The enduring rivalry between Tennessee and Vandy usually sets the stage for a tight contest, and Tuesday's game was no different.
The Volunteers (11-8, 3-4 SEC) squeaked by the Commodores (8-11, 2-5) by one point, 58-57, in a last second contest. The Commodores had a chance to win the game at the end, but sophomore guard Kedren Johnson missed a contested layup and freshmen guard Kevin Bright missed the put back as time expired.
Vol head coach Cuonzo Martin said rivalry games like this are never easy, no matter what the opponent's record.
"Any rivalry game, whether it be high school or college, doesn't matter records, personnel, it's going to be a fight," said Martin. "I knew it was going to be a boxing match. So that was never the case I knew those guys wouldn't roll over. Kevin (Stallings) does a great job of preparing those guys. They run the Princeton style offense, which the last time we saw that was against Georgetown, so it's not something you normally see."
Tuesday's game marked the Vols' third game in six days, a feat that would take a physical toll on the most fit of athletes.
"Like I told the guys after the game, three games in six days, I was impressed with the way they competed with the way all the games went down an emotional standpoint it can take a real toll on you," Martin said. "So I was very impressed with the guys finishing it out."
Sophomore guard Josh Richardson, who played 31 of the games' 40 minutes, said he felt a little bit "winded" towards the end of the game, but nothing too serious.
"We felt good. I know I felt good," Richardson said. "I got a little fatigued there at the end but it's just something you have to play through."
Sophomore Jarnell Stokes certainly didn't look tired at any point in the game. Stokes led all scorers with a double-double performance of 19 points and also added 11 rebounds.
After a slow start to the season, Stokes has had two impressive games in a row, totaling 28 rebounds between the two. Martin said he knew Stokes would come around eventually.
"I saw it coming. He's taking his time, very aggressive but I also think it is the development of the guys around him," said Martin. "They are making shots, making plays, getting a feel for how he operates. He isn't a traditional guy who's back is always to the basket. He likes to face up and post up off the block so just really getting a feel for how he plays."
Stokes is contributing his success the past two games to the simple idea of having fun.
"I think I play better when I have fun. You know, it's easy to say but with the game not going your way, a lot of things not going your way, it's just hard to have fun," said Stokes. "These last two games, I've had fun."
Tennessee will be back in action Saturday at Arkansas. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m.