Vanderbilt holds off Miss. State for third-straight win

Feb. 1, 2014

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Slow down the game by using up as much of the shot clock each possession as possible or playing zone on defense, the Vanderbilt Commodores are willing to do whatever it takes.

Now they're starting to string together some victories.

Rod Odom scored 18 points, and Vanderbilt beat Mississippi State 55-49 Saturday for their third straight win.

"All the ones that we win are probably going to be just like this," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "They're probably going to be dog fight, grind-it-out games where we've got to make some plays down the stretch and at the end. And I'm proud of our team because we're getting better at doing that."

The Commodores (12-8, 4-4 Southeastern Conference) have to work harder because they're down to only seven scholarship players. Kyle Fuller added 14 points playing a full 40 minutes for his fourth game since league play started in January, and Dai-Jon Parker notched his sixth such game. Odom got a minute of rest in the first half that kept him from his fifth.

Mississippi State senior Colin Borchert noted Vanderbilt played a 2-3 zone all game, and sophomore guard Fred Thomas chimed in with his own take.

"It was like they were resting on (defense) the whole time," Thomas said.

Vanderbilt returned to Memorial Gym after winning its first two road games this season and started a three-game home stand by adding yet another win over Mississippi State. The Commodores held the Bulldogs to a season-low in points in winning their fourth in five games in this series.

Damian Jones also had 13 for Vanderbilt, helping the Commodores to a 26-16 scoring edge in the paint.

Mississippi State (13-8, 3-5) now has lost three straight, scoring a season-low in each of the last two. The Bulldogs also extended their road skid to 13 straight. Coach Rick Ray noted Thursday night's loss was to No. 3 Florida and now a good Vanderbilt team on the road.

"What you got to do as a coach and as a team here is find a way to go out and get yourself out of this rut," Ray said.

Thomas scored 16 points for the Bulldogs. Craig Sword, the Bulldogs' leading scorer averaging 13.9 points a game, didn't score until he hit a jumper with 11:18 left. He finished with four points.

Vanderbilt outshot the Bulldogs 44.7 percent (21 of 47) compared to 40.4 percent (19 of 47). Ray said his Bulldogs' shooting woes are "well documented." But he wasn't happy with his Bulldogs turning the ball over 18 times, which Vanderbilt turned into 24 points.

"There's really no reason to turn the ball over 18 times against a team that's not pressuring at all," Ray said.

The Commodores grabbed their biggest lead of the game at 34-21 when Parker hit a jumper with 15:04 left in the second half. Jacoby Davis finally ended a Bulldogs' scoring drought that lasted 8 minutes, 14 seconds with a 3-pointer with 14:50 remaining.

Davis' next 3 started a 10-1 spurt for Mississippi State that trimmed Vandy's lead to 40-36 on a driving layup by Sword with 10:29 to go.

Mississippi State couldn't get closer than four the rest of the way. The Bulldogs went cold again late. Gavin Ware tipped in a Sword miss with 1:15 left to pull within 53-49, but they didn't score again. Sword had a miss, and then Ware missed a layup in the final minute as Vanderbilt sealed the win.

"I'm just happy to come out with a win," Fuller said.

The Bulldogs jumped out to their biggest lead of six points with 15:18 left in the first half as Thomas scored their first 10 points. Neither team could break away as they swapped the lead four times with four ties. Mississippi State had its last lead of the first half at 14-12 on a pair of free throws by Ware with 9:18 left.

James Siakam scored for Vandy, and Parker added a bucket with 7:32 left to put the Commodores ahead to stay. Ware tied it with a dunk, but the Bulldogs went cold after a 3-pointer by Borchert with 3:04 left. He finished with just five points, well under his 10.6 points per game average.



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