Vols lose in 1st game with No. 1 ranking, 72-69 at Vanderbilt - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Vols lose in 1st game with No. 1 ranking, 72-69 at Vanderbilt

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Tennessee Volunteers have gotten a taste of just how big a bull's-eye No. 1 can be. Vanderbilt reminded everyone how dangerous the Commodores are when the top-ranked team comes visiting.

Shan Foster hit six 3-pointers and scored 32 points, and No. 18 Vanderbilt knocked off the top-ranked team for the fourth time in as many tries Tuesday night, beating instate rival Tennessee 72-69. This Vandy victory is sweeter than usual coming a day after the Vols had taken over the top ranking for the first time in school history.

This is one of the two opponents Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl wears his orange blazer against, and Memorial Gym was packed to cheer against Pearl and his Vols.

All the Commodores did was improve to 6-3 when they have hosted the No. 1 team in this 56-year-old gym. They also won their first game against a ranked opponent after losing the first two this season.

"Bruce's orange coat designated it as a big game for them," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "UT handled us at its place. Tonight, we played better and only had eight turnovers. That's why we're winning. We're taking care of the ball. I'm pleased because they're the best defensive team in our league."

Pearl and his Vols refused to make excuses.

This was their second straight road game against an instate rival before a sold-out crowd, and their first since downing then-No. 1 Memphis on Saturday night to take over that top ranking.

"We were absolutely fine," Pearl said. "We had no problems as far as our rest, our preparation. It wasn't a factor. We play best when everybody contributes, and tonight we just did not get a lot of contributions from a lot of guys that normally do."

Senior Chris Lofton led the Vols (25-3, 11-2) with 25 points. He also had six rebounds with no turnovers and one steal. Tyler Smith had 11 points and a career-high seven rebounds.

But the Vols shot 32.8 percent from the floor (20-for-61) and not much better at the free-throw line, which has been a weakness this season. They went 22-for-32.

Vanderbilt didn't shoot that much better and was actually worse at the line. But the Commodores did hit 25-for-37.

"I thought we put ourselves in a position in the second half on the road to be able to gut one out again, and they got a period there in the second half defensively where we just fouled them and sent them to the foul line a boatload of times. I thought that was a real difference," Pearl said.

Vanderbilt (24-4, 9-4) has taken a strong home advantage. The Commodores also have won all 18 home games this season and 31 of their past 32.

"It's special," Stallings said. "We needed a win. It was a home game. It's a big game for them. You want to win any game, but you certainly want to win big games. This was a big game."       Jermaine Beal added 17 points and Alex Gordon 11 as Vanderbilt won its seventh straight. The Commodores moved within a half game of Kentucky for second in the SEC East, and the Vols have a one-game lead in the loss column hosting Kentucky on Sunday.

"They came out with the passion and played with more intensity than us," Lofton said. "They wanted it more than us tonight, and it showed. They got the win and they deserved it."       The Commodores celebrated by high-fiving classmates as they walked and skipped between the student section and the campus officers keeping them off the court. Foster did a little dance before heading across the court and toward the locker room after remembering how Tennessee beat Vandy 80-60 last month in Knoxville.

"I thought we got punked in Knoxville," Foster said. "We wanted to show we were a different team."

 

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)       AP-NY-02-27-08 0626EST

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