Damian Jones has been nearly unstoppable near the basket for Vanderbilt in February. Thanks to Commodore wins over Florida and No. 16 Kentucky, the SEC has finally taken notice.
Jones earned conference Player of the Week honors after carrying Vandy to a pair of do-or-die victories in the penultimate week of the regular season. He made 12 of his 13 shots en route to a career-high 27 points in a road win at Florida. Four days later, he shook off foul trouble to give the Commodores 11 second-half points in an upset over the Wildcats. Those two quality victories have helped move his team to the happy side of the NCAA Tournament bubble.
For the week, Jones averaged 21 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and a block while shooting 69 percent from the field and 75 percent from the free throw line. He's led the 'Dores to a 5-1 record in their last six games while averaging 18 points and nine rebounds.
Jones has dialed in to some newfound aggression in the paint, but much of his success has come from the new way the Commodores have utilized him on offense. Vandy's guards often struggled to get the ball to a well-defended Jones on the low block, and forced passes led to turnovers and bad shots. Recently, the team has been more comfortable pushing the ball to its center near the three-point arc. Jones has shown off a solid dribble-drive game, and his quickness and ability to run past defenders and finish at the rim with either hand were on full display against Florida on Tuesday. The junior big man had three separate and-one drives that baffled the Gator defense.
Vanderbilt and its prized big man will return to the court on Tuesday when the host Tennessee on Senior Night.