Tennessee center Mercedes Russell (21) tries to get past Vanderbilt defenders Morgan Batey, left, and Kylee Smith, right, during Sunday’s game in Nashville. (AP Photo)
NASHVILLE — The eighth-ranked Tennessee Lady Vols are loaded with size, talent and athleticism. The Vanderbilt Commodores know exactly what they need to do to win.
They stuck to the plan Sunday and did just that.
Jasmine Lister scored 22 points and Christina Foggie added 21 for the Commodores, who upset Tennessee 74-63 for a very rare win over their instate rival. How rare? The Commodores now have nine victories in the 70 games they count having played against Tennessee.
Vanderbilt basketball coach Melanie Balcomb said she reminded her Commodores not to do anything different than normal just because of a big crowd or the opponent.
“The discipline that they showed to be able to do that I’m really proud of that,” Balcomb said. “That makes me smile because that’s a lot to look forward to. This is very early in the season.”
Vanderbilt (14-3, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) snapped a three-game skid against Tennessee with its first win in the series since Feb. 9, 2012.
Marqu’es Webb added 12 for Vanderbilt, which now has won 11 of its last 12.
Tennessee (13-3, 2-2) now has matched the two SEC losses from all of last season. Isabelle Harrison saw her school-record streak of double-doubles end at seven, scoring 10 points and getting only five rebounds before fouling out. Not having Harrison for 30 minutes hurt, but coach Holly Warlick was more upset with the Lady Vols’ poor defense.
“We get up, and we can’t stop anybody penetrating so it has nothing to do with Harrison,” Warlick said. “It’s about what’s important on the other end ... Until defense is important to us, we’re going to struggle.”
Meighan Simmons led the Lady Vols with 19 points. Jasmine Jones had 13 and Cierra Burdick 11.
The Commodores had the seats at Memorial Gym filled with a majority of black and gold instead of the usual Tennessee orange. They looked very comfortable from the start as they outhustled and outplayed Tennessee most of the game.
Balcomb remembers her teams being booed early in her 12-year tenure when hosting the Lady Vols. She credited the marketing staff, her teams and fans for helping flip that edge.
“Tonight I felt like this was our home court,” Balcomb said. “I thought we had more black and gold, and I could feel it in the crowd. That’s the neatest thing for me after 12 years. ... It didn’t happen overnight.”
Vanderbilt played only three 6-foot or better but none taller than then 6-1 Webb. Tennessee’s dramatic size difference included five Lady Vols 6-2 or taller.
The Lady Vols used that size in outrebounding Vanderbilt 40-31, but the Commodores outshot them 49.1 percent (26-of-53) to 42.9 percent (27-of-63). They were at their best in the second half when they hit a sizzling 62.5 percent (15-of-24).
Vanderbilt trailed 48-42 when the Commodores went on a 13-2 run that included a jumper by Morgan Batey that gave them their first lead since 29-28 late in the first half. Batey’s jumper put Vandy up 51-50, then the sophomore guard had a steal with Lister finishing off the fast break with a layup and Foggie added a layup that capped the spurt for a 55-50 lead with 5:38 to go.
“We kept our composure,” Lister said.
Tennessee didn’t get closer than seven the rest of the way, bringing most of the 9,412 fans to their feet for the final couple minutes in celebration.
The Lady Vols led 30-29 at halftime despite being without Harrison for all but a minute of the first half. Harrison, a Nashville native, picked up two fouls within the first 59 seconds and headed to the bench for the rest of the half. The Lady Vols also started sluggishly missing their first six shots. They didn’t hit their first field goal until Burdick’s jumper with 14:35 left in the half.
Tennessee opened the second half scoring the first nine points with Harrison on the floor and took a 39-29 lead on a bucket by Jones with 16:28 left. Vanderbilt answered with its own 13-5 run, pulling within 44-42 on a jumper by Foggie with 12:12 remaining. Harrison fouled out with 9:23 left.
Harrison was whistled for a foul blocking a shot by Foggie and reacted to the call with officials then calling a double technical on the Tennessee center and Webb.
“She’s got to keep her composure,” Burdick said of Harrison.