INSTANT REACTION: Tennessee 92 Vanderbilt 84
No. 24 Tennessee grabbed a come from behind victory on Tuesday night, downing Vanderbilt 92–84 inside Memorial Gymnasium. The Vols improve to 11–4 on the season and get their second straight win in Nashville.
Here’s a few observations from the game…
Okay, okay, I know every Tennessee fans hates seeing the word “resiliency.” Thanks, Butch. But, it’s simply a great way to describe UT’s play in the second half tonight. The Vols fell on their collective face in the first half and trailed 45–35 at halftime. The team wasn’t necessarily playing bad but their perimeter defense was pillowy soft. Then, for the second game in a row, the boys bounced back from a sizable deficit and put together a phenomenal second half. UT scored 57 points and simply rolled over the Commodores in the final 20 minutes. There’s no doubt the Vols will need more play like this in the future and there’s one very big element that will help them do that, which leads to point number two…
Grant Williams is the Zach Randolph of SEC basketball
If you ever watched the Memphis Grizzlies during their Grind House prime, you know very well who Zach Randolph is. Z-Bo, as Randolph is more commonly known, is an undersized but ultra-effective bruiser who uses his physicality and his basketball IQ to make moves and rule the paint. After a personal best 37-point, 7-rebound game against the Dores, sophomore forward Grant Williams looks like the SEC equivalent to Z-Bo. Williams did as he pleased down low against Vandy and carried the Vols on his back. It was a legendary performance that will hopefully springboard Williams into taking an even larger leadership role for UT going forward. (Credit to my good friend Jake for texting me during the game and giving me this comparison, you’re the man.)
Win the games you should
If Rick Barnes’ squad wants to get back to the NCAA Tournament, they have to win most, if not all, of the games remaining on their schedule that they should win. Auburn was a should win game that UT dropped inexplicably and that failure makes it even more imperative going forward that losses to inferior teams, on the road or at home, must be avoided. Obviously, tonight’s game was a nice step in the right direction. The Vols closed out incredibly well and weren’t phased by a hot shooting Vandy squad and a hostile crowd. Now, the boys just have to duplicate this performance six or seven more times over. This point really goes without saying but the fact is that this is the biggest obstacle standing between Tennessee and the Big Dance. Win the games you should so the games that are toss ups or underdog spots aren’t as high pressure. The future is bright for this team if they play consistently focused basketball, but that’s easier said than done.
Tennessee will next play Texas A&M inside Thompson Boling Arena on Saturday, January 13th at 6 p.m. ET.