Tennessee basketball owes no apologies for tough win at Vanderbilt

Tennessee celebrate after defeating Vanderbilt at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022.Vandy Ut Mbb 011822 An 027
Tennessee celebrate after defeating Vanderbilt at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022.Vandy Ut Mbb 011822 An 027 /

Four straight losing seasons by the Vanderbilt Commodores before this year has everybody forgetting about Memorial Magic. If you are one of those guilty of that thinking, you might see the way Tennessee basketball struggled to win in Nashville, Tenn. Tuesday as a continuation of their recent struggles.

Nothing could be further from the truth. While their 107-79 loss at the Kentucky Wildcats last Saturday was embarrassing, and although there are plenty of concerns facing this team, they have nothing to be ashamed about in a 68-60 win at Vanderbilt.

This is a house of horrors for many teams. It’s known for a mystique place to play with its benches behind the goals and the stands below the court. There were years during the Kevin Stallings era where this team was horrible on the road, but they beat everybody at home and got into the NCAA Tournament that way.

On top of all that, Tennessee basketball is the team they want to beat the most. So with Vanderbilt back above .500 right now, definitely enjoying the best team they have had in five years, and UT reeling, it shouldn’t have been crazy to think that they would make this a game.

Add in the fact that Josiah-Jordan James, the Vols’ best perimeter defender, went down early with an injury, and it’s insane to think anybody should worry that they struggled at times. Rick Barnes’ team actually covered their six and a half point spread. If it was ugly, Vol fans should accept ugly.

Nobody has fallen victim to Memorial Magic more than the Vols. Remember the last time they were No. 1? Right when UT reached its No. 1 ranking in 2019, their first game atop both polls would be at Vandy. This was a Vandy team that was the worst in the SEC. UT still needed overtime and a historic 43-point effort from Grant Williams, who hit 23 of 23 free throws, to win.

The only other time they were No. 1 ever before that was in 2008 under Bruce Pearl. They had just beaten the undefeated and No. 1 ranked Memphis Tigers the previous Saturday before reaching the top of both polls on Monday. On Tuesday, they lost on the road to Vandy. It was a 48-hour reign as No. 1.

All of UT’s historical struggles in Nashville are forgotten by recent events. The Vols have won more games there against SEC opponents than Vanderbilt has the past four years. That includes three SEC Tournament wins and four wins at the ‘Dores. However, again, they barely won one of those while ranked No. 1, and this Vandy team is better than those others.

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So what if they were down by two scores at one point in the second half? Who cares if they blew an eight-point lead to allow the game to be tied with a minute left? Tennessee basketball still scored a road win in the SEC at the most dangerous place in the league. Take the win.