No. 5 Tennessee basketball loses at Vanderbilt on buzzer-beating 3-pointer

NASHVILLE — Tennessee basketball's vaunted defense faltered for four seconds and failed as the buzzer rang Wednesday.

Vanderbilt guard Tyrin Lawrence buried a wide-open, buzzer-beating 3-pointer, the fatal shot at the end of a 3-point barrage from the Commodores handing Tennessee its worst loss of the season.

The No. 5 Vols (19-5, 8-3 SEC) fell at Vanderbilt (12-12, 5-6) 66-65 on Wednesday at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville. Tennessee had won 11 straight games against Vanderbilt.

MISSED MOMENT: Rick Barnes: Julian Phillips passing on late dunk cost Tennessee basketball vs. Vanderbilt

Santiago Vescovi had 14 points and made four 3-pointers, his most since he made four against Mississippi State on Jan. 3. Tyreke Key had 14 points, while Tobe Awaka had eight points and nine rebounds.

Vols senior guard Josiah-Jordan James left the game with an injury in the final minute.

The final minute

Tennessee took a two-point lead after Vescovi made a game-tying 3-pointer and Olivier Nkamhoua hit a go-ahead jumper. The Vols got a rebound with 22 seconds left and the Commodores had to foul five times.

Julian Phillips passed up an open dunk, which would have given UT a four-point lead. Vescovi missed the front end of a one-and-one with eight seconds to play. Vanderbilt got the rebound and set up the winning play.

Tennessee's defense scrambled as Vanderbilt guard Ezra Manjon drove. Vescovi helped over, leaving Lawrence in the corner for an open 3-pointer.

Tyreke Key got it going at last

Key had been missing from Tennessee's offense for two weeks and saw his minutes decline even before an ankle injury limited him against Auburn on Feb. 4. The senior from Celina snapped back into a central role in Nashville.

Key was assertive quickly, scoring a team-high 10 first-half points on 4-for-6 shooting. He took eight shots in the past three games combined.

Key had scored in double-digits once since Dec. 7, a 10-point outing at LSU on Jan. 21.

Tennessee's 3-point defense stumbles

Jordan Wright hit a 3-pointer with 6:28 to play, Vanderbilt's ninth 3-pointer Wednesday. The Vols had not allowed more than eight 3-pointers this season. The Commodores reached that mark with 13:21 to play. The 10th was the fatal shot.

Vanderbilt opened 6-for-10 on 3-pointers, including three from forward Liam Robbins. Robbins was shooting 18.2% on 3-pointers and had made six this season.

Up next

Tennessee hosts Missouri on Saturday (6 p.m. ET, SEC Network) in the lone regular-season meeting between the teams.

Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: No. 5 Tennessee basketball loses at Vanderbilt on buzzer-beating 3-pointer