Fuller even vomited during a timeout in the first half.
Yet Rod Odom hit two free throws with 3.4 seconds left as undermanned Vanderbilt held off Tennessee 64-60 Wednesday night for its fourth straight victory, and coach Kevin Stallings couldn’t be more proud of his team.
“They really fought, and we leaked oil there at the end,” Stallings said “We didn’t handle the end of the game so well. That’s something we’ve been doing well. But aside from that, I was just tickled pink with how well our guys played and how hard they played. Tennessee’s got a really, really good team.”
Odom finished with 26 points, and Fuller added 12 points and 10 assists for Vanderbilt (13-8, 5-4 Southeastern Conference). The Commodores snapped a three-game skid to their in-state rival.
“It definitely feels good, especially in front of a packed crowd,” Odom said of the win. “They’re a tough team, got a lot of tough guys on their team, so it feels good.”
Tennessee (14-8, 5-4) came in having won two straight overall and five of the last six in this series. The Volunteers wanted to get the Commodores, with only seven healthy scholarship players, into foul trouble. But they didn’t get Vanderbilt to pile up enough fouls with only Damian Jones fouling out.
Richardson had hit a jumper to pull the Vols within 62-60 and was driving to the basket for a dunk only to be stripped by Dai-Jon Parker. Odom got the ball, was fouled and hit both free throws for the win.
“It looked like contact,” Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said. “I mean it just looks like contact, but it’s a no call. It’s part of it. It’s tough. I mean I was locked in right on it as close as you could get I would imagine. It’s tough. That doesn’t win or lose a ballgame. I thought he had one of his best drives.”
Jordan McRae scored 16 points for Tennessee, Josh Richardson added 14 points and Jarnell Stokes 11 and 14 rebounds.
“We definitely came out a little flat. It was tough playing from then on.”
Vanderbilt outshot Tennessee 52.2 percent (24 of 46) to 37.7 percent (23 of 61) with a 34-22 edge in the paint despite being outrebounded 41-26.
The Vols tied it up for the fifth and last time at 53 on a bucket by Jeronne Maymon with 6:35 remaining to cap a 14-3 run. Parker hit a 3-pointer to put Vandy back ahead. Stokes hit one of two free throws to pull the Vols within 57-54 before Jones reached way back to throw down a one-handed, alley-oop dunk off a pass from James Siakam with 4:16 to go.
Stallings said the lob was 2 feet over Jones’ head, and the freshman said he jumped high to grab the ball. The dunk was so pretty Fuller instantly felt better.
“I wasn’t sick anymore,” Fuller said. “It felt good.”
Jones then fouled out with 2:36 left.
Tennessee had led wire-to-wire in winning its last two games, and the Vols led in the opening minutes in Memorial Gym with their last at 11-9.
Then Odom put Vanderbilt ahead with his second straight 3-pointer on a long fade-away that beat the shot clock with 13:37 left. Odom hit his first three shots outside the arc and his first six shots for 15 points helping Vanderbilt go up 25-18 with 8:07 remaining.
“We definitely came out a little flat,” McRae said. “It was tough playing from then on.”
Stokes went 1 of 5 in the first half, and McRae was 2 of 7. One sequence late in the half summed up their shooting woes. McRae missed a jumper, got the rebound and missed another jumper. Stokes rebounded the ball and tried to go to the basket only to have his shot blocked by Jones.
The Vols couldn’t even take set up the final shot of the half. McRae dribbled before throwing the ball in only to have Parker pick off his pass, and Fuller finished off the fast break with a layup that counted on goaltending for a 36-26 halftime lead.