Men's Hoops: Vols rally to beat Vandy

A Vanderbilt team that many had given up for dead roared out to an early 14-point lead but couldn't hold on. Nashville native Ron Slay scored 22 points and pulled down 7 rebounds to lead Tennessee to an important 70-65 win at Vanderbilt. It was the ninth consecutive loss for Vanderbilt. Senior walk on Matt Carter started for Vanderbilt in his last appearance at Memorial Gym.

 The Commodores had things clicking early on as 3 pointers by Matt Freije, Mario Moore, and Jason Holwerda helped Vanderbilt build a 22-8 lead with 9:36 remaining in the first half.  Freije would go on to make three 3-pointers and lead all scorers with 25.

Tennessee rallied the last 10 minutes of the half and scratched and clawed their way to within 2 of Vanderbilt at 29-27 when C.J. Watson scored on a lay-up as the first half ended. 

Vanderbilt came out strong in the second half, much the way they did early in the first half, building a 50-39 lead when Corey Smith connected on a 3-point shot with 11:38 remaining in the half.   A 17-5 Tennessee run gave the Vols the lead at 56-55 with 4:48 remaining in the game.  Vanderbilt would never lead again.

Tennessee then methodically worked to expand on their lead.  Tennessee's Slay fired in a 3-point shot that gave the Vols a 6-point lead (63-57) with 2:52 remaining.  Vanderbilt was able to get within 2 points of the Vols twice in the last 10 seconds but Commodores ran out of time.

After the game Matt Freije had these remarks, "We were kind of anxious to get out on the court. I feel we showed that at the beginning of the game. We came out with some emotion, especially on defense, but we just couldn't sustain that for 40 minutes."

Vanderbilt falls to 10-17 (3-13 SEC) with the loss.  Tennessee improves to 17-10 (9-7 SEC) and solidifies its quest for an NCAA tournament bid.  Both teams will compete in the SEC Tournament in New Orleans, La next week.

Tennessee forward Stanley Asumnu, right, pressures Vanderbilt forward Matt Freije, left, during the first half.(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

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