Vanderbilt knocks off Saint Mary’s

Kevin Stallings can’t wait to see how his Vanderbilt Commodores play once they really heal up.

John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor both scored 19 points and Vanderbilt beat No. 22 Saint Mary’s 89-70 to snap the Gaels’ 11-game winning streak Saturday in the last non-conference game for both teams.

Vanderbilt (14-4) improved to 3-1 against the Top 25 this season and 2-0 against the Gaels. The Commodores won their second straight by closing out the first half with a 21-5 run and with sizzling shooting from beyond the arc (11-of-22) to make up for their two big men – Festus Ezeli and Steve Tchiengang – limited to a combined 31 minutes due to injuries.

”I really fretted over this,” Stallings said of this game. ”We’ve had about 20 minutes of practice since we beat Mississippi. I’m talking about meaningful live practice with everybody included. … So I was very worried. I really didn’t know if we were physically in the kind of condition we needed to be in to win this game.”

Brad Tinsley had a season-high 18 for Vandy. Lance Goulbourne had 15 points and 10 rebounds for his second straight double-double, and Tinsley called this a big confidence booster against a ranked team.

”They’re a little bit better than they played today … Only their third loss, so they’re used to winning. I thought we played well from tip to buzzer,” Tinsley said.

Saint Mary’s (17-3) hadn’t lost since Dec. 1 to then-No. 17 San Diego State, and this loss is a tough end to a week when the Gaels moved into the rankings for the first time since Jan. 26, 2006.

This game was the second part of a home-and-home, and coach Randy Bennett said the scheduling was a payback to Vandy visiting last season. Bennett said he would have preferred to play this game earlier to give his Gaels more time to learn some painful lessons. They won’t have as much time with a visit to Gonzaga next on Thursday.

”What we can learn from it is we learn to be more mentally tough on the road,” Bennett said.

Matthew Dellavedova lead the Gaels with 19 points. Rob Jones had 15, and Stephen Holt 11.

Mitchell Young came in as the West Coast Conference’s top shooter at 64 percent averaging 10.5 points a game. He took only one shot and had no points before fouling out with 7:05 left. Mickey McConnell fouled out with 3:20 to go after scoring only six points. He had averaged 16.5 over his previous 11 games.

Stallings improved to 104-8 against non-Southeastern Conference opponents at Memorial Gym, and he had a soldout crowd cheering loudly once his Commodores took control of this one. The Commodores also outrebounded Saint Mary’s 39-27 to remain undefeated at home this season.

”We don’t want to lose at home,” Jenkins said. ”We know this is a big game for us them being Top 25.”

Saint Mary’s didn’t even get to the free throw line in the first half. Vanderbilt nearly had more chances the line in the first half (11-of-13) than the Gaels finished with for the game (12-of-15). The Commodores finished 26-of-32 for a season-high 81.3 percent shooting at the line.

”We’ve got to address that as a team,” Bennett said. ”We’ve got to do a better job of getting to the basket and getting to the foul line.”

The opening minutes looked like this would be a tight game with five ties and four lead changes. Vanderbilt missed five of its first six shots. Saint Mary’s didn’t have a problem with the early tipoff despite having flown in from California, hitting nine of the first 11 shots with Jones’ 3 putting them up 19-13 with 12:56 left.

But Jones also woke up the Commodores when called for a technical as he hung on the rim trying to slam back through the dunk he had just missed with 7:29 remaining and Saint Mary’s up 23-22.

Jenkins, the SEC’s leading scorer, hit the second free throw for his first point of the game to tie it up. He then came back with a 3 to put Vandy ahead to stay. Tchiengang added a 3 for his only bucket in 13 minutes playing with a sore right ankle, then Jenkins hit another 3 that started the 21-5 run as the Commodores lead 43-28 at halftime.

The Gaels never got closer than five in the second half, the last midway through the half on a three-point play by McConnell. Vandy just kept adding to its lead and was up by 21 late.