NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Scotty Hopson scored 19 points, and Tennessee rallied from 11 points down in the second half to upset No. 18 Vanderbilt 60-51 on Tuesday night and sweep the season series from its instate rival.
Tennessee (17-11, 7-6 Southeastern Conference) has won two of its last three, and this time the Vols won by hitting their free throws when it mattered most. Hopson hit all six of his attempts as Tennessee, which hit only three of its first nine from the line, hit 11 of 12 over the final 2:52.
Melvin Goins scored 15 points, and Tobias Harris had 10 for the Vols who won in coach Bruce Pearl's 200th game at Tennessee. He celebrated by blowing a few kisses at fans as he left the court at Memorial Gym.
The Commodores (20-7, 8-5) snapped a five-game winning streak. John Jenkins, the SEC's leading scorer, had 11 points for Vanderbilt, two in the second half. Festus Ezeli had 11 points before fouling out, and Steve Tchiengang, who fouled out, scored all of his 10 points in the first half.
Vanderbilt led 31-27 at halftime and opened the second half with an 11-4 run. Jenkins stole the ball from Harris and fed it upcourt to Jeff Taylor, who slammed home a tomahawk dunk with 15:45 left. Ezeli had two blocks, one setting up Taylor for a fast-break basket and Ezeli finished off the next possession with a dunk for a 42-31 lead with 12:55 left.
That prompted Pearl to take a timeout as it looked like the Commodores would blow out the Vols, who rallied from 17 down to beat Vandy 67-64 in Knoxville on Jan. 15.
The Vols didn't fall that far behind in this game.
Tennessee whittled that lead away with Goins reaching double figures for only his fourth time in SEC play this season. He got a steal and a layup, then Brian Williams hit a jumper. Tobias Harris hit one of two free throws, and then Hopson's layup tied it up at 49 with 5:27 left.
Taylor scored on a layup with 5:01 left to put Vanderbilt ahead one last time, but that was the last point the Commodores would score.
Tennessee wound up hitting as many free throws (14 of 21) as Vanderbilt (14 of 19) in matching the SEC's best free throw shooting team.
The Vols started off almost as cold as they did when these teams met in January, missing their first five shots and seven of their first nine. Pearl had his Vols trying to milk as much of the shot clock as possible on most possessions.
The teams went through stretches of cold shooting and sloppy play in the first half. Tennessee forced Vanderbilt into a season-high 21 turnovers in SEC play in their first meeting, and the Vols had a steal on each of the Commodores' first four turnovers.
At one sequence, Andre Walker stole the ball away from Tennessee forward Steven Pearl who tipped it away from Walker to Vols teammate Trae Golden, and he passed back to Pearl for the layup and a 24-22 lead with 3:04 left.
The Vols finished with 15 steals on Vandy's 16 turnovers.