Tennessee basketball holds on for first SEC road win at Vanderbilt with clutch final minute

·3 min read

NASHVILLE — Uros Plavsic started for Tennessee basketball on Tuesday at Vanderbilt. But it was how the junior forward finished the mattered most.

Zakai Zeigler launched an open 3-pointer with less than a minute in a 60-60 game. It rolled around the rim, falling off the side where Plavsic was in position. Plavsic grabbed the rebound, dribbled and scored. Zeigler jumped in front of the ensuing inbound pass and the Vols escaped with their first road win in SEC play.

Tennessee topped Vanderbilt 68-60 at Memorial Gymnasium, closing the game on an 8-0 run in the final minute.

"I was proud of them with the way they showed the grit that we needed," Vols coach Rick Barnes said. "It was a total team win.

Plavsic had 13 points and six rebounds for No. 25 Tennessee (12-5, 3-3 SEC).Santiago Vescovi had a team-high 14 points. Kennedy Chandler added 13 points.

The Vols limited Scotty Pippen Jr. to 3-for-10 shooting for Vanderbilt (10-7, 2-3). He had 18 points, getting 10 points at the free-throw line.

The final minute

Tennessee took an eight-point lead with 3:41 to play. But Vanderbilt went on a 8-0 run capped by back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game 60-60 with 1:22 to play.

Zeigler's shot rimmed out, but Plavsic saved the shot and made the game-winning shot.

"I was hyped up," Zeigler said. "He started flexing and stuff and I was like, 'We've got this one.' "

Zeigler made the game-winning defensive play, jumping the inbound pass from Jamaine Mann to ScotPippen Jr. Tennessee had 14 steals. Chandler had five and Zeigler had four.

UT made six straight free throws to close the game.

The way we were able to grind it out there at the end, I’m just really happy for our team," Barnes said.

Free throws get it done for Vols

Zeigler was 0-for-8 shooting from the floor, but had 11 points. The freshman guard was 11-for-12 at the free-throw line, where the Vols excelled.

Tennessee was 25-for-29 shooting free throws, its best percentage in an SEC game.

"I thought we looked confident there," Barnes said. "I do. I really feel like we went up there with confidence."

Tennessee had four field goals in the final 10 minutes. UT had 15 points in that span from free throws.

Uros Plavsic starts, excels

Barnes left Rupp Arena after Saturday's 107-79 loss to Kentucky determined to find a way to "change the vibe" for the Vols. He tried to do so by switching the starting lineup Tuesday.

Barnes started Plavsic over senior John Fulkerson, who had started every game in which he was available this season. Plavsic, who has been one of Tennessee's most consistent players in SEC play, stepped up.

"He has made some winning plays for us," Barnes said. "He really played well in the Kentucky game. He really did. From what we asked him to do in that game, he really did a nice job and he came back and carried it over again tonight.”

Barnes also yanked Fulkerson from the starting five during the 2020-21 season for a game in February to try and spark the Kingsport native.

Josiah-Jordan James leaves with injury

Josiah-Jordan James left less than four minutes into the game and did not return. Barnes did not have an update on James' status following the game.

James caught an inadvertent elbow from Vanderbilt guard Jordan Wright as the Commodores ran in transition. James tumbled under the hoop next to the Tennessee bench and grabbed at the right side of his face above his eye. He was a little bit unsteady when his teammates helped him off the court.

James had a rebound and assist before he departed.

Up next

Tennessee hosts No. 16 LSU (15-2, 3-2) on Saturday (6 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at michael.wilson@knoxnews.com 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: Tennessee basketball holds on for first SEC road win at Vanderbilt

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