NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)-- Vanderbilt took home a big win. Coach Kevin Stallings still is so disappointed in how his 18th-ranked Commodores failed to put away a winless team he feels like they lost.
John Jenkins scored 18 points, and Jeffery Taylor and Brad Tinsley each added 16 to help Vanderbilt beat Monmouth 95-73 on Friday night after letting a 26-point lead get whittled down to 11 before finishing off the game.
"I feel like we really got outworked, out-toughed, outplayed and we won because we have superior talent and superior players, size, strength and athleticism, skill," Stallings said. "But we lost the fight portion of the game tonight, and that's disappointing."
The game pitted Stallings against his former assistant King Rice in his first season as Monmouth's head coach. Stallings said it looks like the Hawks are buying into Rice's message of how he wants them to play.
"I'm happy for him," Stallings said. "He's been having a hard time getting his team to play hard as hard as he wants them to."
The Commodores already are without starting center Festus Ezeli due to a sprained knee, and Steve Tchiengang sat with concussion-like symptoms after being hit in the face Monday night against Oregon State in winning the TicketCity Legends Classic in New Jersey.
The Commodores (5-1) didn't need him on a hot-shooting night where they trailed only off the opening bucket. Josh Henderson and Dai-Jon Parker had a career-high 10 points each.
This easily was the toughest game yet for the Hawks (0-6). Jesse Steele scored 25 points, Ed Waite had 15 before fouling out, and Austin Tillotson 11.
Monmouth is playing its first nine away from home and won't be back in New Jersey until Dec. 10. Rice, who spent the past five seasons with Stallings at Vandy and also was on the bench for him at Illinois State, has seven newcomers on his roster.
Rice said he knows how good the Commodores are.
"The second half, when you're playing coach Stallings' team and he puts his guys back in, you know that you're doing the right thing. Coach really put his guys back in tonight," Rice said.
That Stallings did, until 1:01 left after they had gotten sloppy. This game offered a nice break for Vanderbilt, which hosts No. 12 Xavier on Monday night before visiting seventh-ranked Louisville on Dec. 2. Taylor said they must improve defensively and quickly.
"Or we're going to get beat here real soon," Taylor said.
Jenkins opened up on fire, hitting three of his first four shots -- all from beyond the arc. He also hit a pair of free throws and had 11 points in the first half, giving him 38 career games scoring in double figures. His teammates all shot well too as Vanderbilt hit 68 percent (17 of 25) from the floor in the first 20 minutes, including 8 of 13 from beyond the arc. Five Commodores hit at least one 3.
The Commodores also had to deal with watching the Hawks run the same plays as they do, even down to the same phrases to call them out.
"Coach told us before the game it was going to be that way," Jenkins said. "They were calling them out. It was weird."
Andrew Nicholas hit a jumper in the opening seconds to at least give Monmouth a brief lead. But Jenkins hit his first 3 to put Vandy ahead to stay with 18:49, and the Commodores just got better as the half went on.
They reeled off a 12-2 run to push the lead to double digits with Stallings able to rest his starters and play reserves. Henderson scored twice in the spurt, and Kyle Fuller's layup made it a 21-7 lead. Steele scored on a layup, and Tillotson stole the ball near the Hawks' basket and hit a short jumper to pull Monmouth to 23-13 with 9:10 left.
Taylor hit back-to-back jumpers and Jenkins added another 3 to push the lead back out. Vanderbilt led by as much as 26 in the half before Steele's 3 with 3.5 seconds left pulled Monmouth within 50-27 at halftime.
The Commodores got a little sloppy in the second half with Monmouth refusing to back off. They also went 6:06 between field goals between Tinsley's 3 with 12:07 left before Lance Goulbourne scored on a layup with 6:01 remaining. During that drought, Monmouth put together seven straight points and got to 71-56 on Nesmith's fast-break layup with 7:57 left.
Stallings took a timeout, and Goulbourne came back with that layup and hit the free throw for a 78-65 lead.