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Vandy knocks off UT, continues late surge

By Steve Megargee

Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt’s rejuvenated defense has the Commodores poised to make a late-season surge.

Luke Kornet had 13 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocks Wednesday as Vanderbilt never trailed in a 67-56 victory over Tennessee.

Five weeks after shooting a season-high 58.6 percent in an 87-75 triumph at Vanderbilt, Tennessee had its lowest point total and worst field-goal percentage (.290) of the season in the rematch.

“I really think our guys were extra motivated with losing the first game in our place, wanting to come back and show we’re a much better team and playing at a much higher level than we were earlier in the year,” Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew said.

Vanderbilt (15-13, 8-7 SEC) has won at Tennessee (15-13, 7-8) each of the last three years. The last time Vanderbilt beat Tennessee in Knoxville three straight times was from 1955-57.

Although the Commodores entered Wednesday ranked 12th out of 14 SEC teams in field-goal percentage defense, they’ve been stingier lately. Vanderbilt held South Carolina to one basket over the final 9½ minutes of a 71-62 victory over the Gamecocks on Saturday.

Vanderbilt’s last three opponents have shot 7 of 42 from 3-point range. Tennessee was 3 of 17 from beyond the arc.

“I think for us to be able to go out and kind of make that stance we did defensively today, it’s something that we can take pride in, knowing we’ve definitely become a better team since we played them the first time,” Kornet said.

Both teams entered the night seeking late-season runs that could boost their NCAA Tournament credentials. Vanderbilt was 49th and Tennessee 52nd in the RPI at the start of the day.

But on a night when both teams had much at stake, Tennessee came out flat. The Vols made one basket in the first nine minutes of the game.