By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
NEW ORLEANS – The best answer Vanderbilt had for the Ole Miss zone defense was John Jenkins, and that was more than enough.
When the Commodores couldn’t figure out a way inside the zone, Jenkins simply shot over it. The junior scored 23 points, and No. 3 seed Vandy pulled away for a 65-53 win in the SEC Tournament semifinals at New Orleans Arena on Saturday.
Vanderbilt (23-10) faces No. 1 Kentucky at noon today for the title.
The seventh-seeded Rebels (20-13) now must wait and hope that the NCAA tournament selection committee has deemed them worthy of an at-large berth. The selection show is at 5 p.m. today on CBS.
“I know that there will be basketball in our future. Where is that? I don’t know,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said.
Jenkins made 7 of 16 shots, including 5 of 13. He hit 3 of 4 from deep after halftime.
Vandy led 38-36 when Jenkins hit his first three of the half, and his third one made it 49-40 with 8 minutes, 56 seconds left.
Ole Miss cut it to 49-44 with 7:28 to go, and then Holloway came up with back-to-back steals. But Ole Miss couldn’t capitalize, and Brad Tinsley’s 3-pointer pushed it to 52-44. That lead grew to 57-44 on another Tinsley three.
“We didn’t score off steals, so I guess it was a missed opportunity,” Holloway said. “Losing John Jenkins at the end of the game – he made big shots – I think that was our biggest mistake.”
The Commodores were aided by a strong rebounding effort, collecting 36 total and 12 on the offensive glass. Ole Miss had 29 rebounds.
“The miracle of the day is they got four offensive rebounds. That’s the reason we won,” Vandy coach Kevin Stallings said.
Freshman Jarvis Summers scored 11 of his team-high 15 points in the first half for Ole Miss. Freshman LaDarius White scored 13 off the bench.
Forward Reggie Buckner, who sprained his left ankle on the game’s first possession, had just seven points and two rebounds in 19 minutes.
For the second consecutive game, Nick Williams was scoreless in the first half, and he never did score Saturday.
Terrance Henry was shut out until his 3-pointer early in the second half gave Ole Miss a 28-25 lead.
The senior finished with eight points. Henry didn’t believe fatigue affected the Rebels.
“We’re playing for our season, playing to get to the NCAA tournament. You can’t get tired at this point of the season,” he said.
Ole Miss shot 40.5 percent overall and attempted 14 fewer shots than the Commodores, who shot 41.1 percent.
In the first half, Vandy shot 33.3 percent overall and 3 of 17 from 3-point range. The Commodores made 6 of 12 from deep after halftime.
“Teams are generally scared to zone us,” Stallings said. “Our belief is eventually we’ll make some shots against you.”