for this game

Foster, Vanderbilt spoil Tennessee's reign at the top

Feb 27, 2008 - 6:30 AM NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Tennessee's first reign at the top will likely not last long.

Shan Foster scored 32 points and Jermaine Beal added 17 as No. 14 Vanderbilt knocked off the top-ranked Volunteers, 72-69, in Southeastern Conference action on Tuesday.

The Commodores (24-4, 9-4 SEC East) extended their winning streak to seven games at the expense of the Volunteers, who moved up to No. 1 in the polls on Monday for the first time in school history following their 66-62 victory over then-No. 1 Memphis on Saturday.

"Any big game is special, I think if you win," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "We needed the win, and it was also a big game for them (Tennessee). (Tennessee coach) Bruce (Pearl's) orange coat designated it as a big game for them. UT handled us at its place. Tonight, we played better and only had eight turnovers."

In a battle of long distance shooters, Foster shot 9-of-13 from the field, including 6-of-9 from the arc for his second 30-point game of the season, outdueling Chris Lofton, who scored 25 for the Volunteers.

"We expected to win," Foster said. "Coach Stallings told us that people go their entire career without facing the best team in the nation, so we knew how important this game was. We prepared well for the game."

Tennessee (25-3, 11-2) trailed by three at the half but the pace quickened to start the second half. Keyed by seven points from Lofton, the Volunteers jumped in front, 41-38.

However, Vanderbilt would later use an 8-0 burst to retake the advantage, 48-43, with 13:29 remaining.

The Commodores stayed in front from that point on, taking a 64-56 lead on Foster's sixth 3-pointer with 5:29 remaining.

Tennessee cut the lead to three on Wayne Chism's dunk with eight seconds to play, but Vanderbilt wasted the majority of the remaining time before Keegan Bell missed a pair of free throws with under two seconds remaining. JaJuan Smith's three-quarters court heave was well off the mark as time expired.

"I thought we put ourselves in a position there in the second half, on the road, to be able to gut one out again," Pearl said. "And they got a period there in the second half defensively where we just fouled and sent them to the foul line a boatload of times. I thought that was a real difference because I thought both teams were having a real hard time scoring."

It was the fourth straight home win over the top-ranked team for Vanderbilt, which improved to 18-0 on its home floor this season. The Commodores had also beaten then-No. 1 Florida last season.

Lofton's 3-pointer opened up the game but Vanderbilt responded with a 23-6 run - keyed by 10 points from Foster - to take a 23-9 bulge with 10:47 left in the first half.

"I can't say we didn't play well, Vanderbilt deserves all the credit," Lofton said. "They came out with passion and had more intensity in their eyes. They wanted it more than us tonight, and it showed."

But the Volunteers came roaring back as Lofton scored eight during an 11-1 spurt that cut the deficit to 24-20 with 5:52 left in the half.

With A.J. Ogilvy on the bench with three fouls and Foster playing limited minutes with two, the Commodores went just 1-of-11 from the field over the final 10 minutes.

Despite shooting just 24 percent (8-of-34) in the first half, Tennessee stayed close and trailed, 31-28, at the break.

"I thought a lot of their (the Volunteers) shots were contested," Stallings said. "I thought our defense had a lot to do with that. I think both teams missed some open shots also."

Lofton shot 6-of-15 from the arc, becoming the sixth player in school history to score 2,000 points and Tyler Smith added 11 points and 17 rebounds for the Volunteers, who shot just 33 percent (20-of-61) from the floor.

Tennessee made just 7-of-26 shots from the arc and were also 22-of-32 from the free-throw line.

"Free-throw shooting is always a factor in close games," Pearl said. "We had a stretch in there where we did miss some free throws. Obviously, free throws were a definite factor in this game. If we make some of those free throws in those stretches where we had some dry spells, then the game is a little bit closer."