Jeffery Taylor spent most of Sunday night vomiting.
The Vanderbilt forward, however, wasn’t about to let Commodores fans be sick to their stomach again with another non-conference home loss.
A dominating four-minute stretch summed up Taylor’s performance as he finished with a game-high 29 points in a 99-71 victory over Longwood in front of an announced crowd of 12,886 at Memorial Gymnasium.
The night before, Taylor came down with either the stomach flu or was hit by food poisoning, causing him to miss Monday’s shoot-around. By tip-off, though, it was hard to tell anything was wrong.
“It happens. I deal with it the best I can,” said Taylor, who has averaged 26.7 points in the last three games. “It is strange how you kind of just focus on different things throughout the game. I did well [Monday]. I have just been in a pretty groove lately. Shots just feel like they are going in. I think it is just attributed to the work you put in the offseason. It has just been showing.”
The Commodores (7-4) had lost three of their last four games, including a stunner to Indiana State on Saturday at home. Against Longwood (4-7), they trailed just once — 3-2 — and led by as many as 17 just 12 minutes into the first half.
The Lancers, who compete as an independent and rank 334th out of 338 teams in scoring defense, stuck around for a little bit. Consecutive 3-pointers by Tristan Carey trimmed the deficit to 38-28 with 3:55 left. They got no closer.
Leading scorer Antwan Carter headed to the bench after his third foul with 5:19 remaining in the half. Taylor then took over.
John Jenkins plucked a steal and passed it to Taylor, who finished with a high-flying two-handed dunk. It was the start of a 14-5 run for the Commodores, which included nine points from Taylor. He capped off the spurt with five straight points, giving Vanderbilt a 52-33 halftime lead on a slashing layup with two seconds left.
“It was a big stretch for us,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “We felt like we should make a run with [Carter] out of the game. ... Jeff did take over. He was phenomenal. He certainly was.”
Jenkins finished with 19 points and Lance Goulbourne added 15 points and 10 rebounds, all of which came in the first half. Guard Brad Tinsley chipped in 12.
Carter and Carey each scored 20 for Longwood, and Carey made six of eight 3-pointers.
But the story was Taylor, who scored 20 points for the third straight game and was one point shy of his career-high, which he set on Dec. 7 at Davidson. The 6-foot-7, 225-pound senior made 12-of-14 shots with four dunks and two 3-pointers.
Lancers coach Mike Gillian said over the last nine years he guesses his squad has played nearly 40 players that have landed in the NBA. He believes Taylor will add to that list.
“He can impose his will on the game — never forcing the action,” Gillian said. “Taking opportunities that the defense gives him, makes shots, drives, [grabs] offensive rebounds. ... Right now, that guy [Taylor], in my mind, is the one driving the bus. He is really, really good.”
• Festus Ezeli missed Monday’s game with a sore left knee. The 6-foot-11 center missed the first eight games due after he sprained ligaments in his right knee before the season.
He played in the last two games but on Saturday, his left knee, which underwent surgery in the spring for a ruptured patella tendon, began to bother him.
Stallings said he was not sure when Ezeli would return.
“That is a good question,” he said. “He looked better [Monday] and yesterday before the Davidson game [on Dec. 7] but he doesn’t fell like he can play. If he doesn’t feel like he can play, he can sit over there and watch.”
• Backup point guard Kyle Fuller played for the first time in two weeks. Stallings inserted him in the lineup with 9:17 left after he kept him on the bench for the last three games. The sophomore had scored just five points, with six assists and eight turnovers in his first seven games.
He doubled his point production Monday with five points, along with an assist, a steal and two rebounds.