NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Grant Williams gave a glimpse of just how dominant he can be inside when avoiding foul trouble.
Williams scored a career-best 37 points as No. 24 Tennessee rallied from a 10-point deficit in the second half to beat Vanderbilt 92-84 on Tuesday night.
“These officials were amazing,” Williams said after finishing with only two fouls. “Two of them were Final Four officials, and you knew it was going to be a good game, so they did their job tonight. … It was even 22-23, so what more can you ask for?”
With the sophomore forward staying out of foul trouble, Vanderbilt couldn’t handle the 6-foot-7, 241-pound Williams around the basket despite double-teaming him at times. Admiral Schofield tied his career high with 22 points as Tennessee (11-4, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) won its second straight.
“He’s good,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said of Williams. “He’s really good down there when he gets it deep and he goes quick. And we knew. We spent a lot of time expecting double-teams not just on Grant but on Admiral. … He’s only going to continue to get double-teamed.”
Jordan Bowden scored all 12 of his points in the second half for the Volunteers.
Saben Lee led Vanderbilt with 21 points. Jeff Roberson added 19 and Riley LaChance had 16. Matthew Fisher-Davis scored 10 for the Commodores (6-10, 1-3), who had their highest-scoring game yet in SEC play.
“That should be good enough to win games,” coach Bryce Drew said after his team put up 84 points.
The Volunteers trailed 50-40 after LaChance scored the first five for Vanderbilt to open the second half. Vanderbilt still led 56-47 when the Vols went on a 13-1 run to take the lead back on four straight points by Williams, the last two on a layup with 8:11 left in a game with 12 ties and 16 lead changes.
Tennessee didn’t lose that lead again, and pushed it out to as much as 10 down the stretch.
Tennessee opened the game by scoring seven of the first nine points. Then the Commodores started knocking down shot after shot, especially outside the arc. By the time LaChance beat the buzzer with yet another 3-pointer, the Commodores led 45-35 at halftime by shooting 8 of 15 (53.3 percent) from long range.
Tennessee: The Volunteers have scored the most points they’ve ever managed in Memorial Gym in back-to-back seasons. They scored 87 in a win a year ago and topped that Tuesday night. The Vols have won three of their last four trips to Memorial. They also have won three of four road games this season.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores couldn’t hold onto a double-digit lead on their own court, and a team that shoots 3-pointers so very well in bunches went cold in the second half. The Commodores went just 3 of 11 over the final 20 minutes. Worse, they were only 15 of 22 (68.2 percent) at the free throw line.
Not only did Williams set a career best for points, he made and attempted a career high at the free throw line, where he went 13 of 15. Tennessee shot 89.3 percent from the line (25 of 28). Williams said he and Jordan Bone talked of how he hadn’t played well in his first two games in Nashville.
“It’s kind of funny that this night turned out the way it was,” Williams said. “I’m glad it happened, glad we got the win.”
“Tale of two halves again for us,” Drew said. “Unfortunately, the bad one was in the second half. First half, executed well, moved the ball well. Defensively we were able to get a few more stops on that end, and we outrebounded them, which I thought was a huge key coming in. The second half, they turned the tables.”
Tennessee: The Volunteers host Texas A&M on Saturday night.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores host No. 21 Kentucky on Saturday afternoon for back-to-back home games against ranked teams.