The 3-pointer and Vanderbilt have been connected ... well, from the start.
Since the arc’s inception in 1986, the Commodores are one of just hree Division I teams — UNLV and Princeton are the others — to make at least one 3-pointer in every game. Vanderbilt’s streak currently sits at 811 contests, just 13 behind UNLV for the longest streak.
“I think we have a reputation for shooting a bunch of 3s,” said guard John Jenkins, who leads the country with four 3-pointers a game. “We’re known for shooting a lot."
Lately, the Commodores’ love affair with the long ball has been more evident. Over the last five games, they have averaged 19 3-point attempts, sinking 45.3 percent.
Heading into Tuesday’s road game at South Carolina (8 p.m, ESPNU), Vanderbilt (11-4, 1-0 SEC) ranks eighth in the country with 9.2 3-pointers a game. While it rides the hot perimeter shooting, the squad says the offense must expand — inward.
“We all understand that we can’t really fall in love with the 3. It can win you games but it can also lose you games,” guard Brad Tinsley said. “With [center Festus Ezeli] coming back, we want to play inside and out. That has been our game plan for a long time, since he has been here. We’ve got great shooters on the perimeter, but we also know we can’t live and die by the 3.”
So far going cold from 3-point range has cost the Commodores. They are 2-3 when they fail to make more than seven treys.
Still, those off nights have been rare. The team ranks second in the SEC with a 38.7 shooting percentage from beyond the arc.
“Knock on wood, we’ve been a good shooting team, so I’m really OK with utilizing the 3-point line to our advantage,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said.
It played in the Commodores’ favor on Saturday in a 65-35 victory against Auburn. They were 13-of-29 from beyond the arc, while Auburn was just 3-of-13. On the flip side, the Tigers had a 22-10 edge in the paint.
Ezeli, a 6-foot-11 senior, has played in just five games since recovering from knee injuries and will greatly impact Vanderbilt’s inside game. Stallings doesn’t just want his team to pound the paint to post up but to also draw contact.
Known in recent years for their ability to get to the foul line, the Commodores’ 298 free-throw attempts through 15 games ranks just sixth in the league.
“I want to get it inside, whether we pass it there or drive it there, so that we get to the foul line,” Stallings said. “That is my bigger concern — to make sure we get to the foul line as often as we can and as much as we need to because of the benefits are gained. Obviously, from having the other team in foul trouble ... but I’m plenty OK with what we’re doing from the perimeter right now.
“When you got guys that shoot it like Brad and John and Jeff [Taylor] do you just have to let them play and let those guys do what they do.”
• South Carolina is 8-7 and is coming off a 79-64 loss at No. 2 Kentucky in the SEC opener on Saturday.
The Gamecocks are led by Malik Cooke (12.9 ppg) — the only player who averages more than 10 points per game. The teams split the series last year. Vanderbilt blew a 14-point, second-half lead on the road, losing in overtime. But the Commodores dominated in the second meeting, winning 78-60 in Nashville.
• Stallings will be coaching in his 400th game at Vanderbilt when he steps onto the court Tuesday.
He is 247-152 in 13 years at Vanderbilt. He is the school’s second all-time winningest coach, only behind Roy Skinner, who won 278 (1959, 1962-76).