John Jenkins was contagious on Wednesday night — but in a good way.
The Vanderbilt shooting guard wasn’t the only Commodore sinking 3-pointers. Many of his teammates had the Midas touch as well.
Behind 15 3-pointers, Vanderbilt cruised to an 89-58 victory over Lafayette in front of an announced crowd of 13,034 at Memorial Gymnasium.
Seven different players, led by Jenkins, players connected from long range. The junior guard nailed with seven 3-pointers and finished with 27 points as the Commodores (8-4) won consecutive games for the first time in more than a month.
“We really played unselfish ball,” Jenkins said. “I think we had 21 assists. That is really good. When guys are passing the ball and we’re scoring like that, it is hard to beat us.”
The Commodores drilled 10 of the long shots after halftime, finishing with their most since March 5, 2008, against Mississippi State when Shan Foster made nine 3-pointers in a row.
On the other hand, Lafayette (4-7), out of the Patriot League, was just 5-of-16 from beyond the arc. The Leopards entered the game tied for fifth in the country with 9.8 3-pointers a game.
“The shots aren’t as open as you may think because they are long and athletic,” Lafayette coach Fran O’Hanlon said. “I think we rushed it some times because we were afraid they were going to close out on us and take away that shot.”
Vanderbilt pounced all over the Leopards, who hadn’t played in 10 days. It made its first six shots and took a 14-2 lead. Jeffery Taylor scored seven straight points, highlighted by a one-handed slam after a steal, and Rod Odom’s leaner off the glass stretched the lead to 26-8 with 12:39 left.
Overt he next 10 minutes the Commodores missed nine straight shots. Careless turnovers — 10 over the last 12 minutes — also allowed Lafayette to stick around.
Rob Delaney’s jumper with 3:21 to go capped off an 11-1 run and pulled the Leopards within eight. That was as close as they got.
On the next possession, Jenkins snapped the skid with a 3-pointer in the corner. The Commodores scored 12 of the final 17 points in the half, capped off by a two-handed slam from Lance Goulbourne. The jam gave Vanderbilt a commanding 39-24 halftime lead.
“I think we saw a lot go in early and thought we could get them whenever we wanted,” Jenkins said. “I think we had to go back to moving the ball and getting it inside and getting fouled.”
Taylor’s 20-point scoring streak ended at three games as he finished with 16. Goulbourne added 15 and Brad Tinsley matched a career-high with 10 assists. Seth Hinrichs led Lafayette with 16 points.
The Commodores were without Festus Ezeli (knee) for the second straight game. Steve Tchiengang joined Ezeli on the bench after he received an accidental head butt from a Lafayette player with 27 seconds left in the first half. The starting forward did not return.
Thus, Vanderbilt turned to perimeter shooting — led by Jenkins.
The SEC’s leading scorer was just two games removed from a season-low 11-point performance in a loss to Indiana State on Saturday. In two games since he has averaged 23.
Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said he is never worried about Jenkins’ shooting. What has impressed him, though, is his work in other areas. Stallings was quick to note that Jenkins has six assists in his last two games. He had just as many in the first 10 games.
“I want John to be a complete player. John’s shooting is the last thing I need to worry about,” Stallings said. “He has improved his defense incredibly from a year ago — incredibly — all because he wanted to and all because he decided to. Now he thinks he is trying to be a more complete player in other offensive ways. John really wants to be good.”