KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- After breezing through an easy home schedule, 23rd-ranked Vanderbilt has stumbled a bit in some tougher venues.
Brandon Crump and Scooter McFadgon scored 20 points apiece as Tennessee posted an 76-66 Southeastern Conference victory over the Commodores.
The Commodores (12-2, 1-2 SEC East) took advantage of a schedule that had them leave Tennessee just once to take a trip to Texas Christian. While they did play home games against Michigan and Indiana, their other games were against the likes of Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech, Wofford and Appalachian State and Lehigh, which were all easy wins.
But four days after losing before a hostile crowd at Kentucky's Rupp Arena, Vanderbilt struggled at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Commodores shot 36 percent (22-of-61) and had trouble all night against Crump and McFadgon.
"We looked at this game as one of 16 in the conference," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "You have to play well on the road to win. Tennessee played better than we did."
While Vanderbilt failed to bounce back from another loss at Kentucky, the Volunteers had little difficulty recovering from Saturday's 95-57 rout at Florida and responded to coach Buzz Peterson's concerns.
"It's been an interesting three or four days for this team and at the Peterson household," he said. "After what happened in Gainesville, I had some fear coming out of there but the great thing about the game of basketball is it gives you a chance to improve and come back.
"We all know you have to take care of your home court. I'm happy for our guys that they were able to bounce back from last Saturday and beat a very good Vanderbilt team."
After taking a 37-31 halftime lead, the Volunteers (10-2, 2-1) were in control most of the second half when they shot 55 percent (11-of-20). They had their lead reduced to 65-62 with 2:55 remaining but McFadgon and Jemere Hendrix buried back-to-back 3-pointers.
While Vanderbilt endured its third-worst shooting night of the season, star forward Matt Freije was a non-factor. He averaged 20.3 points in his last three games against the Volunteers but was held to eight points on 2-of-12 shooting and is shooting 24 percent (10-of-41) in the Commodores' three conference games.
"I've been concerned about Matt Freije's offense," Stallings said. "I need to be helping him more than I am now. We've been doing what we've been doing trying to get him in his spots. He's just pressing, just struggling."
Tennessee's strategy was to allow Vanderbilt to take 3-pointers all night and it worked perfectly as the Commodores shot 19 percent (4-of-21) from the arc. They have connected on just 22.5 percent (14-of-62) of their 3-pointers in SEC play.
"Our plan was to make them take as many 3-point shots as we could," Peterson said. "They tried 21 of them but luckily they didn't make very many. Matt Freije is a terrific player. Vanderbilt got several back-door scores but other teams have had the same problem with them."
McFadgon, the SEC's leading scorer, did most of his damage in the first half with 13 points.
With Freije struggling to find a rhythm, Vanderbilt was unable to get big enough contributions from other players. Mario Moore and Scott Hundley score 11 points apiece.