Jenkins lifts No. 18 Vandy past Auburn 77-60

AP Sports writer

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Once John Jenkins and No. 18 Vanderbilt got going, Auburn couldn’t keep up.

Jenkins scored 22 points and the streaking Commodores used a dominant four-minute stretch in the second half to turn a tie game into a 77-60 rout over the Tigers on Saturday.

The Commodores (20-6, 8-4 SEC) went on a 23-4 run after Auburn (9-17, 2-10) managed to tie it six minutes into the second half. Their fifth straight victory gave Vandy its sixth 20-win season during coach Kevin Stallings’ 12 years in charge.

This one might have been a little tougher than expected — for a while, at least.

“I didn’t think we had the same energy level in the first half that we’ve had in some recent games,” Stallings said. “Some of that is natural. I think you have a bunch of just really tough ones in a row, and at some point you’re going to have a little bit of a letdown. We had one in the first half.”

Then Jenkins and the Commodores got over it. He hit 5 of 11 3-pointers and scored 16 in the second half. Jeffery Taylor had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Commodores while Brad Tinsley scored 16. Ezeli Festus only had six points but also blocked five shots.

Earnest Ross led Auburn with 19 points and Kenny Gabriel added 13. They were a combined 10-of-18 shooting while the rest of the team made just 12 of 32 attempts.

Ross also had 10 rebounds and five assists but committed six turnovers.

The Tigers tied the game 42-42 on back-to-back 3-pointers by Gabriel and Ross six minutes into the second half, but Vanderbilt quickly erased any hopes of an upset over the next four minutes.

“It was a huge four-minute war for us,” Taylor said. “We made a lot of shots and made big plays on defense.”

The Commodores scored the next 14 points to start a 20-2 run. Taylor had seven during the spurt and then dished to Jenkins, who capped it with a 3-pointer for a 65-46 lead.

Auburn coach Tony Barbee also drew a technical foul for stepping out of the coaching box after Ross was called for a charge.

“They made shots in the second half. But I thought as our offense turned the ball over, just made horrible decisions with the basketball,” Barbee said. “You’ve got a team that didn’t press us one possession, but we have 19 turnovers because we just made the worst decisions with the basketball I have ever seen in the second half.”

Vandy made 11 of its first 17 shots in the second half after shooting just 36 percent in a tight first half.

Jenkins, the SEC’s leading scorer, started slow and finished fast for the second straight game — much like his team. He was 2-for-8 shooting with six points in the first half and went to the bench after picking up his third foul with 1:39 left.

Jenkins managed to steer clear of further foul trouble and hit three second-half 3-pointers.

He scored all 21 of his points in the final 13:16 in a win Georgia, single-handedly equaling the Commodores’ first-half total as a team.

“They’re very explosive, they can score in a lot of ways,” Barbee said. “And a guy who might not have had a good first half — just look at what Jenkins did against Georgia, he didn’t score in the first half, then went off for 21 in the second. They’re a veteran team and they play that way. They don’t panic. They just stay in what they do, and they make plays and they make shots. And we just weren’t very productive offensively.”

Auburn was coming off a 90-59 defeat at Mississippi, but was much more competitive in this one most of the way before the bottom fell out.

“We kind of broke down defensively, kind of stopped playing,” Ross said. “We let go of the rope and just couldn’t get a stop defensively. We couldn’t make plays on offense either, and that put us in a hole. When you can’t score the ball when you get defensive stops, it’s kind of hard to win the game.”

The Commodores led only 28-26 at halftime, taking the lead on Andre Walker’s jumper with 3 seconds left.

They pounded away more after that.

“We were pretty much settling for perimeter shots, and they weren’t going in for us in the first half,” Taylor said. “In the locker room we said we were going to make a more concerted effort to attack the rim more, get the ball in the paint and just finish.”

Vandy forward Andre Walker returned after missing the past 13 games with a sprained ankle and had six points in 11 minutes.

“He looked a little rusty and hobbled a little, but he has to get back in there some time,” Stallings said.

Updated February 19, 2011