Nov. 11, 2011
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings says the combination of opening night, a full moon and playing against a team coached by Dana Altman spooked him.
That makes taking home a win even sweeter.
John Jenkins scored 24 points, Jeffery Taylor added 21 and 11 rebounds as No. 7 Vanderbilt opened the season with a 78-64 victory over Oregon on Friday night.
"Anything can happen on opening night," Stallings said. "That's why they're always really scary games. You just don't know. And then I got spooked earlier because I saw there was a full moon, so I'm thinking, 'Great. What? Who knows what could happen tonight?' So we're happy to win. We're happy to win and move forward. Again, this is a game we sweated about. But you would sweat anytime you play Dana's team."
Brad Tinsley had 13 points for Vanderbilt.
The Commodores hadn't been ranked in the preseason since November 1993 when they were No. 23, and they haven't been ranked this high since 1965 when they were fifth. That might be why they opened a bit slowly and even trailed by as many as six points early.
But the Commodores took control with an 18-0 run over the final 2:33 of the first half and the first few minutes of the second.
Oregon fell to 0-4 when opening against a ranked opponent. But the Ducks didn't go down easily as Tony Woods had 12 points and Brett Kingma and E.J. Singler added 10 each.
Vanderbilt led by 20 with 13:36 to go, but Oregon came back with 14 straight points. The Ducks got as close as 62-57 on a jumper by Kingma with 5:09 left. Taylor answered by putting back his own miss with 4:41 left, then Jabari Brown had a turnover at midcourt. Johnathan Loyd missed both free throws, then Taylor hit a jumper to start a 12-0 run to seal the win.
The Ducks finished with 20 turnovers, which Vandy turned into 24 points.
"We can afford to give ourselves a little credit for that," Taylor said.
Oregon also shot only 6 of 17 at the free throw line and was outscored 18-9 on second-chance points.
"You can't go on the road and have three lines like that and expect to win," Altman said. "It's really disappointing. We have a lot of new guys. I guess we can use that as an excuse."
This is the first time in his 13 seasons that Stallings has had all five starters back at Vanderbilt, but he will be without center Festus Ezeli for up to eight weeks after the senior sprained his right knee late last month. Ezeli had been suspended for the first six games by the NCAA for accepting a meal and a hotel room from an alumnus during the summer.
Vanderbilt outrebounded Oregon 41-39.
"It's obviously a significant thing for us not to have him," Stallings said. "But we don't have him, and we're not going to have him for a while. So we can't sit around and lament what it means not to have Festus. We have to play better, and we have to play without him and make up for that. And we did. We played hard."
The Commodores struggled early despite the sellout crowd. The Ducks hit eight of their first 10 shots and led by as much as 18-12 on Kingma's 3-pointer with 12:18 left. Jenkins, the Southeastern Conference's leading scorer last season, missed his first four shots before hitting his fifth 3 with 6:59 left to put Vandy up 22-20. He wound up 7 of 16 from 3-point range.
Stallings knows Altman well from their days when he was at Illinois State and Altman coached at Creighton. Stallings said Altman didn't play any zone in two exhibitions, and he credited the Ducks' zone with bothering his Commodores. He thought he had them prepared.
Jenkins said he had a bit of nerves early too.
"First-game jitters, I don't know why. I'm kind of old now," Jenkins said. "But I had the jitters, and I had to get out of it. As soon as we started moving the ball and moving around we got used to it and shots started falling. We got in the middle, we got kick-outs for 3s, and we got them to foul on us a little bit, so that was good."
Stallings didn't worry about Jenkins missing early.
"I live with all his misses because I know makes are right around the corner," Stallings said.
Oregon last led 29-26 when Garrett Sim hit the first of two free throw attempts with 3:17 remaining. The Ducks didn't score the rest of the half.
Freshman Kedren Johnson scored on a layup with 2:33 left to start the 16-0 run. Taylor hit two free throws to put Vandy back up 30-29. Jenkins added another 3, and Henderson hit two free throws for a 35-29 halftime lead.
Taylor picked up in the second half where Vandy left off with a basket, and Jenkins hit a 3-pointer 57 seconds into the half for a 40-29 lead. Tinsley added a layup off the fast break as the Commodores forced Oregon into five turnovers within the first 3 minutes. Taylor's layup capped the 18-0 run with 18:02 remaining.
By the time Jenkins hit another 3 with 14:15 to go, Vandy led 53-35, and Henderson tipped in a missed free throw by Dai-Jon Parker for the Commodores' biggest lead, 55-35 with 13:36 remaining.