Examining the block felt 'round the SEC

Monday, February 22, 2010 at 12:21am
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Vanderbilt's moment of truth Saturday came unsuccessfully as Kentucky's John Wall blocked John Jenkins three-point shot — an attempt Jenkins says would have gone in. / Mike Strasinger for The City Paper

John Jenkins did not hesitate when asked about his 3-point shot with three seconds to play Saturday against Kentucky.

“That shot was going in,” the Vanderbilt freshman guard said. “… That was going in for sure.”

Everyone will have to take his word for it: Almost as soon as the ball left his hand, it was blocked by Kentucky freshman John Wall, who also scored his team’s final five points, as Vanderbilt’s 18-game home win streak was snapped with a 58-56 defeat.

Part of the problem with Jenkins’ final shot was that he hesitated.

“I probably should have released it a little bit sooner,” Jenkins said. “But [Wall] made a good play. I hit the shot before and thought I’d do it again.”

The Commodores did not need a 3-pointer at that particular moment. They were down by one, 57-56.

Plus, other than Jenkins’ bravado, there was not a lot of reason to think that shot would be good. Before he made one 11 seconds earlier — and cut a four-point deficit to one — Vanderbilt had missed 11 in a row and 16 of 18.

Lance Goulbourne failed to bury one with 22 seconds to go; it would have given VU a 1-point lead. Goulbourne and Brad Tinsley each missed one in the final 10 minutes — both when the Commodores had a 2-point lead.

“Lance has a wide-open 3 to put us up — there in the corner — and nobody within 12 feet of him, and it just doesn’t go in,” coach Kevin Stallings said. “… Obviously, we struggled to make shots. Both teams struggled to make shots. That was kind of our undoing, our inability to make shots.”

Vanderbilt made just two 3-pointers (on 20 attempts) for the contest, which equaled their lowest total in recent seasons. They were 2-for-16 three times during conference play in 2008-09, and 2-for-17 against Furman early in the 2006-07 season.

Their top three 3-point shooters — Jenkins, Tinsley and Jermine Beal — were a combined 1-for-15. Beal (0-5) failed to make one for the first time in 19 games overall and 19 conference contests. Post player Steve Tchiengang made the Commodores’ first, with 8:43 to play in the first half — after they had missed their first six.

Kentucky did not fare much better. The second-ranked Wildcats made 3-of-16, which equaled their fewest in a game since they were 2-for-14 in their SEC opener against Georgia.

“We competed and battled as well and as hard as we have all season long,” Stallings said.

“We had some open ones and we had some that were very contested that they made us miss. But we had some good looks at the goal and just didn’t get them in the basket.

“I think the defense on both teams was very good. It was a very physical, hard-fought, very tough game and no place for anybody out there who was going to back up. There wasn’t any backing up going on on either side.”

It certainly did not pay to back up beyond the 3-point arc.