KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - No. 5/6 Tennessee landed its opening punch and a wide-eyed Vanderbilt team never could recover as the Lady Vols knocked off the Commodores 68-56 Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena.
With the lights of ESPN's College GameDay shining on Knoxville, Vanderbilt basketball suffered a forgettable day with the men's and women's teams falling in front of the largest crowds either team has played in front of this season.
In the nightcap of GameDay's first-ever doubleheader, Vanderbilt (12-6, 3-2 SEC) could not recover from a dreadful shooting start in which the Commodores were put into a 21-5 hole in which Tennessee (17-2, 5-0 SEC) scored 18 straight points after Vanderbilt started just 2-of-25 from the floor.
Despite going 9 minutes, 21 seconds between field goals and finishing the first half with just 17 points after shooting 18.9 percent from the floor, Vanderbilt remained very much in the game and trailed only by 12, 29-17. The 17 points in a half were the fewest by a Commodore team since scoring just 15 second-half points at LSU last season.
"I think like always when we come here, we don't get off to a good start," Head Coach Melanie Balcomb said. "I think we spent the first half looking at the height advantage, looking at the colors of the jersey and the big crowd."
The Commodores opened the second half by scoring the first four points to pull within eight 29-21 with 19:08 to play. However Tennessee would then go on a 21-7 run to take a 50-28 lead with 11:27 to play. The 22-point lead was its largest of the game and VU's largest deficit of the season.
Vanderbilt chipped away at Tennessee's lead with a 23-10 run of its own to pull within nine when Jence Rhoads hit a jumper with 4:10 to play. The bucket by Rhoads gave her 1,001 career points, becoming just the 33rd player in school history to reach the 1,000-point plateau.
The Commodores had a few chances to pull within seven points, but layups by Hannah Tuomi and Christina Foggie fell off the rim and Tennessee was able to collect key offensive rebounds. With 1:30 to play, Foggie misfired on a three-pointer that would have cut the deficit to six. Vanderbilt would get back within eight (64-56) when Jasmine Lister hit a three-pointer with 1:04 to play, but by that point it was too late as Vanderbilt fell to 0-26 all-time at Tennessee.
"In the second half, we usually come to play," Balcomb said. "We settled down, I thought we executed a lot better on offense, had more patience and executed our defensive plan a lot better. We had an opportunity at the end of the game and just didn't hit the shots. We had the shots we needed to come back but didn't do it."
The Commodores were paced by Lister, who finished with 17 points. Foggie added 13 and Rhoads finished with 10.
Vanderbilt shot 48.6 percent from the floor in the second half, but it was still not enough to pull up the percentage for the first half, as Vanderbilt finished the game with a season-low 33.3 percent field-goal percentage, which led to a season-low 56 points.
The Commodores also were unable to get to the foul line, setting season lows in attempts and makes (2-of-4). Tennessee made 8-of-12 free throws and outrebounded Vanderbilt 52-39.
Saturday was just the second women's game to be played on College GameDay. It also marked the fifth time Vanderbilt's men's and women's teams have played Tennessee on the same day and only third time both games have been played at the same site. The last time was in 2002 in Nashville.
The Commodores will return home on Thursday when Arkansas visits Memorial Gym for a 7 p.m. CT tip.