NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — John Jenkins hit five 3-pointers and scored 26 points as Vanderbilt overcame a sluggish start and beat Miami (Ohio) 69-62 Monday night for the Commodores’ fourth straight victory.
Coming off a 74-57 win at then-No. 14 Marquette, the Commodores (10-4) opened this game like so many this season at Memorial Gym struggling to find the basket, hitting only two of their first 14 shots. They finally heated up, especially from 3-point range where they hit 8 of 18 (44.4 percent) for the game.
Jeffery Taylor and Brad Tinsley each added 11 points, and senior Festus Ezeli blocked four shots to become Vanderbilt’s career leader, passing former NBA player Will Perdue.
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Freshman Brian Sullivan came off the bench and led the RedHawks (4-8) with 24 points, going 8 of 10 from beyond the arc. Julian Mavunga had his eighth double-double this season but was held to a season-low 14 points, along with his 11 rebounds.
Vanderbilt has struggled at home this season, losing to Cleveland State and Indiana State, costing it a Top 25 ranking. The win at Marquette got the Commodores some votes Monday in the new Top 25 poll, and this time, Vanderbilt closed out an opponent that refused to go away.
The RedHawks, whose losses include 66-60 at then-No. 13 Xavier, pulled within 43-41 as Mavunga scored six points and Jon Harris hit a 3-pointer with 12 minutes left. Jenkins answered with another 3, then hit a jumper after a pump fake to push the lead to 48-41.
Miami (Ohio) pulled within 59-55 as Drew McGhee capped a 9-3 spurt. Jenkins hit a fall-away jumper to push it to 61-55 with 3:58 left, then the Commodores forced Miami (Ohio) into its fourth shot clock violation of the game.
Brian Sullivan hit his eighth 3 to pull Miami (Ohio) within 63-58 only to have Ezeli block Josh Sewell’s layup with 1:46 left. Miami (Ohio) never got closer than five as the Commodores hit all six free throws in the final 67 seconds to win.
Vanderbilt may have had trouble shooting early. Sullivan didn’t. He hit his first four 3-pointers and kept the Commodores from blowing the RedHawks out. His fourth 3 put the RedHawks up 18-14 with 7:57 left in the first half. Vince LeGarza scored on a layup to match that lead.
But Steve Tchiengang hit a pair of free throws as the first of nine straight points by Vanderbilt, including a 3-pointer by Taylor, and Taylor’s fast-break layup put Vanderbilt up 25-20 with 3:43 left.
Vanderbilt led 27-24 at halftime and opened the second half hitting four 3-pointers, the last two by Jenkins, to go up 39-30.