NASHVILLE, Tenn. – National Player of the Year candidate Grant Williams posted one of the most dominant performances in program history to lift No. 1 Tennessee to an 88-83 victory in overtime against Vanderbilt in Memorial Gym Wednesday night.
Williams finished with a career-high 43 points and also tallied eight rebounds, four blocks, two assists and a key steal to carry the Vols (17-1, 6-0 SEC) to their 13th-consecutive win. It was the most points scored in a game by a Vol since all-time leading scorer Allan Houston also dropped 43 against LSU on Feb. 10, 1990. Williams’ effort also tied for the fifth-most points in a single game in school history.
The junior forward was 10-of-15 from the field and a program-record 23-of-23 from the free-throw line. That mark broke the Tennessee records for most free throws in a game and consecutive free throws in a single game, surpassing Bill Justus’ 22 total makes and 18 consecutive free throw makes vs. Ohio on March 17, 1969.
Tennessee rallied late in the second half, going on a 6-0 run during the final 1:22 of play. A jumper in the lane by Admiral Schofield with 38 seconds left tied things up at 76-76. UT got the final shot off with just under 3.3 seconds left in regulation, but it was blocked to send the game to overtime.
Williams was 8-of-10 from the field and 19-of-19 from the free-throw line for 38 points in the second half and overtime. He had 10 of UT’s 12 points in overtime to outscore the Commodores (9-9, 0-6 SEC).
The other two overtime points came from a pair of free throws by Jordan Bone with five seconds remaining to put the game away. The Nashville native finished with 14 points and seven assists in the victory.
Vanderbilt had the hot hand in the second half, shooting 51 percent from the floor and 67 percent from beyond the arc. On several occasions, Tennessee forced the Commodores to a throw up a shot with less than five seconds on the shot clock, but VU was able to convert time and time again.
In overtime, Tennessee’s defense locked down the Dores, holding Vanderbilt to 2-of-8 shooting from the field and 1-of-6 from 3-point range. A pair of 20-point performers in Aaron Nesmith (24) and Saben Lee (21) led Vanderbilt offensively.
The Vols opened the game on a 15-2 run during the first five minutes, forcing the Commodores to call a timeout. Bone knocked down a pair of 3-pointers, while Williams added six points during the opening flurry.
Vanderbilt wasn’t phased by the early deficit, fighting back to make it a three-point game at the 10:29 mark. A 9-0 run in the final minutes of the half capped off the Commodores’ comeback, giving them their first lead of the game. UT quickly responded with a step-back 3-pointer by Jordan Bowden to quiet the crowd and give the Vols a 38-37 lead going into halftime.
Both teams shot 50 percent or better from the field, with VU holding a 22-14 advantage in the paint to erase the early 13-point deficit. Tennessee’s offense was sparked by five threes in the frame.
Story and photo courtesy of Tennessee Athletics