1. Relatively slow start for Vandy, considering how the Commodores usually start off well at home. Mississippi State built a 14-7 lead thanks to a 4:23 scoring drought. Despite the start, the Dores used a 13-0 run later in the half aided by a scoring drought by the Bulldogs amassing 3:21.
2. Mississippi State forward Aric Holman was a massive problem for Vanderbilt back on January 16 in Starkville, as the junior scored 18 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Holman scored 7 in the first 10:11 of the first half, while his frontcourt mate Abdul Ado chipped in another 6. The pair scored 13 of the Bulldogs first 22 points and nearly outscored the Dores to the 9:49 point of the first half but only scored a single basket the rest of the half–a Ado steal and dunk–as the Bulldog guards settled for deep threes instead of attacking the middle of the Commodores zone.
3. Mississippi State came into tonight leading the SEC in scoring defense, allowing opponents 66.2 points per game. In SEC play, the Bulldogs are only ranked sixth in scoring defense, allowing a still very respectable 70.1. In the first half, Vanderbilt was well on their way to the 66 and 70 point averages, putting up 40 points on 52 percent shooting, including 7-of-13 shooting from three.
4. Since the season-ending shoulder injury to Matthew Fisher-Davis, sophomore guard Payton Willis has found more opportunities to contribute offensively. The Fayetteville, AR native scored 9 points in the first half all coming from via the three ball, as Willis made 3 of his 4 attempts from deep.
5. Mississippi State shot 50 percent in the first half and seemed to have control for the most part but two separate scoring droughts, one of 3:21 and another of 4:03, to end the half, allowed Vandy to build a 40-31 halftime lead.
6. To be frank, Joe Toye hasn’t lived up to the expectations that he had coming into the year, particularly when you look at how he ended the 2016-17 season. But the junior from Chicago had maybe his best game of the year tonight and certainly his best moment when he, without any regard for Holman’s life and those who love and care about the Bulldog forward. put Holman on a poster with a senseless drive and jam over the Bulldogs forward.
7. Vanderbilt held a comfortable lead for most of the second half but struggled to get stops as Mississippi State made nine consecutive field goals to retake the lead. Of those eight field goals, seven of them came from behind the arc, five of which coming from Xavian Stapleton, who came in a 27 percent three-point shooter.
8. The bench play was a major factor for Vandy tonight. Willis had the strong first half and continued the hot shooting in the second half, knocking a pair of threes on way to a season-high 15 points. Outside of his monster dunk, Toye contributed 16 of his own, also a season-high, scoring 11 after halftime.
9. Free throw shooting at the end of games has been a problem for the Commodores this season. Back in January against Kentucky, Riley LaChance was fouled on a three down four with 30 seconds left in the ballgame and went to the line and missed all three foul shots. In the second meeting with Kentucky, both Jeff Roberson and LaChance missed critical free throws that helped send the game to overtime, where the Commodores came up short. Tonight, Roberson missed his second of two free throws with 8 seconds left but was bailed out as Toye was fouled by Stapleton. Toye went to the line and missed his first but connected on his second. Down 79-78, Vandy was forced to foul. Mississippi State appeared to lose the ball out of bounds but the Bulldogs were bailed out by a phantom foul call on Toye. Stapleton went to the line, made his first but missed his second allowing Willis to race the ball up the court and hand it off to LaChance who hit a three as time expired. The officials went to the monitor to add a half of a second but to no avail the Bulldogs full court pass landed in the hands of the hero LaChance.
10. The loss is a crushing defeat for the Bulldogs bubble hopes. The 18-7 record isn’t the biggest issue for MSU, nor really is the No. 58 RPI that they came into tonight with. Ben Howland scheduling a non-conference slate that ended up being 303rd best out of 351 would where to point. Also, 10 of the Bulldogs 18 wins coming against Quadrant 4 teams is a major negative. A loss to RPI No. 125 Vanderbilt only equates to a Quadrant 2 loss but losing to the last place team in the SEC and missing out on an opportunity to notch their second true road win of the season has to hurt.
11. Vanderbilt has had a lot of heartbreaks this season but tonight will certainly be a celebration for Bryce Drew and his team. The Commodores have refused to quit despite all of the hard luck that has befallen them, especially late in games. LaChance earned a level of redemption with the game-winning three and at 4-9 in SEC play, only two games back of the eight place teams Texas A&M and Mississippi State, there’s still a chance that the Commodores could work their way into Thursday positioning at the SEC tournament in St. Louis where they could have as good of a shot as anyone to take home the tournament crown.