Vandy blasts Grambling in second half

NASHVILLE-- John Jenkins scored 22 points, Brad Tinsley added 14 and Festus Ezeli finished with a double-double as Vanderbilt rallied from 12 point first half deficit to defeat Grambling, 92-59.

A Thanksgiving Eve crowd of 12,270 thought Vanderbilt would win easily after Jeffery Taylor scored on a routine layup less than one minute into the game. However, Grambling had other ideas. A Donald Qualls' 3-pointer gave the Tigers a 5-4 lead with 18:03 to go in the half. Later, a Chris Britt-Black jump shot surprisingly put visitors up 12-4 and grumblings could be heard among the Vanderbilt throng.

Rydell Harris' layup extended the lead to 16-4 which would be the Tiger's biggest edge of the game. That's when Vanderbilt woke up and got more aggressive both offensively and defensively. Lance Goulbourne pulled down an offensive board and then scored on a layup to cut the lead to 16-6 with just under 15 minutes to go. A minute later, Steve Tchiengang scored a layup after another offensive rebound, this time by Rod Odom. Goulbourne's 3-pointer with 13:28 to go pulled Vandy to within five at 16-11 and it was only a matter of time before the home team would take control.

A Brad Tinsley 3-pointer with 10 minutes to go before the half cut the Grambling lead to 24-21. Later, John Jenkins' three pulled the Commodores to within one, 31-30 with 6 minutes to go. After a turnover and foul by Derron Hobbs, Jenkins easily sank two free throw to give Vandy their first lead since the opening moments, 32-31.

A Rupert Rose 3-pointer with 3:46 to play briefly gave the Tigers back the lead, 36-34, but a minute later a Jenkins' layup tied the game at 36. The game was briefly tied again at 38 before Jenkins sank two free throws to give the Commodores a 40-38 lead at the break.

In the second half it was all Vanderbilt from start to finish. An Andre Walker dunk set off a 9-0 scoring run by the Commodores to start the second half. Justin Patton's 3-pointer with 14:38 left in the second half was the Tigers first points of the second stanza. Leading 47-41, Vanderbilt then went on a 20-2 run that was ended by a Chris Britt-Black free throw that made the score 67-44 with just under 10 minutes to play.

A Tinsley layup with 5:15 to go put Vanderbilt up 81-49. Vanderbilt's lead bulged to 33 in the final minute of the game even though Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings had flooded the court with reserves. Joe Duffy's free throw with less than a minute remaining put provided the final point of the game.

Duffy, who only played four minutes, nearly scored in double figures, finishing with 9. Steve Tchiengang had 12 and Festus Ezeli finished with 11. Ezeli also had 13 rebounds to finish with a double-double.

Vanderbilt out-rebounded the Tigers an by an incredible margin of 65-26.

"I liked our defensive intensity in the second half, and I was disappointed in our defensive intensity in the first half. It was a tale of two halves in that way," said Stallings after the game. "I thought we rebounded extremely well."

Ezeli continues to show improvement over his sophomore season when he made less than 50 percent of his free throws. Ezeli made 7-of-10 free throws during the game.

"He has just really worked on them (free throws). He would call or text Coach Richardson during the summer and said, `I made a 100 of 125 today," said Stallings.

The game was marred with 4:52 remaining in the first half when Vanderbilt's Taylor was fouled hard and intentionally by Grambling's Rupert Rose. Taylor laid on the floor for several minutes and did not return to the game after being assisted off the court by trainers. Stallings said after the game that he did not know Taylor's status. Taylor appeared to have some cuts to his face.

Vanderbilt improves to 4-1. The Commodores will host Appalachian State on Saturday at 1 p.m. CT. Grambling falls to 1-5.

Andre Walker (VM/Stan Jones)

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