Jenkins fuels VU to win over Georgia

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — John Jenkins doesn’t really care that Vanderbilt has struggled to win at Georgia the last two years.

All he knows is that the Commodores have won six straight in the series.

“We’ve got a lot of leadership out there and lot of veterans,” Jenkins said. “We start four seniors and one junior. When you have that kind of lineup, you’re expected to be poised on the road.”

Jenkins scored 28 points, Jeffery Taylor added 13 and Vanderbilt overcame a sluggish first half to win its second straight game, 61-52 over Georgia on Sunday.

JohnsonVanderbilt (19-8, 8-4 Southeastern Conference) stayed one game behind second-place Florida in the league standings.

Gerald Robinson finished with 19 points for Georgia (12-14, 3-9 SEC). The Bulldogs, whose student section was not half full among a sparse crowd for a rare 1 p.m. Sunday start, have dropped two straight.

The Commodores hit three of their first five field-goal attempts, but closed the first half by missing 13 of their next 16 to trail 29-28.

Vanderbilt’s performance was in stark contrast to their last game, a 102-76 victory Thursday at Mississippi in which the Commodores’ point total was their highest in an SEC road game since 1969.

But they were able to count on Jenkins. The SEC’s leading scorer buried two consecutive 3s to give the Commodores a 12-point lead, 56-44, their biggest thus far, with 6:02 remaining.

“He’s as good a shooter as I’ve ever seen and certainly the best that I’ve ever coached,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “He was terrific today. We got a long offensive rebound and if it had bounced to anybody else, I would have been telling them to run the clock, but he had it, and I knew he was going to shoot it.”

Vanderbilt, which began the game ranked third in SEC scoring, still finished 17 points below its season average, but Jenkins was glad that he could carry his team by hitting 8 of 11 shots from the field.

The last of his six 3-pointers put offensively challenged Georgia in a hole the Bulldogs could not escape.

“I was lucky on the second one,” Jenkins said. “I was off to the side and the ball came right to me at the perimeter. I grabbed an easy rebound and was able to hit another one there.”

Georgia’s leading scorer this season, freshman guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, did not take a shot in the first half after picking up his second foul just 4 minutes into the game. He finished with just six points on 3-of-13 shooting.

“It was definitely frustrating,” Caldwell-Pope said. “Being out of the game that long took me out of my rhythm. It gave me a chance to calm down for the second half, but I couldn’t get going. It wasn’t my (day).”

Dustin Ware was just 2 of 10 from the field, including 1 of 9 beyond the arc, to finish with seven points. Georgia, the league’s worst scoring team, finished nine points under its average.

“Obviously I didn’t do a good enough job today,” Ware said. “It was just one of those nights where the ball didn’t go in and they made a big run and that’s when they pulled away.”

Brad Tinsley’s 3 in front of the Vanderbilt bench with 2:43 remaining gave the Commodores their biggest lead, 13 points.

But Stallings sees plenty of room for improvement after watching his team commit 20 turnovers, Vanderbilt’s highest total since last Nov. 19 against Oregon State.

The Commodores handed out just eight assists. Starters Festus Ezeli and Lance Goulbourne and reserve Steve Tchiengang combined for 14 turnovers.

“We had to grind it out,” Stallings said. “Georgia is a good team. They make you fight. They don’t give you anything, so our guys really fought in the second half, especially on the offensive end.”

Bulldogs coach Mark Fox knew his team would have a hard time defending Jenkins, and he was right.

“He’s the greatest shooter I’ve ever coached against,” Fox said. “Not only is he a great player, but he’s a great kid off the court as well. He’s the kind of player that you just cannot make mistakes against or he’ll make you pay.”

Last season in Athens, Vanderbilt and Georgia were both a month away from earning NCAA tournament bids, but the Commodores won 64-56 as Jenkins scored all of his 21 points in the second half to help his team rally from a 14-point deficit.

This time, it wasn’t so tough. The Bulldogs never led after Jenkins’ left-handed runner made it 42-40 with 12:03 remaining.

His performance helped Vanderbilt overcome a difficult day for Taylor, the SEC’s second-leading scorer. Taylor went 4 of 11 from the field.

“If somebody’s having a bad day, somebody’s got to step up, whether it’s from the bench or a starter,” Jenkins said. “We did that today.”