With Jenkins and Taylor, Vanderbilt has no interest in a balancing act

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 9:51pm

Over the last week, Vanderbilt’s offense was a two-man show.

Commodores head coach Kevin Stallings doesn’t want the act to end.

In wins at Ole Miss and Georgia, the tandem of guard John Jenkins and swingman Jeffery Taylor accounted for 58 percent of Vanderbilt’s points.

This shouldn’t come as a huge shock as the duo are the top two scorers in the Southeastern Conference.

“We’re starting to have an understanding that it is in our best interest that our offense not be equal opportunity,” Stallings said. “Jeff and John need the ball the most. Not that we don’t have other guys that can score because we do. We have other guys who are plenty capable of getting us 20. But, night in, night out, John and Jeff need to have the ball.”

The numbers don’t lie.

Heading into Wednesday’s home game against South Carolina (7 p.m., SEC Network), Vanderbilt is 9-0 when Jenkins and Taylor combine for more than 40 points. When the pair scores 40 or less, the Commodores have picked up 10 wins but also suffered eight losses.

Even more telling is that in six of their losses Jenkins has failed to score his average of 20 points. That includes the last five setbacks. 
Therefore, the more touches Jenkins (20.1 ppg) and Taylor (17.8 ppg) get usually means the better for Vanderbilt (19-8, 8-4).

“Everybody has to know their roles on the team,” Jenkins said. “[Stallings] has done a great job letting everybody know about that. He says it all the time in practice, so a lot of guys are just kind of buying in. I feel like we’ve [Taylor and I] kind of earned it. We’ve worked hard every day so it’s something that just comes with the territory.”

Jenkins, a 6-foot-4 junior, was named the SEC Player of the Week on Monday after he combined for 54 points against Ole Miss and Georgia.

In a rout against Ole Miss last Thursday, he scored 26 points despite attempting just five shots, all of which he made. Aiding him was the fact he went to the free-throw line a career-high 15 times. He capitalized on extra trips that resulted from several technical fouls and made a personal-best 12 foul shots. On Sunday at Georgia, he was 8-for-11, making six-3-pointers and all six free throws for 28 points — four shy of his career-high.

“It is hard to score 26 points on five shots. I’ve never seen anybody do that,” Stallings said. “I’ve seen very few people score 28 on 11. John had a great week. He was given a lot of help at Mississippi. Jeff was equally good. But John kind of saved us at Georgia because we did not play a particularly good game down there with the exception of John. He really pulled it out for us.”

Taylor was just as impressive against Ole Miss, making his first seven shots and setting a career-high with five 3-pointers (on six attempts). The 6-foot-7 senior scored 23 of his 28 points — two off his personal best — before halftime. He added 13 points against Georgia.

“I was sitting there the whole first half [against Ole Miss] and was I like, ‘Man, I don’t think this guy has missed a shot yet,’ ” forward Steve Tchiengang said. “It is incredible for a guy that used not to take any 3-pointers to now shoot almost better than John. The guy works hard and it is paying off.”

The recent scoring might be divvied up between two players, but others are chipping in.

Point guards Brad Tinsley and Kedren Johnson combined for nine assists — and just one turnover — against Ole Miss. Tchiengang took advantage of playing his most minutes (20) in two months as he continually set screens for Jenkins to get freed up behind the arc.

“We’re doing a better job of getting it to them. We’re doing a better job of getting them free to get it,” Stallings said. “I think that’s the key. As we continue to understand our roles and play our roles a little better I think our offense will continue to get better.”