NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A 10-0 run midway through the second half gave Vanderbilt new life and put an end to Mississippi State’s hopes at a road win.
Vanderbilt shot 55.3 percent from the floor and continued its string of strong play with a 66-56 Southeastern Conference men’s basketball win Wednesday night at Memorial Gymnasium.
With the win, Vanderbilt improved to 18-12 overall and 8-9 in league play. The Commodores have won seven of nine games after a 1-7 start in league play. MSU fell to 12-18 and 5-13. The Bulldogs are now guaranteed of playing in the first round of the SEC Tournament next Wednesday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
“To win this, we knew we would have to hold them in the 50s and to a low percentage, we didn’t do either of those,” MSU head coach Rick Ray said. “Offensively, we made some shots but we didn’t finish close to the rim. We had too many misses there. We also turned the ball over way too much.
“We got going too fast. A lot of the turnovers were unforced. We just didn’t take care of the basketball.”
Craig Sword led MSU with 20 points. The junior guard scored 20 or more points for the fifth time in a game this season. Gavin Ware was also in double figures with 12 points.
MSU started strong. The Bulldogs hit 6 of 8 shots from 3-point range in the opening half.
The Bulldogs scored eight straight points to build an early 20-13 lead. The run included 3-pointers by I.J. Ready, Sword and a basket by Ware.
MSU built the lead to a game-longest 11 points at 28-17 on another 8-0 run. This run included another trey from Ready, as well as one from Fred Thomas and a tip-in from Demetrius Houston.
Vanderbilt chipped away from a 32-24 deficit by scoring eight straight points.
The Bulldogs regrouped and led 36-32 at halftime.
In the second half, Vanderbilt took control of the game when it built a 46-40 lead with a 10-0 run. The Bulldogs struggled on the offensive end as they went better than seven minutes between field goals.
A layup by Ready brought the Bulldogs within 48-45 with 8:29 left. The Bulldogs were back within two twice, the last time at 56-54 after a Sword layup with 4:57 left.
From there, Vanderbilt missed the front end of a pair of one-plus-one opportunities but MSU could not answer with points on the offensive end. The Commodores would eventually find success at the line to close the game with a 10-2 run.
For the contest, MSU hit 18 of 39 shots from the field (46.2 percent), 6 of 10 shots from 3-point range (60.0 percent) and 14 of 20 shots from the foul line (70.0 percent). Vanderbilt hit 26 of 47 shots from the field (55.3 percent), 8 of 17 shots from 3-point range (47.1 percent) and 6 of 13 shots from the foul line (46.2 percent).
Vanderbilt held a 27-19 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had nine assists and 17 turnovers, while the Commodores had 16 assists and 15 turnovers.
Vanderbilt placed four players in double figures. Riley LaChance led the way with 15 points, while James Siakam added 12 points, Wade Baldwin added 11 points and Damian Jones added 11 points. Siakam had a game-high seven rebounds.
MSU will close the regular season by hosting Missouri Saturday. Game time is 5:30 p.m. with the game being broadcast nationally on the SEC Network from the Humphrey Coliseum. The MSU senior class will be recognized before the game.
(From MSU Media Relations)