Vanderbilt (10-15) at Mississippi State (7-18)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 23, 1:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Humphrey Coliseum (10,500) -- Starkville, Mississippi. Television: SEC Network. Home Record: Vanderbilt 7-6, MSU 5-6. Away Record: Vanderbilt 2-6, MSU 1-9. Neutral Record: Vanderbilt 1-3, MSU 1-3. Conference Record: Vanderbilt 4-9, MSU 2-11. Series Record: Vanderbilt leads, 74-45.
GAME NOTES: A pair of SEC cellar-dwellers are set for a Saturday afternoon showdown, as the Vanderbilt Commodores invade Humphrey Coliseum to tangle with the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
After concluding a three-game homestand at 2-1, Vanderbilt hit the road to take on Kentucky on Wednesday night, and although it fought hard, it ultimately fell on the wrong end of a 74-70 decision. The Commodores are now 10-15 on the season, including just 4-9 in the SEC and 2-6 on the road.
Mississippi State lost at Alabama on Wednesday, 64-56, to fall to 2-11 in the SEC, and with South Carolina winning earlier in the week, MSU is now the sole occupant of last place in the league standings. The Bulldogs are just 7-18 overall and are currently riding an 11-game losing streak, their longest slide since also losing 11 in a row back in 1982.
Mississippi State went into Nashville last season and defeated Vanderbilt in overtime, 78-77, but the Commodores still lead the all-time series, 74-45.
Vanderbilt appeared to be dead in the water against Kentucky the last time out, trailing by 13 points with just over nine minutes to play, and while it managed to go on a 14-3 run to cut the deficit to just two, it would never claim the advantage. It was an impressive offensive showing by Vandy's standards, as it shot 44.2 percent from the field (including 10-of-22 from 3- point range) with four players reaching double figures, paced by Kedren Johnson's 17 points. Rod Odom (16 points), Kyle Fuller (14 points) and Josh Henderson (13 points) were also impressive in the setback, while Johnson was an efficient floor general with seven assists compared to just one turnover.
The Commodores are usually able to compete with teams thanks to a stellar scoring defense, which ranks fourth in the SEC (60.9 ppg), but they oftentimes can't keep pace due to a scoring output (59.6 ppg) that is the league's worst. They are also rather lackluster on the boards (-1.8 rebounding margin) and in the turnover battle (-0.9). Johnson is the team leader in scoring (13.8 ppg), assists (3.4) and steals (31). Rod Odom adds 10.4 ppg to the mix, and he and Johnson have combined to hit 85 3-pointers at a 36.3 percent clip.
Mississippi State trailed by double-digits most of the way against Alabama earlier in the week, and although it mounted a run to make its deficit just four with 5:20 remaining, the Tide put the game out of reach with a 9-2 surge over the next three minutes. Considering Alabama's stout defense, MSU actually put forth a solid shooting effort (.417), but it was ultimately plagued by a whopping 23 turnovers. Jalen Steele returned from suspension to net 15 points off the bench, while Colin Borchert finished with 14 points and nine rebounds.
No team in the SEC has been more futile at both ends of the court this season than the Bulldogs, who have the worst scoring margin the conference by a wide margin (-8.4), while shooting a league-low 40.6 percent from the field. Craig Sword leads the way with 10.2 ppg, but he shoots less than 40 percent from the field and has nearly twice as many turnovers (95) as assists (47). Fred Thomas nets 10.0 ppg albeit on a woeful .340 field goal percentage, while Gavin Ware (8.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg) is one of the team's few efficient shooters (.555).
If Mississippi State hopes to ends its prolonged losing streak, there's no better time to do it than against a Vanderbilt squad that struggles away from home. They'll more than likely look ugly while doing so, but expect the Bulldogs to find a way to pull this one out late.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Mississippi State 60, Vanderbilt 58
02/23 10:43:41 ET