Monmouth Hawks push No. 18 Vandy in 95-73 loss
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)
King Rice got probably the best compliment Kevin Stallings ever pays a fellow coach.
Stallings kept his starters on the floor late until finally pulling them with 61 seconds left Friday night as No. 18 Vanderbilt beat Monmouth 95-73.
''When you're playing coach Stallings' team and he puts his guys back in, you know that you're doing the right thing,'' Rice said. ''Coach really put his guys back in tonight.''
Rice knows exactly what that meant because he worked the bench as Stallings' assistant the past five seasons at Vanderbilt and was his assistant for a few seasons at Illinois State. Consider it a big boost for a team that now has lost its first six games as Rice works in seven newcomers and deals with injuries leaving his roster short-handed.
''Our team really fought. That's what Monmouth basketball is all about,'' Rice said.
Monmouth trailed 50-27 at halftime and was down by 26 in the second half before the Hawks trimmed that lead all the way down to 11 points. That's when Stallings put his starters back in. John Jenkins scored 18 points, and Jeff Taylor and Brad Tinsley each added 16 as Vandy held on for its fourth straight win.
''I'm happy for him,'' Stallings said. ''He's been having a hard time getting his team to play hard as hard as he wants them to.''
The Commodores already are without starting center Festus Ezeli due to a sprained knee, and Steve Tchiengang sat with concussion-like symptoms after being hit in the face Monday night against Oregon State in winning the TicketCity Legends Classic in New Jersey.
Vanderbilt (5-1) didn't need him on a hot-shooting night where the Dores trailed only off the opening bucket. Josh Henderson and Dai-Jon Parker had a career-high 10 points each.
This easily was the toughest game yet for the Hawks. Monmouth is playing its first nine away from home and won't be back in New Jersey until Dec. 10. Jesse Steele scored 25 points, Ed Waite had 15 before fouling out, and Austin Tillotson 11.
Stallings finally pulled his starters with 1:01 left. This game offered a nice break for Vanderbilt, which hosts No. 12 Xavier on Monday night before visiting seventh-ranked Louisville on Dec. 2. Taylor said they must improve defensively and quickly.
''Or we're going to get beat here real soon,'' Taylor said.
Jenkins opened up on fire, hitting three of his first four shots - all from beyond the arc. He also hit a pair of free throws and had 11 points in the first half, giving him 38 career games scoring in double figures. His teammates all shot well too as Vanderbilt hit 68 percent (17 of 25) from the floor in the first 20 minutes, including 8 of 13 from beyond the arc. Five Commodores hit at least one 3.
The Commodores also had to deal with watching the Hawks run the same plays as they do, even down to the same phrases to call them out.
''Coach told us before the game it was going to be that way,'' Jenkins said. They were calling them out. It was weird.''
Andrew Nicholas hit a jumper in the opening seconds to at least give Monmouth a brief lead. But Jenkins hit his first 3 to put Vandy ahead to stay with 18:49, and the Commodores just got better as the half went on.
They reeled off a 12-2 run to push the lead to double digits with Stallings able to rest his starters and play reserves. Henderson scored twice in the spurt, and Kyle Fuller's layup made it a 21-7 lead. Steele scored on a layup, and Tillotson stole the ball near the Hawks' basket and hit a short jumper to pull Monmouth to 23-13 with 9:10 left.
Taylor hit back-to-back jumpers and Jenkins added another 3 to push the lead back out. Vanderbilt led by as much as 26 in the half before Steele's 3 with 3.5 seconds left pulled Monmouth within 50-27 at halftime.
The Commodores got a little sloppy in the second half with Monmouth refusing to back off. They also went 6:06 between field goals between Tinsley's 3 with 12:07 left before Lance Goulbourne scored on a layup with 6:01 remaining. During that drought, Monmouth got within 75-64 on a 3 by Steele before Vandy's starters helped put away the win.