John Jenkins made two free throws and put Vanderbilt ahead to stay with 8:06 remaining and then made five more in the final 56 seconds to put the game out of reach as the Commodores defeated No. 8 North Carolina 72-65 Sunday in their final game at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
Jenkins, a sophomore guard, made just two of 10 shots from the field (two of seven 3-pointers) but was 10-for-12 on free throws and scored a team-high 16 points.
Jeffery Taylor and Festus Ezeli added 15 points each. Taylor added two blocked shots, and Ezeli had a team-high nine rebounds.
Lance Goulbourne’s layup with 12:38 to play in the first half broke a 13-13 tie and started a 9-0 run that gave the Commodores (3-1) the lead, which they held for an extended period.
The Tar Heels (2-2) finally went ahead 48-47 on Leslie McDonald’s jumper with 11:27 remaining.
The teams traded the lead three times over the next 2:12. North Carolina tied it 51-51 when Harrison Barnes, a preseason All-American as a freshman, made one of two free throws.
Jenkins’ free throws then started an 8-0 run (he capped the stretch with one more) and Vanderbilt led by at least three the rest of the way.
As a team the Commodores made 21 of 27 from the foul line. The Tar Heels made 18 of 27.
UNC’s Tyler Zeller had game-highs of 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Barnes finished with 11 points two assists and two steals.
No. 16 Florida State 72, No. 23 Vanderbilt 66
Vanderbilt faced its first big test of the young season and nearly passed.
The 23rd-ranked Commodores rallied once but couldn’t do so a second time. Consequently, they fell 72-66 to No. 16 Florida State at Tallahassee, Fla.
Playing in its first road game, Vanderbilt (2-1) trailed by 11 in the first half and stormed all the way back to grab a 38-37 lead after a layup by Tiffany Clarke with 13:30 left in the game. The teams kept it close for quite a bit after that. Vanderbilt's last lead was 46-45 on another basket by Clarke.
Florida State (4-0) finally pulled away with fewer than three minutes remaining. Clinging to a 63-61 lead, Courtney Ward sunk a 3-pointer with 2:33 to go and start a 7-2 run. Ward's two free throws made it 70-64 with 31 seconds remaining.
The guard scored the team’s last nine points, six on free throws. She led all scorers with a career-high 31 points, shooting 7-for-9 from behind 3-point range.
“At this level, that was the most tired I've seen one of my teams,” Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said. “I thought we fought and I was proud of our fight.”
Vanderbilt trailed 31-20 with more than five minutes left in the first half. The Commodores opened the second half on a 13-4 run – fueled by seven points from freshman Jasmine Lister – to take the lead on Clarke’s basket.
Freshman guard Christina Foggie, who missed Vanderbilt’s home game against Samford on Thursday with a calf injury, scored a game-high 21 points as made five 3-pointers. Lister added 17 points and senior Hannah Tuomi had 11.
Senior guard Jence Rhoads played in her first game this season after injuring her hamstring nearly two weeks ago in an exhibition game. She had two points, five rebounds, five assists and six turnovers in 36 minutes before fouling out.
Vanderbilt hosts a Thanksgiving Tournament this weekend and will play Quinnipiac at 7 p.m. on Friday in the first round at Memorial Gym. The tournament will continue Sunday with the third-place and championship games.