No. 21 Vanderbilt 85, No. 14 Tennessee 76
A.J. Ogilvy bumbled around the basket. Jeffrey Taylor struggled to find his shot. Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings didn't mind.
He still had Jermaine Beal available to rescue the Commodores.
``He's a real nice security blanket, I will tell you,'' Stallings said.
Beal scored 25 points and No. 21 Vanderbilt won its 10th straight game with an 85-76 victory over No. 14 Tennessee on Wednesday night. It was Vandy's first win in Knoxville in five tries and its first win over a ranked opponent this season.
Stallings has plenty to feel good about besides Beal's clutch play. Vanderbilt (16-3, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) is off to its best start in the league since 1966 and will head to No. 1 Kentucky with control of the SEC East.
``This was a fun one to win. This was a good win for our team,'' said Stallings, who praised his team's ability to win with its shooting and defensive play.
For Tennessee it meant a second straight conference loss after falling at Georgia on Saturday. The Volunteers host Florida on Sunday.
``If we don't start focusing better, this is going to keep happening,'' Tennessee's Bobby Maze said. ``The SEC's not just all of a sudden going to start getting easier.''
The teams traded the lead until a 3-pointer by Brad Tinsley with 8:42 left put Vanderbilt up 59-56, a lead it did not relinquish.
Beal hit a layup and two 3s in less than a minute to give Vanderbilt control with a 74-60 cushion with 4:58 remaining.
``Beal was special,'' Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. ``Part of our success against Vanderbilt in the past was that we had got the better of him. Everybody talks about A.J. Ogilvy and whether he's a factor, but in my mind Beal has always been the guy that has made the team go.''
J.P. Prince led Tennessee (15-4, 3-2) with 22 points, and Wayne Chism grabbed 16 rebounds. Scotty Hopson scored 14, while Maze added 12.
The longtime state rivals were physical with each other, and the referees made sure to call every reach-in or push they saw.
The teams were tied at 39 when Vanderbilt's Andre Walker tangled with Prince under the Volunteers' basket. Walker was tagged with a foul for elbowing Prince, but both earned a technical for the words they exchanged.
Prince followed up his technical with a 3-pointer and an alley-oop dunk off a pass from Maze with 15:31 left, but was called for a second technical for hanging on the rim too long.
Though Prince was not ejected, the constant fouls hurt Tennessee more than Vanderbilt. Hopson and Kenny Hall, one of the Vols' few post players, quickly picked up their third and fourth fouls after halftime and spent much of the second half on the bench.
And even though both teams were called for 23 fouls, Vandy was more poised at the free throw line, making 21 of 29 attempts compared to Tennessee's 14-of-24 shooting from the charity stripe.
Vanderbilt shot 50.9 percent from the floor, the 11th time this season the Commodores have hit more than half their shots.
But it wasn't until the second half that they found their touch. Ogilvy finished with 12 after scoring two points in the first half. John Jenkins, Taylor and Tinsley each added 10 points.
``Jermaine definitely took over,'' Ogilvy said. ``He really put us on his shoulders and just carried us. A great game from a senior, and you come to expect that from Jermaine. He's been helping us out a lot and made some big-time shots for us tonight.''