Commodores overpower Trevecca in season lid-lifter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Kevin Stallings hasn’t lost his sense of humor. Actually, it’s more that he hasn’t lost the desire to be funny. It’s just that sometimes he has to explain the joke.

The Vanderbilt coach, in his 16th season at the helm of the Commodores, said at the beginning of his postgame press conference that he’d have to watch the tape, but he thought his team played better in the second half than the first.

“That was intended to be funny,” Stallings explained to the assembled media, which didn’t get the one-liner at first.

300damianjones111614.jpgVanderbilt dominated the second half en route to an 83-56 season-opening win over Trevecca Nazarene on Sunday.

Damian Jones scored a career-high 24 points, while freshman Riley LaChance added 13 and Luke Kornet scored 10 to lead Vanderbilt.

Jones, a preseason All-SEC first-team selection, was 10 of 13 from the field and grabbed 12 rebounds as Vanderbilt (1-0) overwhelmed Trevecca (1-1), which is transitioning to NCAA Division II.

Trevecca managed to keep it close trailing 33-30 at the half, but Vanderbilt opened the second half on a 13-0 run, which included a couple spectacular dunks by Jones.

Three freshmen, including LaChance, started for Vanderbilt, which is in a major rebuilding mode. The team had only seven scholarship players a year ago and must now rely heavily on a rotation of five freshmen.

“There’s going to be some inconsistencies with us,” said Stallings. “I would like to think, in my more rational moments, that I would know that part of that is having a team as young as our team is.”

Jones, a sophomore from Baton Rouge, La., will be asked to lead the Commodores and that’s what he did against overmatched Trevecca, which is about a 15 minute drive from Vanderbilt.

Stallings knows that Jones will have be the one that guides his young squad.

“We need him to be a guy that can lead us and his play inspires confidence throughout the rest of our team,” Stallings said. “His play today did that. Let’s see it happen against guys that look more like him, play more like him, and are more his level of ability.”

Jalen Palm led the Trojans with 11 points.

Vanderbilt was able to dominate inside as Trevecca didn’t have an answer for Jones or Kornet, who finished with 10 rebounds. The sophomores blocked four shots apiece and altered several others.

The Commodores stretched their lead to 10 early in the first half, but Trevecca was able to cut it to 22-21 with a nine-point run with 5:46 left. Vandy extended its lead to six, but the Trojans cut it to three as Palm streaked in for a layup at the halftime buzzer.

Vanderbilt regrouped at halftime and held Trevecca scoreless in the second half until Percy Blade hit a 3-pointer with 15:44 left.

One area in which Vanderbilt struggled was free-throw shooting. The Commodores hit only 3 of 12 from the line in the first half, while Trevecca connected on 5 of 7. Vanderbilt righted itself in the second half to make 18 of 23.

Vanderbilt’s five freshmen saw plenty of action on Sunday and should continue to get a lot of playing time throughout the season. Of Vandy’s eight leading scorers, five were freshmen.

Wade Baldwin IV scored nine points, while Jeff Robertson chipped in eight. Shelton Mitchell tallied six points and Matthew Fisher-Davis added five.

The Commodores hit 28 of 56 shots from the field, but only made 27.3 percent of their 3-point attempts.

Kevin Stallings in now 15-1 in season-openers at Vanderbilt. His lone loss came against Georgetown in November 2006 at the Commodores’ Memorial Gym.