Commodores bounce LSU, 62-50, without Jenkins

ATLANTA-- With its All-SEC shooting guard on the bench with a toe injury, Vanderbilt got 21 points and 12 rebounds from Jeffery Taylor and still managed to ease by LSU 62-50 Thursday in the opening round of Southeastern Conference Tournament action at the Georgia Dome.

The Commodores (22-9) led by as much as 20 points in the second half. The Tigers (11-21), whose season came to a merciful end, rallied to cut the lead to eight with four minutes left. But the Commodores held LSU scoreless the rest of the way and made free throws down the stretch to preserve the victory.

With the win, the Commodores advanced to the quarterfinals, where they will face Mississippi State (17-13) Friday at 9pm CT (SEC Network).

"We feel good about winning the game," said Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings. "We feel good about doing it without our leading scorer, and I thought guys really stepped up for us."

Jenkins was mysteriously held out of the game due to a painful injury suffered in the Florida game last Saturday. In the locker room afterwards, Jenkins said he could have played if needed, but the decision was made by the coaching staff Thursday afternoon to hold him out for LSU to allow the toe to heal.

"Somebody tripped me in the Florida game," said Jenkins, whose left foot and toe were heavily taped. "It's turf toe. I didn't realize how much a toe could hurt. But I think I could have played and been OK. I should be able to go tomorrow if needed."

"He could have played today if we gotten in a situation where we felt like we had to have him," said Stallings of the SEC's leading scorer. "We'll have a shoot-around tomorrow and go and look and see how he's feeling and see if he's any better than he was today."

As it turned out, Vanderbilt was fine Thursday without him. Rod Odom took his place in the starting lineup, Brad Tinsley moved from point guard to 2-guard, and substitutes Kyle Fuller and Andre Walker got extensive minutes to take up the slack.

The final score was much closer than the previous meeting between the two schools, a 90-69 Vanderbilt victory on Feb. 26 in Baton Rouge. But the Commodores were clearly happy to escape with a win and the opportunity to play another day.

"We have been dealing with injuries throughout the year," said Taylor, whose 21 points led all scorers. "It was the same thought process when we heard that John wasn't going to play. Other people had to step up.

"We have a very capable team, very capable players, so other people stepped up and chipped in and we got the win."

Festus Ezeli and Tinsley added 10 points each, and Lance Goulborne contributed 13 rebounds. The Commodores out-rebounded LSU 48-32.

The Commodores defeated Mississippi State earlier this season, but it was the Bulldogs who eliminated Vanderbilt in the semifinals in last year's SEC Tournament in Nashville.

"We'll have to play well, and we'll have to play better than we did today," said Stallings of Friday's matchup. "Offensively, we'll have to be a little better than we were today, but defensively I hope that we're as good. And I hope that we do the same kind of job on the backboards."

In other SEC Tournament action Thursday, Georgia defeated Auburn 69-51; Ole Miss eliminated South Carolina, 66-55; and Tennessee bounced Arkansas, 74-68 behind Tobias Harris' 20 points. On Friday Georgia will take on Alabama at noon CT; Ole Miss meets Kentucky at 2:30; and Tennessee faces Florida at 6:30. Top Stories