Vanderbilt mauls Mercer, 99-59
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Vanderbilt converted over 60-percent of its shots for the second straight game and played active, pressuring defense on the other end to claim a easy 99-59 win over visiting Mercer on Monday night in Memorial Gym.
The Commodores limited Bears star scorer James Florence to his lowest point total in 31 games. Vanderbilt suffocated the senior point guard throughout much of the first half, limiting him to just four shots and holding the nation's 8th leading scorer to no points in the first half. He finished with just 10 on the night.
The Commodores also made sure to keep Bears marksman E.J. Kusnyer in check and forced the senior to no points for only the third time in 42 games played for the Bears.
Offensively, five Commodores reached double-figures, with freshman John Jenkins posting a career-high 17 points. The Gallatin native was near perfect in the first half, converting 3-of-4 shots from behind the arc. The former five-star prospect finished the night with four three's and converted 5-of-7 free throws.
Senior point guard Jermaine Beal, who forced Florence into a game-high eight turnovers defensively, scored 15 and dished out six assists. Sophomore guard Brad Tinsley broke out of his near season long shooting slump, converting 5-of-7 from the field for 14 points. The Oregon native also dished out four assists and grabbed four rebounds.
Jeffery Taylor added 13 points and five rebounds while junior big man A.J. Ogilvy came off the bench for the third straight game to add 11 points and a team-high six rebounds.
The Commodores shot 62.5-percent in the opening half and converted 7-of-11 from behind the arc to take double up the Bears heading into half time, 50-25. It was the most points for a first half for the Commodores this season. Defensively, the Commodores forced the Bears to shoot just 29.2-percent for the half, and continued that pressure in the second period, limiting Mercer to just 31.5-percent for the game and 22.2-percent from behind the arc.
"Well, that was a little better. It's amazing how things go when you shot the ball well, you make some shots," Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings said after the game. "It kind of gets contagious. Guys start feeding off it, lot of balls start going in. I was really pleased in how we played on the defensive end. Florence is a terrific player and I thought Beal was incredibly good on him. The fact that we were able to get some charges, was really valuable for us. They're a better team than that, it just kind of got snowballing on them and I've been on the other end of that, it's not any fun.
"I was pretty proud of our team, the way we worked. I thought we tried to guard for the entire 40 minutes and we were able to take their three primary scorers and limit them below their averages which is good. We're really pleased with how tonight went, it's pretty good to go into the break with a lot better feeling than we had on Saturday, when we didn't finish. We finished today, which was important."
Brad Tinsley and Jermaine Beal got the ball rolling to start the game with Tinsley hitting a jumper in the games first 12 seconds, followed by a three and later a jumper by Beal. Following a couple of layups and tip-ins from sophomore Andre Walker and Jeffery Taylor, Jenkins followed with a three of his own to give the Commodores a early 16-7 lead and force the Bears to take a 30-second time out.
Vanderbilt continued to pour it on following the stoppage of play, sophomore Lance Goulbourne and Beal nailing two more three-pointers along with a jumper from A.J. Ogilvy, to stretch the lead to 24-7. Bears junior Brandon Moore stopped the bleeding for a moment with a jumper to end a near 10 minute drought in which Mercer converted on only 2-of-13 shots. However, Ogilvy and sophomore Steve Tchiengang answered with five more points to give the Commodores its first 20-point lead of the game.
Vanderbilt extended the lead to as much as 27 points a few minutes later when Ogilvy tipped in a miss off the hands of Walker to make it 42-15 with just 4:29 to go in the half. After a series of Commodore fouls and some conversions by the Bears cut into the lead, Vanderbilt stretched the lead back to as much as 27 when Tchiengang converted a free throw on an "and-1" opportunity.
James Florence finally got on the scoreboard for the Bears inside the first minute of the second half when the Georgia native nailed a three-pointer from the wing. Florence tried to spark the Bears with a quick rebound and drive down the court following a Jeff Taylor miss, only to be fouled and convert only one from the line. Florence then made a couple of turnovers and missed three of his next four shots as the Commodores began to pull even further away. Vanderbilt established its first 30-point lead at the 17:12 mark when Festus Ezeli dunked off a feed from Taylor to make the score 60-29. Ezeli made his third straight start of the game and finished with six points, three boards and two blocks.
The Commodores continued to blister the nets and take advantage of its athleticism during the next 12 minutes and kept the game around a 30-point margin before Stallings began to let some of the team's walk-ons like Joe Duffy, Chris Meriwether, Jordan Smart and Aaron Noll into the game inside the final four minutes.
The scrappy bunch continued to display the same kind of energy that the regulars displayed through much of the game, diving for loose balls, utilizing ball fakes and even some give and goes.
Duffy finished the game off with a pair of free throws to claim a 40-point victory. It was the largest margin of victory for the Commodores since Vanderbilt defeated Kentucky 93-52 on Feb. 12, 2008.
Vanderbilt controlled the boards 37-31 and forced the Bears into 18 turnovers. The Commodores did commit 17 turnovers of their own but posted 22 assists.
Vanderbilt improves to 8-3 on the season with the win. The win also marked the 197th for Stallings during his 11-year year Commodore tenure, tying him with Bob Polk for the second-most wins in school history.
The Commodores will have some extended time off for Christmas Break this week and return to action next Wednesday, December 30th when the Manhattan Jaspers come to Nashville. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. CST.