No. 5 Vols win ugly over flailing Commodores


It appears as if Tennessee has distanced itself from the memory of Saturday's loss.

Tennessee (24-2, 12-1 Southeastern Conference) bounced back from its first loss since Thanksgiving week, an 86-69 defeat at No. 4 Kentucky on Saturday to snap a school-record 19-game winning streak.

"It felt good to have the delusion that we're immune to ups and downs for a long time", Tennessee assistant coach Rob Lanier said Thursday. "Now there's no doubt". In their SEC play, they have claimed victories at #100 Texas A&M by 23 points, and home wins over #116 Vanderbilt by 10 and #66 Arkansas by 1.

Barnes believes his players are up to the challenge ahead. Barnes said point guard Jordan Bone responded that he was excited about going to practice because he knew the Vols must get better. "That was one of the most mature things I've heard from anybody in a long, long time".

Tennessee in now tied with No. 13 LSU (21-4, 11-1) atop the SEC standings, with Kentucky a game behind.

Tennessee will look to get back on track against the Commodores, which has been a disaster in SEC play.

However, UK's pair of losses to Alabama and LSU have it on the outside looking in at a possible SEC regular season championship. The Vols' chances of repeating depend on whether they can fix the flaws that were glaringly apparent against Kentucky. Further, the Kentucky road trip to MS and the two road games each for Tennessee and LSU are going to determine how these three teams finish at the top of the conference.

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"I think it's the natural course of the season, but we got spoiled there for a little bit and we got brought back down to earth", Lanier said. It's no surprise, everyone knew the last seven games of the season was going to be tough, but it seems like it just keeps getting harder. He shot 75 percent from the field on 9-of-12 shooting.

After blaming himself for not making better use of his bench, Barnes said the Vols need more from Alexander.

During his press conference on Monday, Barnes said forward Kyle Alexander "hasn't been a factor in three weeks". "He just simply hasn't done the job that he's capable of doing". I'm concerned about a potential letdown for Kentucky after the big win over Tennessee, but other than that, this should be a comfortable win for the road team. Later, with 4:32 left and the shot clock running down, he hit another 3-pointer to give the Vols their first double-figure advantage at 30-20.

Both teams struggled to score for the first two-thirds of the second half, but Tennessee struggled more, allowing Vanderbilt to cut what had been a 14-point deficit to four on multiple occasions. Kentucky defended its home floor in emphatic fashion, routing then-no.

National Player of the Year candidate Admiral Schofield helped close out the victory, as 10 of his 12 points came in the second half, including a pair of 3-pointers. The Vols now are 12th in scoring and fourth in assists, though they remain second in field-goal percentage and assist-turnover ratio. They couldn't afford to lose back-to-back home games; a loss would have made it hard to stay in the hunt for an SEC Regular Season Title. The closest Vanderbilt has come to a win during this losing streak was an 88-83 overtime loss to Tennessee on January 29.

Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew noted that the Commodores often have been within a possession or two heading into the final minutes before falling short down the stretch.