The Mississippi State Bulldogs started SEC play with three wins in their first five games, but they went into their first conference tournament game Wednesday night against Vanderbilt with a 13-18 overall record and looking to end a 13-game losing streak. Both teams needed to win the conference tournament to earn an NCAA Tournament bid, and the Bulldogs’ run will continue after a decisive 82-68 victory over the Commodores, who now have a 15-16 record and look unlikely to be in any postseason tournament.
Four Bulldogs accounted for 65 of the team’s 82 points, led by Craig Sword (20 points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals) and Roquez Johnson (18 points, five rebounds, one assist and one steal). Guard Fred Thomas continued his solid late-season run with 16 points (4-for-7 on three-pointers) and three assists with two rebounds, and forward Gavin Ware chipped in with 11 points and four rebounds.
Vanderbilt also had four players score in double figures, led by center Damian Jones (16 points, four rebounds and two blocked shots) and forward Rod Odom (15 points, three points, three assists), but they went just 8-for-25 from beyond the arc in the game and were out-rebounded 33-25 by Mississippi State.
Mississippi State will move on to take on Ole Miss on Thursday night, and it’s a critical game for the Rebels as they are firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble with an 18-13 record and six losses over their final eight regular season games. The Bulldogs would surely love to hamper, and all but put an end to, their in-state rival’s chances for a spot in the field of 68. After putting their prolonged losing streak behind them with Wednesday night’s victory, I like Mississippi State’s chances to pull the upset.
Brad Berreman is a Senior Writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.