SEC scoring leader John Jenkins has Vanderbilt on one of its best stretches of the season.
A strong performance from Jenkins wasn’t enough to fend off Tennessee’s impressive rally last month.
The 18th-ranked Commodores will try to avenge a defeat to their in-state rivals and record a season-best sixth consecutive victory overall Tuesday night at Memorial Gym.
Jenkins scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half and hit five 3-pointers Saturday to help Vanderbilt pull away for a 77-60 victory over Auburn. The sophomore guard, scoring 19.9 points per game on the season, has averaged 22.6 during the Commodores’ win streak and 25.0 on 52.2 percent shooting over the last three contests.
Jenkins scored 21 points at Tennessee on Jan. 15 and helped his team build an early 17-point lead. The Volunteers rallied, tying the game with 5:26 remaining and taking over for good on Tobias Harris’ layup with 1:09 to play.
The Commodores (20-6, 8-4) didn’t help themselves with 21 turnovers, including one from Jenkins in the final minute.
“We need to play better than we did the first (matchup),” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “We need to rebound better. We need to take better care of the ball. But we’ve been doing some of things better recently.”
Vanderbilt hasn’t won six straight SEC games in one season since a seven-game run Feb. 2-26, 2008. The Commodores appear to have a good chance to accomplish that feat against the Vols (16-11, 6-6), losers in four of their last five games.
Scotty Hopson’s career-high 32 points weren’t enough for the Vols in a 69-63 home loss to Georgia on Saturday. Tennessee cut the Bulldogs’ 15-point lead to two with 42 seconds left on a Hopson dunk, but missed two 3-pointers in the final 21 seconds.
Harris (18 points) was the only other Vols player in double figures.
“We play better when everybody contributes,” coach Bruce Pearl said. “I need more from pretty much everybody down the line.”
Pearl’s team is averaging 63.4 points over its last five contests - 7.8 lower than its season mark - and could also use some strong perimeter defense Tuesday. Vanderbilt is shooting 49.5 percent (52 of 105) from 3-point range over its last five games.
The Commodores missed 10 of 15 attempts last season at home against the then-No. 12 Vols but won 90-71 as Jeffrey Taylor scored 26 points - then a career high. Jenkins missed that game with the flu and needed five IV bags of fluids to recover.
Taylor had 20 points in Saturday’s win at Auburn after totaling 11 on 12.0 percent shooting in his previous two games.
“Jeff has been pressing a little bit. I don’t think there’s a question about that,” Stallings said. “Fans see him miss easy shots and they get a little bit frustrated. … Jeff has been very impactful in our ability to win and our ability to be a good team. He will continue to be.”
The Commodores have won five of their last seven home games against Tennessee and hold a 51-36 all-time edge in Nashville.
The Vols, who lead the overall series 109-69, are playing their third straight road game against a ranked team. They’ve dropped their last six such matchups since upsetting then-No. 1 Memphis on Feb. 23, 2008.