NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—Kevin Stallings rarely frets when John Jenkins shoots.
Jenkins didn’t miss much on Wednesday night, matching a career-high with seven 3-pointers to lead the Commodores with 27 points in an 89-58 victory over Lafayette.
“I want John to be a complete player. John’s shooting is the last thing I need to worry about,” Stallings said. “He has improved his defense incredibly from a year ago—all because he wanted to and all because he decided to. Now he thinks he is trying to be a more complete player in other offensive ways. John really wants to be good.”
Jenkins opened the game with a 3-pointer and didn’t slow down for Vanderbilt (8-4), which won consecutive games for the first time in a month.
He hit three straight 3-pointers early in the second half and missed just two attempts from long range.
“From the first play when Brad (Tinsley) hit me in the corner, I was feeling it and I wanted to keep it going,” Jenkins said. “Bad games are going to happen. It is how you bounce back and how you move forward.”
Jenkins’ hot shooting appeared to be contagious as the Commodores made 15 3-pointers—their most since March 5, 2008. They sank 10 treys after halftime and had seven players connect from long range.
Vanderbilt couldn’t miss early, knocking down its first six shots to jump out to a 14-2 lead. Jeffery Taylor scored seven straight points, highlighted by a tomahawk slam after a steal, and Rod Odom’s leaner off the glass stretched the lead to 26-8 with 12:39 left.
The Commodores went cold over the next 9 1/2 minutes, missing nine straight shots, including several layups and tip-ins. They became careless with the basketball, losing the ball in transition and tossing it away in the paint. Vanderbilt finished with 10 first-half turnovers after an error-free opening eight minutes.
“I think we saw a lot go in early and we just thought we could get them whenever we want,” Jenkins said.
Slowly, Lafayette (4-7) began to take advantage, going on an 11-1 run. Rob Delaney’s jumper with 3:21 to go pulled the Leopards within eight, but that was as close as they would get.
On the next possession, Jenkins snapped the skid with a 3-pointer from the corner. The Commodores scored 12 of the final 17 points in the half, capped by a two-handed slam from Lance Goulbourne. The jam gave Vanderbilt a commanding 39-24 halftime lead.
Taylor scored 16 points and Goulbourne added 15. Ten Commodores players scored as they spread the ball around with 21 assists. Tinsley led the charge, matching a career-high with 10 assists.
“What we’ve done the last two games, which hopefully will carry on, is that our guys are penetrating to kick,” Tinsley said. “That is a big thing—always make the teammates better.”
The Leopards were playing their first game in 10 days and looked flat. They entered the game tied for fifth in the country with 9.8 3-pointers per game. Against Vanderbilt, they missed 11 of their first 13 and were just 5 of 16 from long range.
Seth Hinrichs led the way with 16 points and Ryan Willen added 13.
“We showed a lot of rust right from the start,” Lafayette coach Fran O’Hanlon said. “Getting behind a team like this, you really have to keep it close. You have to compete the whole game. Not that we didn’t compete, but they had those monster runs on us.”
The Commodores cruised in the second half despite being short-handed inside. Center Festus Ezeli missed his second straight game with a knee injury. Then starting forward Steve Tchiengang left with 30 seconds left in the first half after accidentally bumping heads with a Lafayette player. He did not return.
Vanderbilt will have more than a week to heal up before it travels to No. 10 Marquette on Dec. 29.
“It has been grueling but everyone is going through it,” Tinsley said. “I think it is nice to have a couple days here . to kind of rest your minds and rest your bodies. I think the focus on this team and where we are going right now is really good, really positive.”