NASHVILLE, Tenn.-"Memorial magic" has taken many forms over the years, including 40-foot buzzer-beaters from Barry Goheen and Mario Moore.
Shan Foster's magic moment happened about four inches from the hoop.
The junior guard tipped in Derrick Byars miss of a layup with under a second on the clock, giving Vanderbilt (11-5, 1-1) an 82-81 victory over No. 16 Tennessee (13-3, 1-1) in front of a sellout crowd of 14,316 at Memorial Gym on Wednesday evening.
"A lot of games are won on tip-ins and that was running through my mind the whole time," said Foster in describing the game's final moment.
Just seconds earlier, the Vols had taken a one-point lead when freshman Duke Crews broke free for a two-handed dunk with 4.7 seconds to play. Tennessee nearly sealed the win when the Commodores couldn't get the ensuing pass in-bounds, but Vandy called a time-out just before the five-second count.
After a foul, Vandy's Ross Neltner threw the ball in from half-court, where he found Byars just outside the 3-point line on the right side.
Byars grabbed a contested pass and dribbled wide-open to the hoop for what looked to be a game-winning dunk. But Tennessee's Ramar Smith rotated under the hoop as Byars closed in, and the Memphis senior instead flung a layup towards the goal that missed everything but the backboard.
That's when Foster, who swooped in from the left side, grabbed the ball with two hands as it deflected to the left side of the hoop. Foster released the ball before his feet hit the floor, and the ball hit the backboard, rolled around the rim, and hung on the right front of the rim for a split second as if it might fall out of the cylinder.
It didn't. The ball tickled the twine just as the buzzer expired, and then Foster and his teammates sprinted around the floor in celebration of defeating their in-state rivals, who beat the Commodores twice last season.
"We have a little bit of a grudge against those guys," said senior Dan Cage, who scored 15 points. "They swept us last year, but more than anything, it's a morale boost for us To beat a legit team like UT definitely gives us confidence."
Before Foster's tip, Byars nearly went from hero, to forgotten man, to goat in a span of 15 seconds. The Memphis senior had been spectacular in scoring 25 points, including a long 2-pointer with just 15 seconds to play that gave the Commodores a lead before Crews' ensuing dunk.
Byars' 20-point second half led the Commodores back from a three-point halftime deficit, as he scored 10 points on three layups, a foul shot and a three-pointer in a 4:56 span to begin the half that put Vandy up 51-44.
The Commodores led by as many as 10 with 10:37 remaining, but the Vols, led by a spectacular shooting performance by Chris Lofton, wouldn't go away. Tennessee's all-American bombed in shots with a length and a frequency not seen since former LSU great Chris Jackson torched Vanderbilt in a pair of games in the late-1980's.
Vandy's Foster stuck to Lofton all night, but the UT star simply shot over his outstretched arms as if Foster wasn't there. The spectacular array included an amazing shot just inside the half-court circle with seconds left in the first half to give the Vols a 40-37 lead at the break.
And just as Vandy had taken the double-digit lead, Lofton brought the Vols back within six, sandwiching a Byars' lay-up with two long 3's to cut the deficit to 61-54 at the 9:54 mark.
From there, Lofton and Ramar Smith would keep the game close with a combination of long bombs and lay-ups. Lofton broke free inside at 4:18 for a lay-up, and JaJuan Smith stroked a three from the right side at 3:53 for a 74-71 Vol lead.
Tennessee held that lead until Neltner put Vandy within one with a lay-up at the 1:05 mark.
On the ensuing possession, Vandy double-teamed Lofton, who got caught around mid-court with the shot clock running out, and Lofton was unable to get the ball to a teammate in position to shoot as the shot clock expired with 27 seconds left.
That set up Byars' go-ahead jumper, which gave Vandy its short-lived lead.
"We're obviously happy to have won," said Stallings. "I guess that's what rivalry games are all about. We scored, then they scored, and fortunately we scored again."
The loss snapped a nine-game winning streak for the Volunteers, who beat Mississippi State in their SEC opener. Vandy was coming off a road defeat at Auburn on Saturday.
The Commodores next game comes on the road this Saturday at Georgia. Tipoff is 3 p.m. Central Time.