One of the loudest ovations in Vanderbilt’s exhibition contest against Alabama-Huntsville on Tuesday came when freshman John Jenkins made the first of his three 3-point field goals.
The Station Camp graduate built a reputation as one of the best prep shooters in the country last year and showed why in short order of this one. He was on the mark with his first attempt, which came 42 seconds after he checked into the contest.
Not that there weren’t plenty of other reasons to cheer as Vanderbilt rolled to a 91-56 victory before 11,882 at Memorial Gymnasium.
“It’s so hard to tell what’s going on in these games,” coach Kevin Stallings said. “I thought we played hard. I thought we tried hard. … I was pleased with our effort, pleased with our ball movement. I thought we took reasonably good care of the ball.
“All in all, I think it was a good night.”
The Commodores executed a number of different defenses – beginning with a full-court press – with success, particularly early.
Alabama-Huntsville was limited to two points and zero field goals for the first 7:15. It missed its first 11 3-pointers, made five of 21 for the game and committed 16 turnovers to Vanderbilt’s eight.
“Hopefully all of (the defenses) will be good for us,” senior guard Jermaine Beal said. “Right now we’re kind of experimenting and trying to figure out which ones work the best.”
The Commodores built a decisive edge in rebounds (36-27) led by sophomore Andre Walker, who has returned from a knee injury that caused him to miss virtually all of last season. Walker, a 6-foot-7 forward, had seven rebounds in the first half and nine for the game.
VU also showed plenty of offense as it shot 53.3 percent from the field, 44.0 on 3-pointers. Four players scored in double figures led Jeffery Taylor with a game-high 19 points. Taylor made six of nine shots and earned more free throw attempts (nine) than any player on either team.
“I just came out and was aggressive,” Taylor said. “I tried to start out the game aggressive and taking what the defense gave me and (tried) to set the tone on offense a little bit.”
In addition to Jenkins, who was three-for-five on 3-pointers, six other Commodores made at least one of the long-range shots.
“This team’s going to make some shots,” Stallings said. “They’re good shooters. I just want us to sustain defensive intensity … and I want us to play hard, and I want us to play hard all the time.
“That’s the starting point and where we have to begin. Everything else can come from that.”
• A.J. Ogilvy, who missed a significant portion of preseason workouts with a concussion, did not start. The junior center did play 16 minutes, though, and had eight, four rebounds and one assist.
“You can tell he’s missed some practice time, and I feel badly for him,” Stallings said. “… We just have to work to get his habits built back up.”
• Festus Ezeli started in place of Ogilvy but played just 13 minutes because of foul trouble. He committed four fouls, including two one second apart in the opening minutes of the second half, but also blocked four shots.
I would like to have gotten Festus a little more (playing time), but Festus’ fouls caused that,” Stallings said. “… (Ezeli) has been really good in practice, so I was sorry to see him get the fouls.”
In addition to the fouls and blocks, Ezeli had eight points, six rebounds and a steal.
• Sophomore guard Brad Tinsley played a game-high 27 minutes for the Commodores. He scored 12 points, had five assists and one steal with just one turnover.
Eleven different players were on the floor for at least 12 minutes.
• Vanderbilt officially opens the season against Lipscomb, 7 p.m. Monday at Memorial Gymnasium.