Commodores Visit Knoxville to face Tennessee in Second Matchup of Season

Greg Arias

Vanderbilt and Tennessee renew their rivalry tonight in Knoxville as the Volunteers look to maintain, or improve their current three-way with Alabama and Texas A&M, all currently 6-6 in the conference and in the middle of the pack behind the logjam of the five teams who still have a legitimate chance at capturing the regular-season title. 

The Volunteers took round one from the Commodores on Jan. 18 with a 66-45 win in Nashville, in an ugly game from a play standpoint. 

According to Commodores head coach Jerry Stackhouse, who spoke with the media on Monday, both teams have changed since that first meeting. What hasn't changed is that both teams are still without their best players, both lost to season-ending injuries early in the campaign.  

The Vols currently average 66.9 ppg offensively while allowing 62.2 ppg defensively. The 62.2 ppg allowed defensively is good for 23rd in the nation. 

Tennessee is not an explosive offensive team, but they do play tough defense, meaning that points for the Commodores will likely be at a premium tonight. Vanderbilt must find contributions from multiple players if they are to have a chance at upending their biggest rivals.

Guard Jordan Bowden (12.9 ppg) leads Tennessee in scoring with forward John Fulkerson (12.8 ppg) slightly behind. Guards Yves Pons (11.2 ppg) and Santiago Vescovi (11.2 ppg) as the only other Volunteers in double figures. 

Fulkerson leads Tennessee in blocks (6.2) and steals (1.2) per game while Pons is a shot-blocker at only 6'6", averaging 2.6 per game. He is the most athletic Volunteer player and is an explosive leaper with big playability.    

Coach Rick Barnes has eight of his Volunteer players averaging double figures in minutes per game, giving him a deeper bench that the Commodores will have tonight.    

For Vanderbilt, junior guard Saben Lee is the team’s scoring leader, averaging 17.2 points and 4.4 assists per game, which ranks 6th and 5th in the SEC in all games, respectively. His 18.8 ppg average in SEC play is fifth in the league. In all games, Lee is also seventh in field goal percentage (.477), fifth in total free throws made (114) and attempted (150) and seventh in steals/game (1.6). Lee is averaging 24.0 ppg in his last four games.

The COmmodores will need Lee to continue his strong play but they must also have Maxwell Evans, Scottie Pippen Jr., and Dylan Disu step up and score tonight as Tennessee will likely look to take Lee away from them offensively.  

Tipoff is set for 5:30 pm locally and can be seen on the SEC Network.