Beal makes Vols pay

When you don't play much defense, eventually you pay. For the Tennessee Vols, the Beal - uh, bill - came due with about six minutes left Wednesday night.

Senior guard Jermaine Beal single-handedly outscored the Vols 8-0 in a key segment of the stretch run, boosting Vanderbilt's lead from 66-60 to 74-60 and leading the No. 21 Commodores past the No. 14 Vols 85-76 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Beal's binge began with a nifty drive that padded the gap to 68-60 with 5:44 remaining. Then he twice got open at the top of the key for 3-pointers, connecting at 5:25 and 4:58 as the bulge grew to 74-60. The Vols never got closer than eight points thereafter.

Beal finished with 25 points, hitting 8 of 12 from the field, 4 of 6 from beyond the 3-point arc and 5 of 6 from the foul line in a brilliant individual performance.

The game provided considerable redemption for Beal, who was horrendous against the Vols a year ago - making just 2 of 17 field-goal tries and 0 of 7 shots from 3 in the two outings.

"Everybody's talked about (A.J.) Ogilvy and whether or not he's a factor," UT coach Bruce Pearl said. "In my mind, Beal has always been the guy that's made that team go. If you look at his numbers the last couple of years against our point guard, we've done well."

The Vols couldn't contain him on this night, however, as he turned Lake Loudoun Boulevard into Beal Street.

"He was able to knock down shots," said Tennessee point guard Bobby Maze, who was paired against Beal much of the evening. "He made tough shots, shots coming off ball screens. There were two plays I remember where Coach called for a trap. I'd go to trap and we didn't rotate defensively, and he was sitting at the top of the key, wide open for a shot.

"Those are not the easiest shots to make but I think he did a good job of utilizing our mistakes."

Tennessee's defensive mistakes were abundant on this night. Vanderbilt shot 56.7 percent from the field and 71.4 percent from 3 in the second half in turning a 35-31 halftime deficit into a nine-point victory. The Commodores finished 50.9 percent from the field and 57.1 percent from 3.

Needless to say, Pearl was not pleased with the defensive effort.

"We can live with scoring 76 points and we can live with shooting 44 percent and even shooting 30 percent from 3," the coach said. "We can live with all of those numbers. But we cannot win when we give up 51-percent shooting. It's the common denominator in our losses."

Ogilvy chipped in 12 points for the Commodores, now 16-3 overall and 5-0 in SEC play. J.P. Prince made 9 of 10 shots en route to a 22-point performance for Tennessee, now 15-4 and 3-2. Scotty Hopson was 5 of 8 from the field on his way to 14 points. Maze added 12 points and 7 assists. Wayne Chism, playing on a sore knee, scored just 8 points but grabbed 16 rebounds.

For the game Tennessee shot just 43.8 percent from the floor and 30 percent (6 of 20) from 3.

As happened in last Saturday's 78-63 loss at Georgia, Pearl said the Vols allowed their offensive struggles to negatively impact their intensity at the other end of the floor. Vandy got a lot of good shots while Tennessee players were still trying to get in position.

"While we may have struggled some offensively, it affected our transition defense, getting back," Pearl said. "They got too many easy baskets."

Even so, Tennessee led 55-51 with 10:57 to play. That's when the Vol offense shut down for the evening, scoring just five points over the next six minutes. Vandy scored 23 during the same stretch, and that 23-5 explosion doomed the Big Orange.

"Vanderbilt's experience obviously took over in crucial situations," Pearl said. "They made a bunch of shots, and we had a couple of empty possessions. That was the difference in the game."

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