Late-game offensive execution to win games is an area we have scored very poorly in,” Pearl said. “I hope that we can learn from some of those mistakes and do a better job of closing them out down the stretch.” UT also has to get better play out of starters Tobias Harris who only had 9 points and 5 rebounds. Melvin Goins, the starting point guard had 7 points with NO assists. The time is now for the Vols to get hot make their run for the tournament. The team that shows up in South Carolina will tell us all that we will need to know Wednesday night.
Vandy got a stirring performance from super sophomore Jeff Jenkins as he just assaulted the Kentucky defense from long range. Jenkins went off for 32 as the Commodores were able to hold off the Wildcats. What made the performance even more awe-inspiring was the text Jenkins got from his mother who said he needed to score at least 25 or more for Vandy. Jenkins did more than that with a dazzling array of spot up jump shots and coming off ball screens to knock down a career high six three-pointers. Vandy also got help from big man Festus Ezeli as he chipped in with 14 and Brad Tinsley added 11. The Commodores are as dangerous a team as they come when Jenkins is shooting the ball well. Jenkins is living up to the billing he had come out of high school as one the best shooters in the country. Vandy stands at 18-6 and 6-4 in the SEC good enough for second in the rugged east division. The Commodores seem to have a nice blend of athletes and shooters that play well together. When you throw in the presence of Ezeli in the middle it makes for a team that could make a run in March. Jenkins seemed to know the importance of beating perennial SEC and national power Kentucky as he stated I told Coach I must’ve been dreaming because this can’t be real. Especially being from here you see a lot of great games against Kentucky,” Jenkins said. “To be a part of that part of that legacy now is something special.” Vandy faces Georgia this Wednesday in what will be another test for the streaking Commodores.
Tennessee Lady Vols 65 vs. Vanderbilt Commodores 57: This was another classic is this epic women’s rivalry. In a game that was eerily similar to they previous meeting this season, the Commodores couldn’t have asked for a better start as UT couldn’t make anything in the first half. The Lady Vols scored a whopping 15 points in the first half on 20 percent shooting as the Commodores built an 11-point lead. But things changed in the second half for the lady Vols upon the insertion of backup point guard Lauren Avant. She seemed to spark the lady Vols as they went on a tear and scored 50 points in the second half. The slow start could be attributed to the fact that UT had played 3 games in the last 7 days. The Vandy lead was 39-28 before UT would go on a 16-3 run and never look back. Avant scored on a lay-up and added the free throw and then added a three-pointer to spark to the Vols. Jence Rhoades of the Commodores led all scorers with 15 but it wasn’t enough. The lady Vols always seem to find a way to pull out the win on the Commodores and this time wasn’t different. Vandy coach Melanie Balcomb summed it up the best as she stated "You hold somebody to 15 and then they score 50?”."I mean 20 might not have been enough at that point. The frustrating piece, until the last eight minutes we were beating them, and they're the No. 4 team in the country and there's a lot to be said for that." Both teams are in action this Thursday as the lady Vols take on the South Carolina Gamecocks and Vandy face the Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs.