Monmouth Hawks push No. 18 Vandy in 95-73 loss

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.