NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—The Tennessee Volunteers found out that 3.7 seconds is too much time to leave an opponent.
Shan Foster scored on a putback as time expired, and Vanderbilt snapped No. 16 Tennessee’s nine-game winning streak by upsetting the Vols 82-81 on Wednesday night.
“I guess that’s what rivalry games are all about,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “Somebody wins on the last play, and tonight we had the last play. We scored, they scored, and then we scored again. … We’re excited about this win. We obviously needed to win this one badly.”
Duke Crews dunked to put Tennessee up 81-80 with 4.7 seconds left, but that was plenty of time for the Commodores, who blew an 11-point lead in the second half. The Vols thought they had forced a turnover on a five-second call, but officials gave Vandy a timeout.
“I was surprised when he pointed at their bench,” Crews said.
The Vols fouled, and another timeout stopped the clock with 3.7 seconds left.
“Three-point-seven seconds is a long time,” Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said.
An assistant convinced Stallings to switch plays during the timeout, and Derrick Byars drove the baseline to the basket but completely missed. Foster got the ball on the left side and sunk a shot just before the buzzer. His teammates mobbed him in front of an ecstatic sellout crowd .
“I thought it was going in,” Foster said of Byars’ shot. “And when it came off, my first thought was to get it up on the rim before time went out. And luckily, it was able to fall.”
Vanderbilt (11-5, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) won its fifth straight SEC home opener, but this was easily the biggest. Pearl wore the orange blazer he reserves for special opponents like the Commodores and Kentucky.
“This was a difficult game to lose,” said Pearl, whose team lost its first road game in a stretch where five of six are away from home. “It was a great basketball game. Whoever lost the game, it would have been difficult.”
The Volunteers (13-3, 1-1) had a 79-76 lead off a 3-pointer by Ramar Smith with 1:18 to go but couldn’t hold that lead.
Byars finished with 25 points for Vanderbilt, Dan Cage added 15 and Foster had 14.
Chris Lofton led all scorers with 29 points for Tennessee, including 6-of-7 from 3-point range. But he didn’t score after his layup tied the game at 71 with 4:18 to go. Ramar Smith finished with 17, and Crews had 10.
JaJuan Smith, who had been averaging 15.2 points, matched his season low with six points for the Vols, who visit No. 5 Ohio State on Saturday.
It was a fast-paced game down the stretch and the crowd was on its feet for most of the second half.
Vanderbilt double-teamed Lofton, the SEC’s leading scorer, in the final minutes whenever he got the ball. It worked as Lofton was forced to pass, and the Vols turned the ball over with 27.7 seconds left.
Vandy outrebounded the Volunteers 40-33 and improved to 45-31 in this series in Nashville. Tennessee still leads all-time 104-66.
“We have a little bit of a grudge against those guys,” Cage said. “They swept us last year, but more than anything, it’s a morale boost for us To beat a legit team like UT definitely gives us confidence.”
Tennessee led 40-37 at halftime after Lofton hit a 35-footer just before the buzzer.
But the Vols started the second half cold, missing 10 of their first 13 shots. The Commodores hit six of their first 10 shots, and Byars led the way in a 14-4 run, scoring 10 points. He ended the run with a 3-pointer from the left corner for a 51-44 lead with 15:29 to go.
Vandy pushed the lead to 59-48 on a pair of free throws by Jermaine Beal before Lofton started bringing the Vols back with consecutive 3-pointers.
Lofton came in as the SEC’s leading scorer averaging 22.2 points. He had 16 in the first half in helping the Vols lead by as much as nine in the first half. He hit a 36-footer to give Tennessee the halftime lead.