Almost. That word has haunted Vanderbilt hoops fans all season long.

Once again Vanderbilt almost pulled a stunning come-from-behind victory on the road at Tennessee on Tuesday night. Vandy was unable to come all the way back after facing a double-digit deficit with less than 1:30 remaining on the clock, eventually falling by the score of 65-61 to the Vols.

This is the third consecutive season that Tennessee has swept Vanderbilt’s men’s basketball team.

Vanderbilt looked like the team in control for much of the first half despite heading into the locker room with the score knotted at 28-all.

Freshman Jordan Wright set a career high in the opening 20 minutes by dumping in 14 points, which included a pair of three-pointers. Wright did a fantastic job of stepping up when the team needed him as Dylan Disu, Max Evans, Scottie Pippen Jr., and Ejike Obinna spent most of the first half on the bench after all four Commodores picked up their second personal foul in the early going.

Once the second half started, it took until six minutes remained on the clock before either team held a lead larger than five points. This came in the midst of a 12-0 Vols run which put the Big Orange up 61-48 with 2:30 to play.

Vandy would give Tennessee a run in the final two minutes. After Jerry Stackhouse dialed up the full-court press, the ‘Dores were able to force the Vols into three turnovers and whittled the Tennessee lead to 63-61 with just six ticks left on the clock. Jordan Bowden then iced the game with two clutch free throws to secure the victory.

Bowden and John Fulkerson each finished with 17 points for the Vols while Santiago Vescovi chipped in 14 on the evening. The trio combined to score 18 of the last 20 points for the Volunteers who did just enough to escape Thompson-Bowling Arena with a win.

Wright paced the Commodores with 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting, including 2-of-3 from beyond the arc. Coming into the game, Wright had connected on just 2-of-27 from three in SEC play.

Saben Lee followed up with 18 points, 14 of which came in the second half. Dylan Disu had 11 points to round out the ‘Dores in double figures.

Vanderbilt’s short-handed team played hard until the buzzer sounded. The gritty play is something that they have done all season long, which is a credit to their first-year head coach in Stackhouse.

Vandy could have easily mailed it in after a 28-point beat down in Gainesville on Saturday, but they decided to dig in and give Tennessee a run for their money. They have adopted a “never say die” attitude, demonstrated by their refusal to give up despite staring a 10-point deficit in its eyes with just over two minutes to go.

You can describe this Vanderbilt basketball team with many underwhelming adjectives. But, when the going gets tough, these players have proven that they consistently choose fight over flight.

And that is something they should be proud of.
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