By Brad Locke | NEMS Daily Journal
NASHVILLE – The obstacles came in many shapes and forms for Mississippi State, and surely overcoming them all was too much to ask.
Yet it happened. The No. 18-ranked Bulldogs, reeling from a road loss three days prior to their archrival, entered a den of defeat and took down one of the hottest teams in the country.
They beat Vanderbilt on Saturday, 78-77, in overtime at 60-year-old Memorial Gymnasium. It’s just MSU’s ninth win in 53 tries on Vanderbilt’s floor, and it snapped the Commodores’ eight-game winning streak.
The Bulldogs (16-4, 3-2 SEC) did it with flair, as big man Renardo Sidney and reserve guard Jalen Steele helped erase an 11-point halftime deficit and build a 10-point lead.
State, which entered the game 0-4 when trailing at the half, survived a furious rally by Vanderbilt (14-5, 4-1), which tied the game late in regulation with a pair of 3-pointers.
The Commodores had a shot to win at the end of regulation and the end of overtime but misfired on both occasions. John Jenkins’ errant 3-pointer at the OT horn gave MSU its first SEC road win in three tries.
“We didn’t look at it as a big margin,” Steele said of the halftime deficit. “We knew we were going to have to stay confident and stay together. We knew we were going to come back and eventually make this game a tough game for Vanderbilt, and that’s what we did.”
Steele finished with 15 points, making 5 of 8 shots from 3-point range and scoring 12 of his points after halftime. He hit four 3-pointers during a span of three-and-a-half minutes, the last one giving MSU its biggest lead of the night, at 63-53 with 7:50 to go.
State didn’t trail again until overtime. Then Sidney found Dee Bost on a backdoor cut for a layup with 51.8 seconds left, and that proved the game winner.
MSU missed the front end of two one-and-one free throw situations after that, but Vandy missed three field goals.
For the game, though, the Commodores shot well, making 48.3 percent from the field and 14 of 27 from behind the arc.
Vandy lends a hand
But Vandy had four turnovers early in the second half to aid MSU’s surge. The Bulldogs made 9 of 10 from 3-point range in the second half after hitting just 1 of 10 the first half.
“Our defense got our offense going,” MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. “When you’re playing hard, your mind stays a little bit clear offensively. You don’t think about things as much.”
Bost led State with 24 points, while Arnett Moultrie had 21 points and 14 rebounds.
Jenkins scored 21 for Vanderbilt, Jeffery Taylor added 19.
Vanderbilt was 7 of 12 from behind the arc in the first half and led 39-28 at halftime. The Bulldogs looked hung over from Wednesday’s loss at Ole Miss.
They came out of the locker room on fire, hitting 8 of their first 9 shots. Sidney scored six points and recorded two steals during a 14-0 run that put MSU ahead 42-39.
After sitting most of the first half in foul trouble, Sidney finished with nine points.
“We had a letdown,” said Vandy’s Lance Goulbourne. “That’s all there is to it.”