Center John Fulkerson scored 16 second-half points as Tennessee surged during the final 10 minutes and held on for a 65-61 SEC victory over Vanderbilt on Tuesday night in Knoxville, Tenn.
Fulkerson finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and three blocks for the Volunteers (15-11, 7-6), who went on an 18-3 spree after Vanderbilt held a 45-43 edge with 9:12 to play. Jordan Bowden also scored 17 for Tennessee, including two free throws with five seconds left to clinch the sixth straight win in this intrastate rivalry.
Freshman swingman Jordan Wright, who entered the night with a career-high of 11 points, poured in 23 off the bench for Vanderbilt (9-17, 1-12). Saben Lee added 18 points as the Commodores scored 13 points -- including a 10-0 run -- in the final 1:36 to force the Volunteers to sweat to the final buzzer.
Vanderbilt scored just two points in the first six minutes of the game, but Wright came off the bench to give the Commodores a jolt. He swished a 3-pointer 19 seconds after he stepped on the floor -- Vanderbilt's first against Tennessee this season after going 0-for-25 from the arc in the teams' first meeting -- and produced 14 first-half points.
The Volunteers forced a 28-28 halftime knot when Jalen Johnson sank a layup just before the buzzer. Both teams struggled to assert control in the second half.
Tennessee took a 35-31 lead with 17:27 left on a pair of Fulkerson free throws, but Vanderbilt answered with a 9-0 run as Wright contributed four points.
The Volunteers rallied when they started pounding the ball inside to the 6-foot-9 Fulkerson. His layup and accompanying free throw gave Tennessee a 43-42 lead with 9:34 left, then he reeled off eight straight Vols points in a span of 1:59 to push the margin to 53-48.
That run continued until Tennessee had run off 12 straight points, with Yves Pons' dunk pushing the lead to its highest at 13 with 2:30 to play.
--Field Level Media