"I'm really proud of how hard they fought and the character and toughness that they showed to win the game," said head coach Kevin Stallings of his team, just moments after listing off the health statuses of big men Festus Ezeli, Steve Tchiengang and Andre Walker, all of whom are battling leg injuries. "It took a lot of courage for our team to win this game, and I really am proud of them for it."
With impact inside presences Ezeli and Tchiengang limited in minutes and mobility, Lance Goulbourne stepped up in just his seventh start of the season to deliver one of the best all-around performances of his career.
"To look at Lance Goulbourne in 30 minutes get 14 points and 16 rebounds and five assists, only have one turnover, that's a pretty stellar night right there," said Stallings.
Goulbourne was a large part of the reason the Commodores held Ole Miss to just nine offensive rebounds just one game after yielding 19 to Tennessee on Saturday. The junior converted many of those rebounds into additional second-chance opportunities around the basket on the way to his third-highest point total of the season and a 7-for-9 shooting night from the foul line.
"We've been focusing on that in practice, doing a lot of box-out drills and stuff like that, so it's good to see that we only held them to nine offensive rebounds," said Goulbourne, who picked up the first double-double of his Vanderbilt career. "We don't want to give teams second shots because those are hard to defend."
"I think that's Kevin Love-type stuff, to be honest," said John Jenkins of Goulbourne's 16-board night, which included 13 defensive rebounds. "That's some crazy numbers. I didn't know he had that much, but I knew he had a lot."
Jenkins played 39 minutes and led all scorers with 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field, including 10 first-half points to help limit the damage caused by a hot start from the field for the Rebels. Three of his fellow starters, Brad Tinsley, Jeff Taylor and Goulbourne, also played 30 minutes or more.
"One thing I like to do is bring energy to the team, and I think I did a better job of doing that today, so Coach wanted to leave me on the floor to keep the energy going," said Jenkins. "I did it for the team tonight, and I wasn't tired at all. I was just going to keep fighting until the end."
Stallings offered up special praise to Ezeli for fighting through visible pain and staying in the game after re-tweaking his knee while blocking a layup from Terrance Henry in the game's opening minute.
"I just know one thing, that joker, he's a warrior, boy," Stallings said of Ezeli. "He was in pain. For those of us who get to see him play on a regular basis, he would've dunked about four of those balls, and he couldn't even jump up and dunk. So there's an issue. But I loved how he played, dove on the floor there at the end of the game going for a rebound. I just can't say enough about all those kids, they played their hearts out and they knew we needed this."
Ezeli, forced to play additional minutes when Tchiengang was held out of the entire second half due to his ankle injury, finished with 16 points and three rebounds.
The Rebels took a 42-39 lead into halftime but shot just 34.3% from the field the rest of the way. Chris Warren and Dundrecous Nelson each scored 17 points for the visitors.
The Commodores moved to 2-2 in Southeastern Conference play with the victory, while the Rebels dropped to 0-4. Vanderbilt welcomes St. Mary's College into Nashville on Saturday for the final non-conference game of its regular season at 1:00 p.m. CT.
Goulbourne steps up to help Commodores rally
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