On the day that Vanderbilt climbed back onto some voters top 25 ballots, they may have given skeptics another reason to believe that this team hasn't overcome its struggles just yet.
The Commodores scraped by a Redhawk team that they outmatched on paper, rounding out their early out-of-conference schedule with a 69-62 win. John Jenkins led Vanderbilt to the win on a night where standouts like Jeffery Taylor and Festus Ezeli struggled offensively. The junior shrugged off a disappointing game against Marquette to score 26 points on 9-15 shooting on the night.
Vandy trailed early and needed a big run to open a 27-24 lead at the half. Miami led 18-14 12 minutes into the game and made the first half a back and forth battle at Memorial Gym. Though the 'Dores opened up a nine-point lead early in the second frame, the Redhawks battled back to cut the advantage to two points with under 12 minutes to play, putting the fear of another Indiana State-style upset into the hearts of Vanderbilt fans. Fortunately, Jenkins stepped up to provide a crucial scoring punch late in the second half, turning away Miami's upset bid.
Miami came into Monday's game with a 4-7 record. Reserve guard Brian Sullivan did his best to earn the Redhawks a marquee fifth win. Every time Vanderbilt threatened to pull away, it seemed that Sullivan was there to answer with a three-pointer. He dueled with Jenkins throughout the night, finishing with 24 points on 8-9 shooting from behind the arc.
Brad Tinsley finished the game with 11 points, most coming at the free throw line in the final minutes of the game. Taylor had 11 points and five rebounds, while Ezeli added seven rebounds and four blocks off the bench. The win brought the Commodores - who earned enough votes in both polls to put them in the top 30 of the rankings - to 10-4 on the season. While it's a solid win for the team, Vanderbilt's inability to follow up last week's dominant performance at Marquette will temper some of the excitement that the win had brought.
They'll have one more out-of-conference game against Middle Tennessee State in the midst of the SEC slate. They'll kick off conference play Saturday against 9-3 Auburn.