NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Vanderbilt Commodores and coach Jerry Stackhouse finally experienced the thrill of a big upset inside the Southeastern Conference’s oldest gym.
The Commodores had struggled for so long with crowds dwindling that the old Memorial Gym magic seemed gone.
Not Wednesday night.
Tyrin Lawrence knocked down a 3-pointer from the right corner at the buzzer as the Commodores snapped an 11-game skid against its in-state rival by upsetting sixth-ranked Tennessee 66-65 Wednesday night.
Stackhouse called Lawrence’s shot the biggest of his tenure and maybe his favorite spanning both his own playing career in the NBA and now coaching career.
“We finally experienced it, the Memorial Magic we were looking for,” Stackhouse said. “Unbelievable game, unbelievable effort. Guys never quit. Didn’t look great there for a minute, but we just kept battling.”
Students rushed the court and joined the Commodores in celebrating easily the program’s biggest win in nearly 11 years. Then the Commodores (12-12, 5-6) celebrated by running along the courtside slapping high-fives.
Tennessee (19-5, 8-2) had every chance to finish off the win after Olivier Nkamhoua’s 15-foot jumper with 50 seconds left put the Vols up 65-63 lead. Liam Robbins missed a turnaround jumper with 27 seconds for Vanderbilt, and Zakai Zeigler grabbed the rebound.
Vols freshman Julian Phillips had a chance to dunk in the final seconds but kept dribbling to force another Vanderbilt foul.
“I am not sure what was going through his head there,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “I don’t think he will ever make that mistake again.”
Vanderbilt had to foul five times to finally send Santiago Vescovi to the line with 8 seconds left.
He missed the first shot, and Lawrence grabbed the rebound. Stackhouse took a timeout with 4 seconds to go to set up the final play, and Ezra Manjon drove to the basket before passing out to Lawrence in the corner for the winning bucket.
“It felt great,” said Lawrence, who Stackhouse benched for an ugly loss to No. 4 Alabama last week. “It’s the stuff we dream about as kids just in the back yard counting down `3, 2, 1.’ Glad I was able to hit the game winner.”
Lawrence finished with a team-high 19 points. Robbins added 14 and nine rebounds, and Jordan Wright had 12.
Vescovi and Tyreke Key each had 14 to lead Tennessee. Olivier Nkamhoua and Julian Phillips added 10 apiece.
Tennessee led 34-32 at halftime setting up a thrilling finish in a game that featured 15 lead changes and nine ties.
Tennessee was shooting well over 55% before hitting the kind of scoring drought that usually plagues the Vols in their losses. The Vols went 4:27 without a bucket as Vandy scored six straight to stay close. The nation’s best 3-point defense, which had been holding opponents to 21.9% shooting outside the arc, also gave up a season-high 10 3s with Lawrence’s game-winner the last.
Vanderbilt improved to 100-259 all-time against Top 25 opponents, and the Commodores improved to 2-3 this season. They now are 4-16 against ranked opponents under Stackhouse. … Lawrence’s game-winning shot was Vandy’s first made bucket since the 3:44 mark.
The road is turning into a challenging issue for the Volunteers with a second straight loss away from home, and this won’t help them stay in the Top 10.
DID IT COUNT?
Stackhouse tapped a play used by Dwane Casey when the Vandy coach worked with him in the NBA in Toronto. Stackhouse added some wrinkles with Manjon driving toward the basket where the Vols collapsed on him before whipping the pass down the baseline to Lawrence.
While everyone celebrated the shot, Stackhouse asked the scorekeeper if it counted. They didn’t know.
“Then (official) Tony Greene came over and he said it was good. `We’re gonna look at it, but it was good.’ I can’t contain myself. I hugged Tony Greene,” Stackhouse said with a big smile.
Tennessee hosts Missouri on Saturday night.
Vanderbilt visits Florida.