Pulling out 'the stops'

The surest way to stop a losing streak is to stop your opponent. Tennessee's basketball team discovered that simple truth in Saturday's regular-season finale at Vanderbilt.

Tennessee suffered consecutive home-floor losses to Arkansas on Feb. 25 and to Kentucky on March 1 because the Vols couldn't get a stop down the stretch.

Tennessee allowed Arkansas to score on eight of its last nine possessions. Result: The Razorbacks came from 14 points down to win 73-69.

Tennessee allowed Kentucky to score on eight of its last nine possessions. Result: The Wildcats ultimately prevailed 80-78.

The Vols must have learned from these setbacks because their late-game defense was vastly improved Saturday in Nashville. Tennessee allowed just 15 points in the game's final 11 minutes. The Commodores shot a paltry 26 percent in the second half, made their last field goal with 4:44 to play and lost 68-59.

As Big Orange fans are acutely aware, rebounding also has been a problem for the Vols. Arkansas outrebounded Tennessee 45-24. Kentucky outrebounded the Vols 33-25.

Tennesseee turned the tables against Vanderbilt, however, winning the backboards 42-34.

Here's the formula: Good defense + good rebounding = victory.

Head coach Bruce Pearl was understandably thrilled with the improved defensive play and rebounding vs. Vandy.

"That's something we didn't do to Arkansas, we didn't do to Kentucky," he said. "We outrebounded them. We had 16 offensive rebounds. That's a function of some really, really good effort by our team."


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