Gordon made a strong case for himself to be Vanderbilt's point guard of the present rather than the future. The freshman who has been battling foot ailments for a good part of the season rescued Vanderbilt from an early 18-12 deficit with a blistering shooting performance in the final seven minutes of the first half. He scored 14 points on 4-for-4 shooting (and 3-for-3 from three) as the Commodores took a 32-27 lead into halftime.
"The key for us was to be able to re-take control of the game in the first half," Stallings said.
Gordon did not attempt a shot in the game's first 13 minutes as he focused on Stallings' instructions of simply running the team from the point.
"When I went back in (after a brief rest), I knew I had to be more aggressive," Gordon said. "I started looking for my shot."
Vanderbilt held the lead throughout the second half, but it dwindled all the way to one before Smith came to the rescue. Leading 58-57 with under two minutes to play, Smith drilled a three-pointer with the shot clock winding down, pushing the lead to 61-57.
"At that point, as a senior it is my responsibility to do something," Smith said. "It happened to be a three."
Tennessee managed to cut the lead to 65-62 with 15 seconds left, but Gordon coolly nailed two free throws to ice the game and become the first Commodore to break into the 30-point neighborhood since Matt Freije did so against NC State last spring.
"This was just an average game for him in high school," Stallings said. "For the most part, he took good shots and he made his free throws."
Gordon's point guard partner, junior Mario Moore, went in the opposite direction. Moore scored just two points and had four turnovers in 18 unsteady minutes off the bench. Stallings move of putting Gordon in the starting lineup appears to be more than just a motivational tool to jump-start Moore.
"He's been down a little bit," Stallings said of Moore. "Some of it is his play. Some of it is watching a teammate and a guy he's close to go through a difficult situation. He's been down, and we have to get him happy again."
The crowd at Memorial was certainly happy at game's end, and why not? The unpredictable Dores head into Saturday's showdown with Kentucky as the only squad in the league that has beaten Alabama or lost to Georgia. Anything can happen on any given night, including a freshman whose scored 26 points in first seven SEC games totaling 30 in his eighth.
The story of the 2004-05 Commodores continues against Kentucky, a team that limped out of Memorial Gym with a loss one year ago.
"We have to continue to be a good home team and swipe some on the road when we can," Stallings said.
Julian Terrell returned to the team after his mother's funeral earlier in the week and played five minutes. He had two points and two rebounds.
Bill Trocchi is the interactive editor for Athlon Sports.
Vanderbilt freshman guard Alex Gordon celebrates a basket during his 30-point performance as Vanderbilt defeated Tennessee 67-62 on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2005, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)