NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Indiana State studied how Cleveland State guarded John Jenkins back in November. Then coach Greg Lansing put Steve McWhorter on Vanderbilt’s best player, as he usually does with any opponent.
McWhorter held the Southeastern Conference’s top scorer to a season-low 11 points and the sophomore guard hit two free throws with 3:32 left to put Indiana State ahead for good as the Sycamores upset No. 25 Vanderbilt 61-55 Saturday for their first win over a ranked team since 2006.
“It’s not rocket science to look in there as much as possible and scout the best you can,” Lansing said.
Indiana State (8-2) earned its fifth win in 12 games against SEC teams and first since beating Vanderbilt on Dec. 22, 1984, in Terre Haute. The Sycamores are off to their best start since opening 8-1 in 2005-06, and Lansing called this a big win for his program.
“It’s going to be a good ride home,” he said.
RJ Mahurin had a career-high 14 points off the bench, and Carl Richard and Jordan Printy each finished with 11. Jake Odum added 10 for the Sycamores, whose last win over a ranked team came on their own court against No. 14 Butler on Dec. 12, 2006.
McWhorter said Lansing warned him he would have to work hard defending Jenkins.
“So I knew I was going to have to in order for our team to have a chance,” McWhorter said. “I feel like I just chased him, and my team did a good job at helping me, and we were able to hold him under his average, which we try to do with the best player on the team. That was a big part in this game tonight.”
Vanderbilt (6-4) lost its third non-conference game at home this season, with Cleveland State being the first. That’s the most since the 1977-78 season.
The Commodores hadn’t played since beating Davidson 87-83 on the road Dec. 7, which put them back into the Top 25.
The 10-day break for finals was so filled with exams that Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings had trouble scheduling practices and often didn’t have all his players on the court when he did. Jenkins had been averaging a league-best 21.3 points this season.
“They did a good job of getting up on John,” Stallings said. “He was too quick to try and pinch off shots. There was no rhythm to our offense, but we had no rhythm the whole week of practice.”
Looking rusty, Vanderbilt fell behind by 12 early. The Commodores scored only once after Lance Goulbourne’s three-point play with 6:32 left, and Jeffery Taylor’s layup with 53.2 seconds remaining just wasn’t enough.
Taylor finished with 21 points and Brad Tinsley had 12. Taylor had no answer for why the Commodores couldn’t hold onto the lead.
“We’re going to have to figure it out. It can’t keep going like this,” he said. “We’re a much better team than we’re playing right now.”
The Sycamores led by as many as 12 in the first half and nine in the second half. Vanderbilt rallied to take the lead each time and led by as much as 53-45 with 6:32 left on Goulbourne’s three-point play. The Commodores then went cold and shot so poorly late that fans started heading for the exits in the final minute.
“I was worried some,” Lansing said of falling behind at that point. “We’ve done that a lot, letting opponents come back. We calmed down on the offensive end, and that helped us be a better defense. We’ve been guilty of poor offense leading to poor defense. Having the ball in Odum’s hands at the end makes me feel comfortable.”
Printy hit a 3-pointer, then McWhorter put Indiana State ahead to stay with his free throws. Odum, who committed six turnovers, scored four of his 10 points in the final 2:44 to help seal the win.
“Hopefully, it’s a turning point for us,” Odum said. “We haven’t finished well all year. We’ve let some slip away. But it’s good to come on the road and battle together as a team and pull it off.”
Indiana State outshot Vanderbilt 43.1 percent (22 of 51) to 38 percent (19 of 50), and the Sycamores were even better from 3-point range. They hit 10 of 21 compared to Vandy’s 6 of 22. Jenkins, leading the nation with 3.9 3-pointers per game, was just 1 of 6 beyond the arc.
The Commodores struggled shooting even at the free-throw line, hitting only 11 of 18.
With the game tied at 28 at halftime, Indiana State scored 10 of the first 11 points to open the second half and led 38-29 on a fast-break layup by Odum.
Taylor started a 12-0 run with a 3, a pair of free throws, another 3 and then a high-flying dunk off a steal by Tinsley that had fans roaring. Tinsley then scored on a layup for a 41-38 lead with 15:21 left. Vanderbilt grabbed its biggest lead at 53-45 but didn’t score again until it was too late.