NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As the game turned: After Tennessee trailed by 10 at the break and 12 just minutes into the second half, forward Jerrone Maymon eventually erased the Vanderbilt advantage late in the final period.
The UT senior's layup tied the score at 53 with 6:35 left in game, but in a matter of minutes, the Commodores abruptly seized back the momentum with a series of dynamic plays.
With a little more than four minutes to play, Vanderbilt freshman Damian Jones ran the baseline and threw down a riveting one-handed alley-oop from teammate James Siakam.
Those donning black and gold roared with approval as the dunk upped the Commodore lead to 59-54.
"Sometimes we knew the alley-oop was coming," said UT forward Jarnell Stokes, "and there was nothing we could do about it. Their play-calling was great."
Siakam would keep that Commodore crowd noisy as the junior forward swatted Maymon's layup attempt into the front row on the ensuing UT possession.
The Vols would have two chances to tie in the final minutes as Vanderbilt missed the front end of two straight one-and-one's; UT, however, couldn't capitalize.
Hot topic: After two straight wins in rather convincing fashion, UT appeared to be gaining NCAA Tournament momentum as conference play approached the halfway point.
But Wednesday night's loss will seemingly drum up the bubble talk again as the Vols failed to notch their first three-game winning streak inside SEC play.
Stokes admitted the seesawing postseason outlook is hard to ignore.
"It's impossible not to think about (being on the bubble and not making the tournament)," Stokes said. "We know that we're on the bubble, and we have to make a statement to get in the (NCAA) tournament.
"Back to the drawing boards I guess."
Spotlight: The Vols delivered another strong glass work showing as UT out-rebounded the Commodores by 15, 41-26.
"We allowed our big guys to fill in and be ready to rebound," said UT head coach Cuonzo Martin. "We got where we needed to be and did a great job rebounding."
That rebounding advantage, however, didn't translate into low-post domination as the Commodores outscored Martin's squad 34-22 in the paint.
Big men Stokes and Maymon struggled early, teaming up for just seven points on 3-of-9 shooting in the first half. The duo finished just 7-of-19 from the field combined.
"We got off to a slow start," Martin said. "It was an energy thing."
The other guys: Rod Odom and Kyle Fuller combined for 38 points on 14-of-23 shooting as Vanderbilt notched its fourth straight conference victory.
"When a team's shooting as well as they did today," Stokes said, "it's hard to stop them, take them out of their rhythm."
Outside the box score: Antonio Barton hit two treys in the game, his first multi-3-pointer performance since the Vols' win over LSU on Jan. 7.
Say something: Stokes on Vanderbilt having just seven scholarship players:
"We knew they didn't have as much depth, but a lot of their players play 40 minutes a game, so they're in great shape."
By the numbers:
2: The Commodores had just two bench points, including none in the opening period.
0: The Vols had zero points off turnovers in the first half.
15: UT had 15 offensive rebounds in the second half, compared to just five in the opening period.
Up next: The Vols return home on Saturday when the face South Carolina. Tipoff is slated for 3 p.m.