Mississippi State forward Renardo Sidney (1) walks off the court after Vanderbilt won 87-81 during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Southeastern Conference tournament, Saturday, March 12, 2011, in Atlanta. Photo by: Dave Martin/AP
March 12, 2011 12:44:00 AM
ATLANTA -- In the end, John Jenkins was too much for Mississippi State to defend.
The Vanderbilt two-guard scored 29 points, including seven of the Commodores'' last nine to lift his team to an 87-81 win over Mississippi State in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament Friday.
Jenkins missed Vanderbilt''s first-round match against LSU due to turf toe and was originally listed as questionable heading into Friday.
But he exploded with 22 in the second half against MSU, and put the nail in the coffin down the stretch when he was fouled on consecutive 3-point attempts, which accounted for seven points and gave the Commodores an 83-78 lead with under a minute to play.
"I woke up feeling pretty good," Jenkins said. "And I knew that I really wanted to play, so I kind of told the trainers that I wanted to play and I went through a practice and walking and stuff, and it felt good. So I decided, I guess in the end, that I was ready."
Jenkins'' heroics helped Vanderbilt (23-9) come back from a five-point deficit at the five-minute mark of the second half, as he tied the game at 67 with a 3-pointer.
Jenkins scored 17 of Vanderbilt''s final 27 points and helped push the Commodores to the semifinal round, where they''ll face Florida on Saturday.
The SEC''s leading scorer hit 10 of 17 from the floor and 5 of 9 from behind the 3-point arc.
"It''s just non-stop motion," MSU guard Riley Benock said. "You can''t take a break, or have any kind of little slip-up -- they''ll find a way to catch you sleeping. You got to be ready at all times. They do a great job screening for him. He''s a great scorer and knows how to get open. He''s a tough guard. They found ways to make plays for him tonight."
While Jenkins was catching fire, MSU center Renardo Sidney was doing damage inside and out after sitting 18 minutes of the first half due to foul trouble.
Sidney picked up two fouls just 85 seconds into the game, and on back-to-back possessions.
He hadn''t battled early foul trouble -- an early season hinderance -- in nearly three weeks.
But the worst-possible scenario came to light for the Bulldogs (17-14) in the first, as three other front-court players landed in foul trouble.
Kodi Augustus had two fouls five minutes into the game, and neither he nor Sidney played the remainder of the half.
But Sidney wasn''t deterred by the never getting into a rhythm, or having to adjust his play based on how the game was being called.
Sidney scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half, and brought the Bulldogs back from a five-point deficit with eight points in a 71 second stretch with three minutes to play. The sophomore center had a pair of layups off assists from Dee Bost and hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 76.
"He went to war in that paint that second half," MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. "Made some threes, too, and he was better."
Sidney knocked down 10 of 16 from the floor and added seven rebounds.
Senior wing Ravern Johnson finished with 18 on 6 of 13 shooting.
Bost had 16 points and a season-high 11 assists.
None of them could match Vanderbilt''s hot shooting in the second half, which came after the foul-ridden first period in which it made 12 of its 36 first-half points from the free throw line.
The Commodores finished 20 of 22 at the line, compared to MSU, which went 8 of 8.
Despite playing with a makeshift lineup that saw Brian Bryant and Wendell Lewis play extended minutes, the Bulldogs felt fortunate to take a 38-36 lead into the locker room.
"I think it''s very obvious you felt like you weathered a big storm," Stansbury said. "You knew the game was far from over. But I think we were happy to be at that point, considering the way he to get to that point."
The Bulldogs started the second half flat, missing their first eight shots and committing three turnovers. Vandy took full advantage through Jenkins, who had a trey and a funk in a 9-0 run that gave the Commodores a 45-38 lead.
Augustus also picked up his third foul on the first possession of the second half.
But MSU came roaring back with a 16-7 run, powered by four buckets and two free throws in five consecutive possessions.
Before Jenkins controlled the final two minutes of the game, Jeffery Taylor, who was the hero in the Commodores'' win in Starkville earlier this season, scored eight of Vandy''s 10 points, including three straight buckets to help VU to a 76-71 lead.
"You reflect back right now, I''m not sure what we could have done different except keep Jenkins from scoring," Stansbury said. "How you do that, I''m not sure. He made some huge shots. Taylor made some huge plays.
"I''m not sure we could have played much better in some areas, so give them a lot of credit."
For MSU''s seniors, the heartbreaking loss ends a three-year streak of reaching the semifinals of the SEC tournament. The Bulldogs entered the tournament having won four of their last five games, and they felt like they were peaking at the right moment.
"This one hurts," Johnson said. "My last, maybe my last game here with Mississippi State, and we have been here every year. We always make a run at SEC tournament time. Everybody had the same mindset coming in. I know we''ve been through a lot this year, but just pushed past all that, came together as a team and was hoping we going to make this run."
The Bulldogs are hoping for a berth to the NIT, which will be decided after the NCAA field is selected on Sunday.
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