Feb. 19, 2012
It has been a week to remember for John Jenkins.
Jenkins was lethal and efficient, scoring 54 points on only 16 shots including 10-of-12 three-pointers in Vanderbilt's two Southeastern Conference road wins. He misfired on just three attempts (13-of-16, 81.3 percent) from the floor when he wasn't fouled, and missed more free throws (3) than threes (2).
Those gaudy (and somewhat bizarre) statistics would be near the top of most college basketball players' résumés.
Jenkins' references will vouch for him, too.
"He's the best shooter that I've ever coached against," marveled Georgia Head Coach Mark Fox following Vanderbilt's 61-52 win over the Bulldogs Sunday. "He's phenomenal. I have to give (him) a tremendous amount of credit. He's a first-class kid and a great shooter."
Fox is familiar with Jenkins' ability to light up the box score. Oddly enough, Jenkins was 0-for-14 from the field in his first three halves at Stegeman Coliseum dating back to his freshman season. That was until he went off for 21 points and five three-pointers in the second half last year to help the Commodores erase a 14-point deficit and defeat the Bulldogs in Athens. Jenkins also poured in 18 points in each of Vanderbilt's previous two wins over Georgia at Memorial Gym, and scored a then-career-high 25 against the Bulldogs in the 2010 SEC Tournament.
On Sunday, when the Commodores needed someone to step up offensively, the junior marksman took control with 16 of his 28 points in the second half. He converted 6-of-8 from downtown with three of those treys sparking the Dores' 16-4 run to break open a 40-40 tie.
"You can't give John Jenkins a crack in the clouds," Fox admitted. "I won't fault our D. He made some tough baskets, guarded baskets. It's not like he was completely in the clear on very many of those. A great player like that takes special defense and we didn't do it on him."
Vanderbilt's post players struggled for most of the day, committing 14 turnovers while only scoring five of the team's 61 points. That doesn't mean the big guys weren't effective. Steve Tchiengang played a key role, routinely setting picks to give Jenkins the space he needed to get hot down the stretch. Jenkins said he talked with Tchiengang at the half about working together more on high ball screens to make it harder for the Bulldogs to contain them. It worked. (In return, Jenkins thanked Tchiengang on Twitter by saying Steve "might be the best at getting someone open in the country! He deserves way more credit.")
"We were fighting for our cuts and fighting for our screens," Vanderbilt Head Coach Kevin Stallings said. "We were able to get John (Jenkins) free. When John makes shots, it's backbreaking because most of them are threes. He got in a groove and we just started running around trying to get him open. He got open enough to score 28. I'm still amazed he can get 28 points on 11 shots. He got 26 the other night (vs. Ole Miss) on 5 (shots)."
Stallings also praised Jenkins' ability to get to the foul line more in recent games. Jenkins, who leads the SEC in free throw percentage, had a career-high 15 attempts (and made 12) in the Dores' 102-76 rout of Ole Miss Thursday, followed by a perfect 6-for-6 from the line on Sunday. "We'll take that every game," noted Stallings.
Jenkins' combined 54 points this week are the most he's scored in consecutive games in his Commodore career. In doing so, he surpassed Scott Draud (1987-91, 1,466 pts) and A.J. Ogilvy (2007-10, 1,468 pts) for 14th place all time on Vanderbilt's scoring list with 1,486 points.
Jenkins is also trying to become the first SEC player to lead the league in scoring in back-to-back seasons since Ronnie Henderson (LSU) accomplished the feat in 1995-96. Through 12 games this year, Jenkins tops the SEC (19.1), just ahead of teammate Jeffery Taylor (18.2). BJ Young (Arkansas) and Arnett Moultrie (Mississippi State) are tied for a distant third (16.3).
And one more nugget— Jenkins leads the nation in threes made per game (3.8).
Not a bad résumé. Not bad at all.
With March looming though, Jenkins would say it's still a work in progress.