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November 19, 2010Friday's game between Vanderbilt and West Virginia turned into a duel between John Jenkins and Casey Mitchell.
And unfortunately for Vanderbilt, Mitchell got the last shot.
The WVU senior buried a 3-pointer against the Commodore zone with 3.6 seconds left as part of his game-high 31 points, breaking open a tie game and moving the Mountaineers to Saturday's title game of the Honda Puerto Rico Classic with a 74-71 victory.
Vandy's Rod Odom had a final shot from straight-away behind the 3-point line to tie, but couldn't get it to fall.
Jenkins scored 27 points, Odom added 11, and Brad Tinsley had 10, as VU suffered its first loss of the season.
"If you didn't care about who won, it was a great college basketball game. But I care who won," VU coach Kevin Stallings said.
Tinsley tied the game with a pair of foul shots with just 32.6 seconds left, which preceded WVU's final possession. The Commodores switched from man-to-man to zone in mid-possession, and when Mitchell broke open on the left side of the perimeter, Jenkins couldn't get over in time to cover him.
"We blew the coverage down there in the zone. It wasn't hard, we just blew it," Stallings said.
VU called time out, got the ball to mid-court, and called another time out. With WVU focusing on Jenkins, the ball went to Odom straight-away, but the freshman's shot was way-off as the clock expired.
"I had a better play we could have run, but I got talked out of it, and that's my fault. I'm mad at myself for that," Stallings said.
Jenkins was 5-for-11 behind the 3-point line, and 10-of-10 from the free throw line, as the 'Dores recovered from a double-digit deficit to tie the game late. Vanderbilt shot just 32.8 percent for the day, and lost starters Jeffery Taylor and Festus Ezeli for most of the afternoon to foul trouble (both eventually fouled out) on an afternoon where WVU was whistled for 27 fouls, and Vandy, 26.
But VU coach Kevin Stallings uncharacteristically had his team switch to a zone for most of the second half, which helped VU slowly climb back from being down 43-33 at the half. It would have been worse, had Tinsley not connected on a 3 at the halftime buzzer.
"It wasn't a case of not competing in the first half. It was a case of not competing intelligently," Stallings said.
Vandy battled to tie the game at the 10:15 mark on a pair of Steve Tchiengang free throws, and tied it again at 9:54 when Tinsley also hit a free throw. Odom's layup at 9:07 put VU up for the first time since the game's opening moments.
But a 9-0 WVU run over the next 1:48, which included a pair of 3s by Mitchell, put the Mountaineers back up by eight.
The 'Dores still trailed by eight with 4:01 left, after Taylor, who played just 14 minutes, fouled Mitchell, who hit two free throws.
But Jenkins hit a 3 on VU's next possession, then a trio of foul shots on the next. Another 3 with 2:01 left put Vandy up by one again.
But Vandy couldn't close it down the stretch, as Ezeli missed a couple of key foul shots just before Jenkins' final bomb, and Lance Goulbourne air-balled the first of his two free throws with 1:04 left, before hitting the second.
Kevin Jones (12 points) and Darryl Bryant (11) each scored in double figures for the Mountaineers.
The officiating crew of Jamie Luckie, Kely Self and Kevin Mathis, which called 67 fouls in West Virginia's win over Davidson on Thursday was again the focus of much attention on Friday.
Stallings was whistled for a technical foul with VU holding a 6-1 lead just two minutes into the game, and in the second half, a pair of fans were kicked out for remarks made towards the crew.
Vanderbilt will play the loser of Friday's Minnesota-North Carolina game on Sunday evening.
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