Vanderbilt-Oregon St. Preview
The junior guard may need to give the 18th-ranked Commodores another boost in the title game in East Rutherford, N.J., as Jared Cunningham has been on a scoring tear for Oregon State.
Vanderbilt will try to prevent the Beavers from their first 5-0 start since 1986 on Monday night when these teams meet for the first time.
After watching Tuesday's 80-68 home win over Bucknell from the bench, Jenkins returned Saturday to score a season-best 28 points in an 86-79 semifinal victory over North Carolina State. He poured in 20 in the opening 20 minutes.
"The ankle really wasn't an issue. I did feel a little better at the shootaround,'' said Jenkins, averaging a team-best 23.0 points and shooting 39.4 percent (13 for 33) from 3-point range.
"I was going to go tonight no matter what. I wasn't letting my teammates down. But I never thought I'd be this productive. Coach (Kevin Stallings) got in my face a little in the shootaround, because I thought I wouldn't feel good at all. But once I started shooting, I felt better.''
Oregon State coach Craig Robinson has to feel good when the ball's in Cunningham's hands. The junior is shooting 54.0 percent from the field and has 72 points in the last two games after scoring a career-best 37 in Saturday's 100-95 overtime victory against Texas.
Cunningham scored seven of the Beavers' final 10 fourth-quarter points to help them rally from seven down with 7:11 left.
"He's come a long way. He's extremely receptive to coaching and this is the culmination of his hard work,'' Robinson said of Cunningham, who played the final minutes of regulation and overtime with a split lip. "He does everything for us."
Cunningham will try to become the first Oregon State player to score 30 points in three consecutive games since Corey Benjamin did from Jan. 31-Feb. 7, 1998.
Junior Jeffery Taylor will likely get the assignment of guarding Cunningham as the Commodores (3-1) look for a better effort on the defensive end. Vanderbilt's opponents are shooting 49.1 percent from the field after the Wolfpack made half of their 62 shots Saturday.
"... We have a long way to go before we're a good team,'' said Taylor, who's 14 points shy of passing Kevin Anglin for 16th place on the program's all-time list with 1,391. "We're going to do our best to be the team we want to be.''
The Commodores have found their shooting touch in the last two games by making 48.4 percent, but they have to improve from the foul line. Vanderbilt has missed 39 of 101 free throws after going 21 for 33 on Saturday.
Cunningham is among the nation's leaders in free throws made (46) and attempted (57) after hitting a career-best 20 in the semifinals.