Kornet's career-high 24 push Commodores by Tigers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Damian Jones was Vanderbilt’s most dangerous offensive weapon in the Commodores’ first two games, but a new force appeared Sunday.

Luke Kornet made his first nine shots from the floor en route to a career-high 24-point night, leading Vanderbilt to a 78-46 win over Tennessee State in the first round of the Barclays Center Classic.

The 7-foot forward didn’t miss a shot until he bounced a 3-pointer off the front of the rim with 12:45 left.

He tied a Memorial Gym record for highest field goal percentage, 90.9, by hitting shot 10 of 11, including three 3-pointers. Jeff Taylor also hit 10 of 11 against TSU on Dec. 19, 2009.

kornet“Once you just see the ball go in a couple of times, you’ll start feeling a little bit of a rhythm to it and that’s what happened tonight,” Kornet said. “Once I stepped out and shot the first 3, I had a really good feeling that it was going to go in.”

With Kornet playing so well, the Commodores (3-0) didn’t need much from Damian Jones, who entered the game as the Southeastern Conference’s leading scorer at 22.5 points per game. The 6-10 sophomore scored 13 points after scoring 20-plus in his first two games.

“They were in zone a lot in the first half and we put our two big guys down low,” Commodores coach Kevin Stallings said. “Damian probably got Luke some shots just by his mere presence because I’m sure the defense kind of shades over to him.”

Kornet was perfect in the first half, making all six of his shots from the floor and his only foul shot for 14 points.

Many fans in the crowd of 7,446 yelled “Luuuke” when he drained a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Commodores a 38-20 lead with 3 seconds left in the first half.

Kornet’s first three baskets were dunks. His father, Frank, played at Vanderbilt from 1986-89.

Kornet powered Vanderbilt to a 15-6 lead in the early going.

“I just thought Luke Kornet played a great game,” TSU coach Dana Ford said. “He did what you’re supposed to do. We paid a lot of attention to Jones, keeping the ball out of the post.”

Kornet also had seven rebounds and two blocked shots. He has made 14 of his last 17 shots, including Thursday’s win over Lipscomb. Jones had eight rebounds and two blocks.

Riley LaChance also scored 13 for the Commodores.

No one from the Tigers (2-2) scored in double figures as they shot 32.7 percent from the floor. Vanderbilt hit 60.9 percent from the floor.

TSU narrowed the deficit to 26-20 before the Commodores closed the first half with a 12-0 run. They extended it to 15-0 when Jones converted a three-point play early in the second half.

Wade Baldwin IV led the Commodores with 10 assists and Shelton Mitchell added seven.

The Commodores hit 9 of 19 from beyond the 3-point arc.

It was Vanderbilt’s third straight home win against a Nashville opponent.

Vanderbilt: The Commodores also have a young team with three freshmen and two sophomores in the starting lineup.

Tennessee State: Jay Harris is the only TSU returnee, making the Tigers the nation’s least experienced Division I team. TSU’s Dana Ford, in his first year, is the nation’s youngest coach at 30.

One stat really caught Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings’ eye.

“You look down and we have 24 assists for 28 baskets,” Stallings said. “We really are a team that shares the ball. Other than the (17) turnovers, we looked a little ragged in the press offense, probably because it’s the first time we’ve been pressed.”

Vanderbilt pulled away in the second half, outscoring TSU 40-26. The Commodores hit 16 of their last 24 shots for a 66.6 percent clip. They also hit 5 of their last nine 3-pointers, 55.6 percent.

Vanderbilt, UNLV and Princeton are the only schools to make at least one 3-pointer in every game since the inception of the 3-pointer in 1986. That’s a streak of 899 games for the Commodores

Vanderbilt hosts Norfolk State (2-2), a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference member, in the second round of the Barclays Center Classic on Tuesday.