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No. 5 Tennessee needs big second half to beat Vanderbilt

Jan 10, 2023; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores guard Ezra Manjon (5) moves the ball against Tennessee Volunteers guard Zakai Zeigler (5) during the first half at Thompson-Boling Arena. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Santiago Vescovi and Julian Phillips scored 15 points apiece as No. 5 Tennessee pulled away from visiting Vanderbilt for a 77-68 victory in Southeastern Conference play on Tuesday in Knoxville, Tenn.

Vescovi, who scored 12 second-half points, shot 6-of-9 from the field, including 3-of-6 from distance, to go along with six rebounds and three assists. Phillips made 6 of 9 shots from the field and also added six rebounds and three assists.

Uros Plavsic chipped in 11 points and six rebounds, while Jonas Aidoo and Tyreke Key each finished with eight points and two rebounds. Zakai Zeigler had seven points, a game-high nine assists and four rebounds.

The Volunteers (14-2, 4-0 SEC), who defeated Vanderbilt for the 11th straight meeting, shot 28 of 58 (48.3 percent) from the field, including 7 of 21 (33.3 percent) from 3-point range. Tennessee outrebounded the Commodores 36-30.

Vanderbilt (8-8, 1-2), which has dropped two straight, was led by Liam Robbins’ 18 points and seven rebounds. Jordan Wright chipped in 13 points and five rebounds, while Noah Shelby scored all 12 of his points in the first half.

The Commodores shot 22 of 58 (37.9 percent) from the field, including 6 of 27 (22.2 percent) from beyond the arc.

Trailing by two at halftime, the Vols opened the second half on a 9-0 run to take a 46-39 lead following Key’s 3-pointer with 16:34 to go.

Plavsic’s two free throws at the end of another 7-0 run pushed the Vols’ edge to 71-54 with 4:29 remaining.

Tennessee outscored Vanderbilt 40-29 in the second half.

After Josiah-Jordan James’ 3-pointer gave Tennessee a 31-23 lead with 6:45 left in the first half, the Commodores closed on a 16-6 run to take a 39-37 halftime advantage.

Shelby scored 12 points and Robbins added 11 in the first 20 minutes for Vanderbilt, which shot 13 of 31 (41.9 percent) from the field before the break, including 5 of 13 (38.5 percent) from beyond the arc.

Tennessee was led by Aidoo’s eight first-half points, while Phillips, James and Plavsic added seven apiece.

The Volunteers shot 14 of 27 (51.9 percent) from the field prior to halftime, including 3 of 12 (25 percent) from distance.

–Field Level Media