Vanderbilt plays its way back into SEC title game — at long last

Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 6:04pm
Staff reports

For the first time in 61 years, Vanderbilt is one win away from a Southeastern Conference Tournament championship.

Behind 23 points from John Jenkins, the Commodores pulled away from Ole Miss for a 65-53 victory in a semifinal on Saturday at New Orleans.

Vanderbilt (23-10) plays top-seed and top-ranked Kentucky (32-1) in the title game at noon on Sunday on ABC.

The Commodores have played in the championship game once — in 1951 when they beat Kentucky. Before Saturday’s game, Vanderbilt was just 1-10 in semifinal games.

Kentucky swept the regular-season series between the teams.

"I'm not sure there is a formula to beat them," coach Kevin Stallings said. "It's a heck of a reward to get to play them after you come down here and slug it out for two games with people. ... I know our guys will go out there and they will give it a shot."

Jenkins missed eight of his first 10 shots, but he scored five straight points in the final two minutes of the first half, which ended with Vanderbilt, the tournament's No. 3 seed, ahead 25-23.

The teams went back and forth early in the second half, with Ole Miss (20-13) taking its last lead, 32-31, at the 16:14 mark.

Jenkins then sparked a 15-5 run with eight points, including knocking down two of his five 3-pointers for a nine-point lead.

"I think we were just very stagnant in the first half," Jenkins said. "We were trying to get into the game. And [in the] second half, we went out there and moved the ball around and created for others, got the ball inside a little bit and people hit shots."

Ole Miss, the seventh seed, pulled within five but Brad Tinsley sandwiched two 3-pointers around a Kedren Johnson layup to stake a 57-44 lead with 4:30 left.

Tinsley added 3-pointers and 12 points. Lance Goulbourne had a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.

Jarvis Summers led Ole Miss with 15 points.

"We're a pretty experienced club and we know what we have to do to win the game [Sunday]," Goulbourne said. "We just have to play with a lot of energy and execute to the best we can, and I think we'll have the outcome that we want."

2 Comments on this post:

By: TITAN1 on 3/10/12 at 10:26

WTG, Vandy! Now, TAKE DOWN THE NBA FARM TEAM!

By: Rasputin72 on 3/11/12 at 7:43

This is very nice! Getting to substitute Miss State and Tennessee for Georgia and Ole Miss was a break that the Commodores have not had all year.

Kevin Stallings for Coach of the Year!