Tennessee and Vanderbilt are long-time rivals, having faced off 171 times since 1922. But it’s been nearly 40 years since they met as ranked teams
The top two offenses in the SEC will square off on Thursday night when the 16th-ranked Commodores meet the Volunteers, the No. 6 team.
The last time both were ranked when facing each other was February 1968. Vanderbilt, which was ninth at the time, beat then-No. 7 Tennessee 75-63 in Nashville.
This matchup will take place in Knoxville’s Thompson-Boling Arena, where the Volunteers (14-1, 2-0 SEC) have won 24 straight since the beginning of the 2006-07 season, including an 84-57 blowout of Vanderbilt in February.
The Vols will be looking for their 10th straight win overall for the first time since opening the 1997-98 season with 10 victories in a row.
After an 85-83 home win over then-No. 16 Mississippi on Jan. 9, Tennessee overcame a poor effort by preseason All-American Chris Lofton in an 80-56 road blowout of South Carolina on Saturday.
Lofton tied a season-low with just five points, but JaJuan Smith had 15 to lead four Volunteers in double-figures and also pulled down a season-high eight rebounds.
“We’re good, we’re healthy,” Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. “I like the way it’s coming together.”
Vanderbilt (16-1, 1-1) was less pleased with its most recent result, a 79-73 double-overtime loss on Saturday at Kentucky that ended the best undefeated start in school history. Senior Shan Foster had 20 points and freshman center A.J. Ogilvy added 16 as the Commodores erased a 16-point second-half deficit to force overtime.
“This game shows that as a team, we have the character to compete in the SEC this season,” Foster said. “Seniors need to take responsibility and take control of the game. After coming from 16 points down in the game, it was heartbreaking to lose.”
Foster (20.6 points per game), and Ogilvy (19.4), are two of the SEC’s top three scorers. Vandy’s offense is second in the conference with 86.0 points per game and first with a 43.9 3-point shooting percentage.
Foster is shooting 51.1 percent from 3-point range, leading in the nation among those with at least 100 attempts. He’s shot just 27.8 percent from beyond the arc and is averaging only 10.3 points in six career games against the Vols.
Pearl, though, is wary of the threat Foster and Ogilvy pose.
“Foster is the most dangerous outside shooter in the league,” he said. “Ogilvy as a freshman is one of the most dominant players in our league. They have a great inside-outside combination.”
The only offense in the SEC better than Vanderbilt’s is Tennessee’s, which averages 86.7 points. Six different Volunteers average at least eight points, led by Smith’s 14.9 per game, compensating for Lofton, who’s averaging just 13.5 — more than seven below last season’s average.
“I think they’ve got more guys contributing this year than a year ago,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “Even if his stats are down, their team appears to be better. I think it’s more of a case of balance than Chris having any kind of off year or slump.”
The Vols have won three of their last four against Vanderbilt and four of five against the Commodores at home. Tennessee leads the all-time series 105-66.