On Wednesday, Damian Jones was named to the SEC's preseason All-Conference team. On Sunday, he showed why.
The sophomore center had 24 points, 12 rebounds, and four blocks in Vanderbilt's 83-56 win over Trevecca Nazarene. He needed only 13 shots to pace the Commodore offense against the Trojans. Jones's biggest challenge of the afternoon came at the free throw line. He made just four of nine free throws, setting the tone for a disappointing showing from the charity stripe. As a whole, Vanderbilt only cashed in on 60% (21-35) of their free points.
It only took the Commodores seven minutes to open up a double-digit lead against their outmatched opponents, but it wouldn't last. Vandy took an early 16-6 lead before Trevecca stormed back to pull within three points at the half. That led to some grumbles from a Memorial Gym fanbase that witnessed two straight losing seasons from 2012-2014, but the 'Dores came out of the locker room with a mission to put that underwhelming start behind them.
They rattled off a 13-0 run to start the second half behind Jones's beastly play in the paint, Nazarene didn't have an answer for his size and strength, and a pair of big dunks primed the crowd and effectively put the Trojans away with 12 minutes left in the game. In all, the 'Dores outscored their opponent 50-26 in the second half en route to a 83-56 victory.
Vanderbilt started three true freshmen against the Trojans and got significant contributions from all three. Riley LaChance (SG), Shelton Mitchell (PG), and Jeff Roberson (SF) played big minutes and combined for 27 points - though on just 7-19 shooting. Sophomore Luke Kornet held down the starting power forward slot and responded with a career-high 10 rebounds. He also had 10 points and four blocks.
Kornet's frontcourt mate James Siakam did not play on Sunday. He was attending his father's funeral in his native Cameroon. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him.
The Commodores are now 1-0 on the season after a pair of exhibition wins last week. They'll return to Memorial Gym on Thursday when they host cross-city rival Lipscomb.