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MSU/Starkville sports blog: 'Dogs come up short against Commodores

 

Mississippi State guard Ravern Johnson, left, is fouled by Vanderbilt forward Rod Odom (45) in the first half of their NCAA college basketball game in Starkville Thursday.

Mississippi State guard Ravern Johnson, left, is fouled by Vanderbilt forward Rod Odom (45) in the first half of their NCAA college basketball game in Starkville Thursday. Photo by: Rogelio V. Solis/AP

 

David Miller

 

STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State men''s basketball coach Rick Stansbury didn''t get the result he wanted Thursday, but he was happy to see his team play better. 

 

MSU improved its rebounding, raised its bench production and saw leading scorer Ravern Johnson snap out of a scoring funk with 19 points against No. 19 Vanderbilt. 

 

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, an eight-point second half lead was wasted before falling to their second-straight defeat, 81-74.  

 

The loss also was MSU''s second to a Southeastern Conference East division opponent, following a 22-point loss to Georgia last Saturday. 

 

Vanderbilt forward Jeffery Taylor scored a game-high 25 points, including 17 in the second half. 

 

MSU point guard Dee Bost scored 18 and had six assists.  

 

Vanderbilt won its first game in Starkville since 1993. 

 

"It''s a new feeling," VU head coach Kevin Stallings. "I haven''t known victory down here. We had to work really hard to get it." 

 

MSU must regroup for another ranked opponent from the SEC East when it hosts No. 24 Florida on Saturday.  

 

They''ll take a string of positives from Thursday''s game. 

 

The Bulldogs (10-9, 2-3) had just three bench points at Georgia, but finished with 15 against the Commodores (15-4, 3-2). They were out-rebounded 25 in Athens but finished level with Vandy at 38.  

 

And after playing predominately zone defense through four league games to help Renardo Sidney and Bost get back into shape following suspension layoffs, Stansbury estimated the Bulldogs played 35 minutes of man Thursday. 

 

"As we talked about, lets make sure we can walk through that door and know we left everything on the floor we could have left on the floor," Stansbury said. "We didn''t play perfect, but let''s make sure we''re competitive and we fight. We just made some bad plays in this game.  

 

The most glaring mistake came with MSU down 77-74 with 18 seconds left in the game.  

 

The Bulldogs had just forced a travel of Vandy''s Lance Goulbourne and was set to take hold for the last shot, but Taylor jumped a Brian Bryant pass to Riley Benock and got the and-1 dunk to put the nail in the coffin.  

 

Taylor had a steal that led to a Lance Goulbourne layup and a 75-72 Vandy lead. 

 

"I''m not really sure what happened," Benock said of Taylor''s last steal. "We knew we had to get something going quick, and it seemed like they took away the middle. It kind of surprised us, and he jumped that pass. It''s just something that happens and a situation you don''t want to be in, but it''s part of the game." 

 

Starting center Renardo Sidney fouled out for the second straight game, finishing with six points and five rebounds in just 13 minutes.  

 

He played sparingly in the first half after picking up two early fouls and picked up his fourth with 11 minutes and six seconds left in the second. He went to the bench, though MSU was relieved to see Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli pick up is fourth foul on the very next possession.  

 

"Sid was no factor in the game at all," Stansbury said. "All I remember was him checking in and out. All these fouls were just one after another." 

 

Without Sidney, who averages 14.5 points per game, the Bulldogs leaned on Wendell Lewis and Kodi Augustus, who finished with 10 and six, respectively. The duo combined to make 8 of 11 shots.  

 

With Sidney fouled out with over four minutes and 30 seconds left, Ezeli went to work 

 

The Vandy junior knocked down a pair of free throws and had a layup in a 6-0 run that gave the ''Dores a 77-72 lead with two minutes left.  

 

Ezeli finished with 14 points in 15 minutes of work.  

 

"I didn''t want to have happen to him what happened to their big kid (Sidney)," Stallings said of Ezeli. "We were kind of on a run, we put him back in and goodness gracious he went to work. He was a beast in there those last four minutes. Got us tough baskets and made his free throws." 

 

Sidney has fouled out in three of the seven games he''s played in this season and has finished with four in two others. For the second straight game, both of MSU''s starting front-line players had to work through foul trouble.  

 

"It hurts," Johnson said. "We don''t have that many big men. (If) they''re fouling out, what we gonna do?" 

 

The Bulldogs host Florida at noon Saturday.  

 

Vanderbilt hosts Arkansas at 5 p.m. Saturday. 

 

NOTE: Bost played 37 minutes but was unavailable for post-game comments after having a tooth knocked loose by an Ezeli elbow late in the second half. He left the game briefly but returned for the final two minutes.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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