KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee ended its skid because Te'a Cooper broke out of her own personal funk.
Cooper scored 13 points and sparked a critical third-quarter run Thursday as No. 18 Tennessee defeated Vanderbilt 58-49 and avoided its first three-game losing streak since 1986. Cooper had scored a total of two points and had shot 1 of 15 in the three games leading up to this one.
"It's no secret," Cooper said. "I'd been in a slump for a minute."
Vanderbilt (13-5, 2/3 SEC) has never beaten the Lady Volunteers (12-6, 3-2) at Knoxville in 31 attempts.
The Commodores rallied from a 14-point deficit and only trailed 52-49 when they had the ball on two separate occasions in the final minute, but they turned the ball over both times. Tennessee sealed the victory by going 6 of 6 on free throws in the final 16 seconds.
Cooper helped Tennessee grab that double-digit advantage. Tennessee was clinging to a 30-28 lead in the third quarter when the freshman guard scored her team's first nine points in a 14-2 spurt.
"I just think she was solid and probably the most focused she's been in a long time," Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said.
Vanderbilt's Rebekah Dahlman had 17 points to lead all scorers. Marqu'es Webb scored just three points but had 13 rebounds for Vanderbilt before fouling out. Diamond DeShields had 11 points for Tennessee.
Tennessee led 44-30 late in the third quarter and still had a 13-point edge with less than six minutes left when Vanderbilt staged its comeback.
Vanderbilt cut the lead to 52-49 when Webb scored and drew a foul with 1:42 left, but she missed the ensuing free throw. Vanderbilt trailed by three when Jasmine Jenkins traveled with 57 seconds left.
Webb stole the ball from DeShields, giving the Commodores one more chance with the score still 52-49. After Vanderbilt called a timeout with 27 seconds left, Dahlman committed a turnover with 15.7 seconds remaining.
"I'm really proud of our team tonight," Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said. "To come back against a team that's fighting the way they did. I can't ask any more from them. Yeah, we had two possessions we didn't execute to win the game, but it was right there. That's what you want on the road."
Vanderbilt: Christa Reed missed her only three 3-point attempts of the game. She entered the night leading the SEC in 3-point percentage (.457).
Tennessee: The Lady Vols were outrebounded 36-29 by the shorter Commodores. Vanderbilt didn't start anyone taller than 6-foot-1. Tennessee's starting lineup had three players taller than 6-1, including 6-6 center Mercedes Russell. Tennessee entered the night having outrebounded its last six opponents.
This game took place as part of the SEC's "We Back Pat" Week to salute former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt and fight Alzheimer's disease.
During a timeout, the Pat Summitt Foundation presented a $400,000 check to the University of Tennessee Medical Center. The funds are directed toward the launch of the Pat Summitt Alzheimer's Clinic.
Tennessee outscored Vanderbilt 25-13 in points off turnovers. ... Vanderbilt had 23 turnovers and only eight assists. ... Although Vanderbilt had seven more rebounds than Tennessee, each team had eight second-chance points.
Vanderbilt: Hosts Alabama on Monday.
Tennessee: At No. 9 Kentucky on Monday.
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