Vanderbilt issued a reminder on Saturday afternoon: John Jenkins isn’t the only Commodore who can knock down 3-pointers.
While the sophomore guard draws most of the attention with his gifted ability from long range, Vanderbilt’s outside options extend past him.
That was clear against South Carolina as the Commodores cruised to a 78-60 victory at Memorial Gymnasium thanks to a combined seven 3-pointers from starter Jeffery Taylor and reserve Rod Odom. It was a big win for Vanderbilt (16-6, 4-4), which had dropped two straight and was looking to avoid falling even further in the East Division of the Southeastern Conference.
Taylor, who prior to this season had been known more for his driving and dunks than his jumpers, made a career-high four 3-pointers as he scored 17 points. Odom, a 6-foot-9 freshman guard, made all three of his attempts from long range — including a big one right before halftime — and finished with an important nine points.
Jenkins still made an impact, hitting two 3-pointers and scoring a game-high 18 points. But getting outside help from elsewhere was significant for Vanderbilt considering starter Lance Goulbourne went scoreless in 17 minutes and was still hampered by an ankle injury he suffered last week.
“We have to have balance when one of our key guys is not going to be able to pull his normal load. We had that [Saturday] and it was really good to see,” coach Kevin Stallings said. “Shooting is a variable that unless you are somewhat prolific like 23 (Jenkins) it tends to waver and it even wavers on him every once in a while. Jeff couldn’t buy a basket down at Florida and he comes back today and he is 4-of-4 from 3. That is sort of the nature of it.
"We are a good team — and I hate when coaches say this because you have to be a good team when you don’t shoot well — but we are a good team when we shoot well.”
The Commodores shot a season-high 55 percent (11-of-20) from 3-point range and got 3-pointers from four different players as guard Brad Tinsley added two and finished with 13 points to go along with nine assists. They did so against a good perimeter defense, too.
The Gamecocks (13-8, 4-4) had allowed a league-low 24 3-pointers in SEC games. Opponents were shooting just 31.6 percent against them.
Odom’s first 3-pointer gave Vanderbilt a big lift. It came with 2.4 seconds left in the first half and off a pass from Tinsley. He drilled it from the right side and pushed the Commodores’ lead to 30-23.
“It was a big shot,” South Carolina coach Darrin Horn said. “It seemed like we didn’t get the hand up there like we wanted to but it wasn’t like he was standing there wide-open either. Credit the kid for making the shot. They knocked them down.”
Odom also had a hand in an 11-2 second-half run, which broke open the game. With the Commodores clinging to a 33-29 lead, Odom hauled down a big offensive board and kicked it out to Tinsley, who drained a 3-pointer from the right side. Odom, a 6-foot-9 guard, knocked down a trey of his own on the next possession and capped off the spurt with another 3-pointer for a 44-31 lead.
“It definitely creates more opportunities for me because defense focuses on finding John, finding Jeff,” Odom said. “That gives me a lot of open looks and I just try to knock them down.”
That was just half of a 25-7 stretch for the Commodores as Taylor’s 3-pointer pushed it to 58-36 with 10:25 remaining. He scored eight of Vanderbilt’s last 10 points during that spurt. He was 5-of-12 got open looks outside, using ball fakes to create space.
Taylor now has 29 3-pointers this season, a year after he was just 9-of-41 from beyond the arc.
“I put a lot work in the summer on my jumper and not a lot of people just focus on me driving,” Taylor, who had eight rebounds (seven offensive), said. “I am glad it has kind of shown and everything just feels good. I just wanted to be more of a complete player and I thought that was one facet of my game I needed to work on.”
• Taylor was also responsible for guarding South Carolina’s dynamic freshman Bruce Ellington. The 5-foot-9 freshman scored 22 points against Vanderbilt in the Gamecocks’ overtime win in Columbia, S.C.
On Saturday, Ellington had just two points in the first half and finished with 13 on 4-of-17 shooting. The 6-foot-7 Taylor had three blocks and appeared to cause problems for the smaller Ellington.
“Jeff is our best defender,” Stallings said. “We can’t always put him on their best guy because of other variables, but we were able to today and I thought he was fantastic. He has quick feet. He has the foot speed and quickness that Ellington has. He can change direction and move like a six-foot guy. He has great endurance and tenacity.”
• South Carolina entered the game ranked last in the SEC and 301st in the country with a 63.5 free-throw percentage. The struggles continued, as the Gamecocks went 8-of-15 (53.3 percent) against the Commodores.
Vanderbilt, on the other hand, entered with a 74.6 shooting percentage, which was second in the conference and 25th in the country. The Commodores have attempted a league-high 574 free throws. They were 13-of-19 on Saturday.
• South Carolina not only struggled defending the 3-pointer but it couldn’t make it either. The Gamecocks finished making 6-of-21 (28.6 percent) and were just 1-of-9 in the first half.
• Vanderbilt avoided losing three straight games for the first time since losing four in a row in late January of the 2008-09 season.
• Festus Ezeli scored 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting. The 6-foot-11 center bounced back from a seven-point performance against in Florida in which he fouled out. He had just two fouls against South Carolina.