By Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal
NASHVILLE – Mississippi State twice battled back from 14-point deficits in the second half, but had no rally magic at Memorial Gym.
Dee Bost’s 3-point shot to tie was off the mark, and No. 20 Vanderbilt survived a frantic MSU comeback attempt to win 75-72 before 14,316 fans Wednesday night.
The loss drops the Bulldogs (16-6, 4-3 SEC) into a tie for the Western Division lead with Arkansas, which rallied to beat Georgia on Wednesday.
MSU was down 71-57 when Barry Stewart completed a three-point play with 3 minutes, 53 seconds to begin a 15-4 run to close the game.
The four points were enough for Vanderbilt (17-4, 6-1), which held MSU to 35.3 percent shooting from the floor, just 26.5 percent – 9-for-34 – from 3-point range.
“They controlled the game throughout,” Stewart said.
Almost throughout. The Commodores didn’t score a field goal in the last 4 minutes.
Stewart followed his three-point play with another bucket and a pair of 3-pointers total 11 of his 13 points in a span of 1:46.
Bost added a free throw at the 1:27 mark to make it 73-69, and when he stole the ball from Jermaine Beal and hit a 3-pointer it was 73-72 with 28 seconds left.
Twenty-two seconds expired before Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins was fouled, and when he hit both free throws, the Bulldogs still had a chance to tie. Bost was just right of the key when he let it go.
“I thought he got a clean look. It’s not going to be perfect, and it was cleaner than we anticipated,” MSU coach Rick Stansbury said.
Too many MSU looks, clean or dirty, didn’t fall in the first 36 minutes.
Vanderbilt, meanwhile, got a solid offensive game in the post from A.J. Ogilvy in spite of nine blocked shots from MSU center Jarvis Varnado.
Ogilvy was 6-for-13 from the floor and finished with 16 points and seven rebounds.
He scored in the lane and at the free throw line and sometimes both, as was the case with 11:17 to play when he drew the fourth foul against MSU guard Ravern Johnson.
“Jarvis got his blocks, but A.J., got baskets when we needed them,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “A lot of teams don’t have an inside presence against them because of Jarvis’ shot-blocking ability, but we were going to keep going in there.”
The Bulldogs’ leading scorer, Johnson picked up three fouls in the first half, spent 20 minutes on the bench and was gone for good after fouling Vanderbilt’s Brad Tinsley on a fastbreak layup. Tinsley hit the free throw, and the Commodores led 67-55 with 5:14 remaining.
Johnson, averaging 14 points, finished with six on a pair of 3-pointers.
The Commodores shot 44.6 percent from the floor, 54.5 percent from 3-point range. Beal led four Vanderbilt players in double figures with 17 points.
“We never ask players to be perfect. That’s unreasonable,” Stansbury said. “We only ask that they leave everything between the lines, that they fight and scratch. We fought hard defensively all night, and we never gave up.”