November 23, 2015

Even though Vanderbilt had an easy win to open the Maui Invitational, coach Kevin Stallings insists his team won't advance further without more from his best player.

The 19th-ranked Commodores hope Damian Jones can rise to the occasion Tuesday night in the semifinals against Wake Forest, which seeks a second straight upset.

After slipping past visiting Stony Brook 79-72 in overtime Thursday, Vanderbilt bounced back Monday by routing St. John's 92-55 in the first round.

The Commodores (4-0) scored the first nine points and led by as many as 41. Luke Kornet had 13 points and seven rebounds, while Jeff Roberson chipped in with 11 points and 13 boards.

Vanderbilt shot 53.2 percent - hitting 12 of 25 from 3-point range - and held a 49-26 advantage on the boards while limiting the Red Storm to 30.0 percent shooting.

"I did not anticipate that the final margin would be the way it was," Stallings said. "I was just pleased with the way that we approached the game and the way we played."

Stallings' team should be well-rested in the second of three consecutive games since no one played more than 25 minutes. Jones, a preseason all-SEC selection, played five in the first half and finished with a season-low five points because of foul trouble.

After averaging 14.5 points on 56.2 percent shooting en route to all-SEC first-team honors in 2014-15, the 7-foot NBA prospect is scoring 10.0 per game.

"We won't do in this tournament what we were hoping to do if he doesn't step up and kind of become the lead player in the band, because he's our guy," Stallings said. "Our guys know it, and he knows it."

The Commodores will try to take another step toward their first Maui Invitational title since 1986 by improving to 5-0 for the first time since opening with 16 victories in 2007-08.

It's not likely to come easy against a Wake Forest team that recovered from Wednesday's 91-82 home loss to Richmond by knocking off No. 13 Indiana 82-78 in Monday's opener. Freshman point guard Bryant Crawford made the decisive layup with 3.2 seconds remaining.

Devin Thomas also shined with 21 points and eight rebounds, while Konstantinos Mitoglou contributed 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting to go along with eight boards.

''We won our first game and there's not a lot of time to celebrate,'' coach Danny Manning said. ''We will celebrate on the bus but once we get to the hotel property we will be getting ready for Vanderbilt, another good team.''

Though senior guard Codi Miller-McIntyre - the team's leading scorer in 2014-15 - has yet to play due to a broken foot, the Demon Deacons have shot 50.8 percent in their last three games and have a plus-16.2 rebounding margin overall. Thomas is averaging team highs of 18.0 points and 11.8 rebounds, while Crawford is scoring 16.0 per game and Mitoglou is at 14.3.

There's still room for improvement after Wake Forest (3-1) made 25 of 45 (55.6 percent) from the free-throw line and committed 37 turnovers over its last two games.

The Demon Deacons had dropped seven straight against ranked opponents before upsetting the Hoosiers. They've split four meetings with Vanderbilt dating to the 1997-98 season.

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