Lance Goulbourne — so far — is answering the call.
The 6-foot-8, 225-pound forward has the physical skills to attack the glass for Vanderbilt. Through six games this season, he is showing that talent off — grabbing 44 rebounds.
Thirty of those are offensive boards, which leads the team.
“Coach [Kevin Stallings] challenged me before the season even started to be the best offensive rebounder in the league and I kind of took that to heart,” Goulbourne said. “I feel like I am athletic enough, I’m tall enough and I can definitely out-jump a lot of guys in this league [Southeastern Conference]. And I’m stronger than a lot of these guys in this league at my position. I feel like I can get to the glass and be more aggressive and help this team in a lot of ways.”
All those abilities were on display on Saturday when Goulbourne grabbed eight rebounds — five offensive — and added 17 points in Vanderbilt’s 86-73 victory over Appalachian State at Memorial Gym.
It was the second straight solid rebounding game for Goulbourne, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., who comes off the bench. He grabbed a career-high 12 (nine offensive) rebounds in a win against Grambling State on Wednesday.
Against Appalachian State (2-2), he provided Vanderbilt (5-1) with huge lift in the second half. With the game tied at 61-61 with 9:18 left in the game, Goulbourne drove inside, drew a foul, made a tough basket and knocked down the ensuing free throw. On the next Vanderbilt possession, he dribbled to the left side and converted a layup for a five-point lead.
He helped push it to 69-63 with 7:03 remaining when he corralled an offensive rebound and kicked it out to John Jenkins, who drained a 3-pointer.
“Lance is really a valuable player to us right now,” Stallings said. “We can play him at a couple different positions and he is giving us great minutes and playing great. As long as he keeps playing hard and keeps rebounding the way he is, then he’ll obviously continue to help us a lot.”
The Mountaineers cut the lead back to 73-69 with less than five minutes to go when Goulbourne fouled Omar Carter. Carter made a jumper, which had to be reviewed to see if it was indeed a two-point basket.
During the officials’ review, Stallings drew up a play to get the ball to Goulbourne. After Carter made the free throw, Andre Walker found Goulbourne, who broke free thanks to a screen by Jenkins. Goulbourne threw down an emphatic dunk, which was the start of a 12-0 run that allowed Vanderbilt to pull away.
Jenkins led Vanderbilt in scoring again with 21 points, 15 coming in the first half. Festus Ezeli had a career-high 18 points. Brad Tinsley had eight assists and Walker added seven.
• Walker was responsible for defending Appalachian State’s Donald Sims for most of the game. Sims is averaging 26.3 points a game and scored 40 against Mississippi State. He had 27 points on 9-of-9 shooting but Walker held him in check as Sims went scoreless for the last six minutes.
“He is just a hard guy to take out of the lineup because he is arguably our best defender, one of our best passers and one of our best rebounders — one of our smartest guys,” Stallings said of Walker. “He is a real good, key guy for us.”
• It was the first game in more than a week for Appalachian State.
The Mountaineers were scheduled to play Tennessee Tech on Tuesday. No officials, however, were scheduled to work the game. Appalachian State was planning on staying in Cookeville for an extra day but a compromise could not be reached to play the game on Wednesday.
• The Vanderbilt women’s basketball team will be back in action on Sunday.
The Commodores defeated Quinnipiac 111-53 in the first round of the Thanksgiving Tournament on Friday at Memorial Gym.
Vanderbilt (3-1) plays Princeton in the championship game at 2 p.m. on Sunday.