NASHVILLE, Tenn. — John Jenkins scored 17 points and Jeffery Taylor added 16 as Vanderbilt routed Auburn 65-35 Saturday in opening Southeastern Conference play with the Commodores' fifth straight victory.
The Commodores (11-4, 1-0) improved to 49-11 all-time in SEC openers at Memorial Gym, and they did it with one of their best shooting performances this season in the first half in opening up a 38-19 halftime lead. They hit 50 percent (12 of 24) from the floor and were even better beyond the arc hitting 9 of 16 (56.3 percent). Five different players hit at least one 3.
Vanderbilt also showed off some defense holding Auburn to the fewest points scored this season. For Vanderbilt, it was the fewest points allowed since a 33-31 loss to Mississippi State on Jan. 30, 1982.
Brad Tinsley added 12 points and Festus Ezeli, who has been working his way back from a sprained right knee, started just his second game this season. Ezeli grabbed eight rebounds and scored four points.
Auburn (10-5, 0-1) now has lost four of six overall, and the Tigers have lost five straight SEC openers and eight of their last nine. Leading scorer Kenny Gabriel was held to a season-low two points, well off his 12.6-point average per game. Chris Denson led Auburn with seven.
The Tigers shot 27.3 percent (15 of 55) for the game. Vanderbilt outrebounded the Tigers 42-34 with the Commodores' lone struggles coming at the free throw line where they shot 8 of 16 (50 percent).
The Tigers couldn't have started off more poorly with four fouls before Varez Ward hit their first bucket with a 3 for Auburn's lone lead of the game. Ezeli answered with a pair of free throws to tie it up, and Tinsley finally hit a jumper with 17:09 left for a 5-3 lead with Vandy's first shot attempt that put the Commodores ahead to stay.
Once the Commodores started shooting, they seemingly couldn't miss. Jenkins hit a 3 followed by Taylor's 3. Vanderbilt hit eight of its first nine shots and its first five 3s before Jenkins' first miss with 9:20 left. Even when it looked like Vanderbilt might not get a shot off on one possession with Tinsley nearly losing the ball, the senior guard grabbed it back and tossed it up for a 3 as the shot clock buzzer sounded. Taylor added another for a 30-11 lead with 7:23 left.
Lance Goulbourne hit a 3 to put Vandy up 38-19 at halftime, then the Commodores picked up where they left off in the second half in a 14-2 run. Jenkins' long jumper put Vandy up 49-21 with 16:29 left.
Auburn coach Tony Barbee tried to stem the scoring, taking two timeouts within the first 4 minutes of the second half. It didn't help. Vanderbilt just kept building the lead. The Tigers managed to trim the lead to 22 but got no closer. Dai-Jon Parker's 3 with 4:18 left gave Vanderbilt its biggest lead at 63-33 with the 13th 3-pointer.