Vanderbilt didn’t look like a team coming off a nine-day break. Then the Commodores tipped off.
A stellar performance in pre-game shootaround didn’t carry over initially. But after shaking off the rust from its longest layoff of the season, Vanderbilt pulled away for a 71-46 victory over Alabama A&M on Saturday night at Memorial Gymnasium.
“I probably should be more tolerant on them at the end of finals,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “But based on the way we performed in the shoot-around I thought we might score 100. We were crisp, sharp, ready but some of that didn’t show up to the floor [Saturday], which is not because they didn’t want it to. Sometimes that is just the way it goes.”
Luckily for the Commodores (4-4), they caught fire in the second half and won consecutive games for the first time this season.
Behind 19 points from Kedren Johnson, they stormed away in their first action since an overtime victory at Xavier on Dec. 6. Johnson scored 12 points after halftime and contributed to a 16-6 run. He accounted for 10 of 13 points and his third 3-pointer pushed the lead to 47-31 with 13:19 left.
“We were just trying to push the lead and not give them any hope,” Johnson said. “We just had to extend the lead. After we smelled blood we just had to go finish them.”
Alabama A&M (2-6) kept it close early but never led. The Bulldogs took advantage of second-chance opportunities and pulled within three several times in the first half.
Rod Odom drained an open 3-pointer seven seconds before halftime for a 31-22 Vanderbilt lead. Odom, a junior, finished with 17 points and four 3-pointers — both career-highs. Center Josh Henderson put together his best performance of his career. The sophomore made six of seven shots for a career-high 13 points, with 11 in the second half.
The Commodores leaned on a season-best 47.6 percent shooting (10 of 21) from 3-point range. They also shot 63.6 percent in the second half while A&M made only six shots after the break.
Of course, defensive and rebounding lapses and awful free-throw shooting — a season-low 47.4 percent (9 for 19) — left Stallings searching for some answers.
“We did some things that made me really pleased,” he said. “We did some things that we certainly could have done better. It’s kind of tough to gauge what happened. It was a scattered game. I knew it had a chance to be going in.”