MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Jeffery Taylor led four Vanderbilt players in double figures with 18 points as the Commodores beat rival Middle Tennessee 72-53 Tuesday night.
John Jenkins added 16 points, Festus Ezeli had 15, and Brad Tinsley 10 for Vanderbilt.The Commodores (9-2) played without forwards Lance Goulbourne and Andre Walker. Goulbourne, the team's second-leading rebounder at 6.7 per game, was not on the bench but was in attendance. A reason for his absence was not immediately disclosed.Walker, who started the first seven games, has missed the past four with mononucleosis. He's scheduled to make his return for Vanderbilt's next game, Dec. 29 at home against Marquette.The Commodores built a 14-point lead at the half and the Blue Raiders (4-8) never got closer than eight in the second half. Vanderbilt shot 36 free throws, 26 in the second half, to just 14 for Middle Tennessee.Jason Jones led Middle with 15 points. The Blue Raiders have lost four in a row.Vanderbilt had its largest lead of the first half, 41-27, at the half when Brad Tinsley went coast to coast with an inbounds pass after a free throw by Middle's Kerry Hammonds. Tinsley's layup came a second before the buzzer.The Blue Raiders had cut the lead to six at 30-24 with 1:53 to go when Jenkins took over. He scored nine of his 11 first-half points in a 60-second span beginning at 1:38 when he grabbed an offensive rebound along the left baseline and hit a stepback 3-pointer.Jenkins followed with a steal near halfcourt, drove the right side, made the layup and converted the three-point play after getting fouled by Middle's Kyle Hunt. Forty-nine seconds later Jenkins' long 3-pointer up top made it 39-26.Vanderbilt hit 7-of-14 3-pointers in the first half but only 1 of 9 from distance in the final 20 minutes.