Vanderbilt stretched a four-point halftime lead to as many as 13 points before holding on to post a 55-49 victory over MSU at Memorial Gymnasium.
With the win, Vanderbilt improved to 12-8 overall and 4-4 in league play. MSU dropped its third straight to tall to 13-8 and 3-5.
“This was a game where we competed in the first half,” MSU head coach Rick Ray said. “Then we forgot who we were offensively. We shot 20 3-pointers and only six free throws. That is not who we are, so that really was not a good recipe for us.”
The Bulldogs started strong from 3-point range and quickly built an 8-2 lead. Fred Thomas scored his team’s first 10 points and MSU held a 10-9 lead with 12:15 left in the opening half.
The lead switched hands before Vanderbilt reeled off a 10-2 run. The Commodores grabbed a 22-16 lead with two free throws by Rod Odom with 5:22 left in the half.
Colin Borchert hit a 3-point basket to bring the Bulldogs within 22-21. Vanderbilt answered with a 3-pointer by Kyle Fuller for a 25-21 halftime lead.
Vanderbilt scored 16 first half points off MSU turnovers.
“All of the turnovers were unforced because they played a zone and when they played man, they packed it in and didn’t pressure us,” Ray said. “We allowed 24 points off turnovers and that is hard to come back from. We knew going into the game that it was important that we took care of the basketball. We didn’t do a good job with that.”
Vanderbilt extended the halftime lead to 34-21 with nine straight points to start the second half. Jacoby Davis finally snapped an eight-game scoring draught for the Bulldogs with a 3-point basket. The Bulldogs closed within 40-36 after scoring seven straight points.
The Bulldogs closed within four points on three other occasions down the stretch but could not reclaim a lead.
“In the second half, they shot 55 percent from the field,” Ray said. “It doesn’t matter what our worries are on offense. If you make stops on the defensive end in the second half, you have a chance to win the game.”
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 19 of 47 shots from the field (40.4 percent), 7 of 20 shots from 3-point range (35.0 percent) and 4 of 6 shots from the foul line (66.7 percent). The Commodores hit 21 of 47 shots from the field (44.7 percent), 6 of 25 shots from the 3-point range (24.0 percent) and 7 of 12 shots from the foul line (58.3 percent).
MSU held a 29-28 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 12 assists and 18 turnovers, while the Commodores had 13 assists and 14 turnovers.
Thomas led MSU with 16 points. Gavin Ware had nine points and eight rebounds.
Vanderbilt received 18 points from Odom, 14 points from Fuller and 13 points from Damian Jones.
MSU remains on the road for a Wednesday night contest at Texas A&M. The Bulldogs and Aggies will tip at 8 p.m. from College Station, with Comcast Sports Southeast having the regional telecast.