With the ESPN cameras rolling -- and a huge crowd of 9,412 in the house -- the Commodores rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit and stunned No. 8/8 Tennessee, 74-63, at Memorial Gym.
Vanderbilt seniors Jasmine Lister and Christina Foggie, who were facing their in-state rivals on their home court for the final time, propelled the Commodores' comeback. Lister, who finished with a game-high 26 points, scored seven straight for Vanderbilt during a crucial stretch in the second half. Foggie added 21 points, including two pivotal baskets in the final six minutes that helped Vanderbilt hang on for the win.
Vanderbilt (14-3, 3-1) trailed 39-29 early in the second half before getting off the deck and outscoring Tennessee 45-24 during the final 16½ minutes to upset the Lady Vols (13-3, 2-2).
"We kept our composure; we didn't put our head down or anything like that," said Lister. "We went into this game believing we were going to win it, so even when things didn't go our way, or when they did start to go our way, we stayed level headed and just kept chipping away at that lead."
Freshman Marqu'es Webb added 12 points, and Morgan Batey had nine points and eight rebounds. Batey's jumper with 6:44 left to play gave Vanderbilt a 51-50 lead, and the Commodores never trailed again.
It was Vanderbilt's first win over Tennessee since a 93-79 victory on Feb. 9, 2012 in Nashville. Foggie and Lister were sophomores on that team -- and their senior leadership on Sunday was instrumental in the win.
"It means a lot (when) you have two seniors who are going to have the ball in their hands most of the time," said head coach Melanie Balcomb. "You're going to have to play them 40 minutes, and they know that, so the media and TV timeouts help a lot. They had both beaten Tennessee here before ... so they have experienced this, as well as Kady Schrann, who was a freshman."
Meighan Simmons finished with 19 points for the Lady Vols, but was just 8-of-21 from the floor.
Coming into the game, the Commodores were staring at some ugly numbers: They had lost 10 of the past 11 games against Tennessee, and the Lady Vols owned a 61-8 lead in the series that dates back to the 1979-80 season.
But Vanderbilt wasn't interested in history Sunday. The Commodores were simply focused on the moment -- and that certainly turned out to be the right mind-set.
"We absolutely believed that it was just another game," said Foggie. "Like I said earlier this week, we don't want to treat it any differently because then we start playing out of our comfort zone and out of characteristic."
Trailing 30-29 at the half, Vanderbilt surrendered a 9-0 run to Tennessee to open the second half. But the next 10 minutes belonged to the Commodores, who outscored Tennessee 26-11 during that stretch to flip the game around and build a 55-50 lead with 5:38 to play.
Down the stretch, Tennessee trimmed Vanderbilt's lead to three points on four occasions, but the Commodores always came up with an answer, as Webb, Foggie and Schrann each supplied clutch baskets to fend off Tennessee's rally.
Vanderbilt then hit 10-of-12 free throws, including four straight by Webb, in the final 1:21 to close out the victory.
Vanderbilt, which came into the day ranked second in the SEC and 12th in the nation in free throw percentage, finished 18-of-21 at the foul line.
"I don't like to talk about our free throw shooting much because I don't want to jinx it, but we've been doing it very well," said Balcomb. "To have that composure, it makes me excited about the future for freshman to be able to step and hit the free throws."
Vanderbilt, which has now defeated Tennessee in Memorial Gym three times in the past six years, visits Ole Miss on Thursday.
Photos copyright 2014 by Whitney D. for VandyMania.com