No. 18 Vanderbilt 95, Monmouth (NJ) 73

Vanderbilt took home a big win. Coach Kevin Stallings still is

so disappointed in how his 18th-ranked Commodores failed to put

away a winless team he feels like they lost.

John Jenkins scored 18 points, and Jeff Taylor and Brad Tinsley

each added 16 to help Vanderbilt beat Monmouth 95-73 on Friday

night after letting a 26-point lead get whittled down to 11 before

finishing off the game.

”I feel like we really got outworked, out-toughed, outplayed

and we won because we have superior talent and superior players,

size, strength and athleticism, skill,” Stallings said. ”But we

lost the fight portion of the game tonight, and that’s

disappointing.”

The game pitted Stallings against his former assistant King Rice

in his first season as Monmouth’s head coach. Stallings said it

looks like the Hawks are buying into Rice’s message of how he wants

them to play.

”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.

The Commodores (5-1) didn’t need him on a hot-shooting night

where they 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 (0-6). Jesse

Steele scored 25 points, Ed Waite had 15 before fouling out, and

Austin Tillotson 11.

Monmouth is playing its first nine away from home and won’t be

back in New Jersey until Dec. 10. Rice, who spent the past five

seasons with Stallings at Vandy and also was on the bench for him

at Illinois State, has seven newcomers on his roster.

Rice said he knows how good the Commodores are and wondered why

Taylor now is hitting pull-up jumpers he often missed last

season.

”The second half, when you’re playing coach Stallings’ team and

he puts his guys back in, you know that you’re doing the right

thing. Coach really put his guys back in tonight,” Rice said.

That Stallings did, until 1:01 left after they had gotten

sloppy. 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 put together seven straight points and got to 71-56 on

Nesmith’s fast-break layup with 7:57 left.

Stallings took a timeout, and Goulbourne came back with that

layup and hit the free throw for a 78-65 lead.