The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Vanderbilt survives late comeback to beat Mississippi State 77-72 in regular-season finale

In their regular-season finale, the Vanderbilt Commodores defeated Mississippi State 77-72 thanks to four double-digit scorers.
Ophelia Lu
Jordan Wright shoots a 3-pointer against Mississippi State on March 4 (Hustler Multimedia/Ophelia Lu).

The Vanderbilt Commodores (18-13, 11-7) closed their regular season with a 77-72 win over the Mississippi State Bulldogs (20-11, 8-10) on Saturday. Vanderbilt was already locked into the No. 6 seed at the SEC Tournament based on results earlier in the day, but the result was still certainly important to bolster the Commodores’ NCAA Tournament resume.

Before the game, Emmanuel Ansong, Liam Robbins and Jordan Wright were honored for Senior Night. Robbins was unavailable for the game due to his season-ending leg injury, but both Ansong and Wright were listed in the starting five.

“We would’ve loved to have had Liam be a part of it, but I thought they all rallied together and got this win for him,” head coach Jerry Stackhouse said in his postgame press conference. “It was a great energy in our building tonight. Our fans showed up and showed out, and it definitely helped propel us across the finish line tonight.”

The Commodores got off to a near-perfect start, amassing an early 10-3 lead while forcing four turnovers on defense in the opening five minutes. The game was tight defensively both ways throughout the first half. Vanderbilt forced a turnover on 37.6% of Mississippi State’s first-half possessions. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs played a full-court press for much of the opening period and were tight on the perimeter. As a result, most of the Commodores’ points came on long three-point attempts and fast breaks.

“Ezra [Manjon]’s speed was a lot of it,” Stackhouse said of the press break. “He has unbelievable speed, and he’s a great ball-handler. And he makes really good decisions. That was key. It really got sped up. I think we had a couple turnovers against their press: [Quentin Millora-Brown] mishandled one and maybe Trey [Thomas] threw one away. But we feel very confident when he’s in there and our press attack takes a lot of teams out of trying to press us.”

The Bulldogs eventually backed off the press though, allowing Vanderbilt to sustain its more regular offense. With a 6-for-8 shooting run in the closing minutes, Vanderbilt took a 37-27 lead into halftime.

Wright was certainly the Commodores’ top player of the first half, contributing 13 points with 4 rebounds and two deep 3-point makes. Meanwhile, Manjon was held to just 2 points but had 4 assists in the period.

The Commodores flew out of the gates in the opening minute of the second half and led by 15, but the Bulldogs responded with an 11-2 run of their own led by Tolu Smith to draw back within six.  A few empty possessions later by Vanderbilt, the lead was down to two at 49-47.

Stackhouse called a timeout to stop the run, and Myles Stute made a 3-pointer out of the break to put Vanderbilt up by 5 again. A few minutes later, another Stute deep-ball made it 61-53 and re-energized the Vanderbilt crowd.

The Commodores were also able to slow Mississippi State down defensively, holding them scoreless for three minutes late in the second half. The scoring output of Wright and Tyrin Lawrence slowed down, but Manjon and Stute both ramped up to revive the Commodore offense.

Down the stretch, the Bulldogs stayed within 10. A late run cut the lead to four in the final minute, and to two in the last ten seconds. With the visitors out of timeouts, Vanderbilt needed to inbound the ball on their baseline and make its free throws to secure the victory. The Commodores missed three free throws in the last minute, but one make by Manjon and a missed three-point shot by the Bulldogs secured the victory. Fittingly, it was a pair of Wright free throws that extended the lead to five points and iced the game.

“Coming in and seeing [the students] 60 minutes ahead of game time running down here and trying to get to the front of the court, you feel like you just can’t lose for them,” Wright said of the atmosphere. “You feel like you’re playing for the city of Nashville, you feel like you’re playing for Vanderbilt. There’s a lot of school pride here. Having that energy in the arena, you feel like you can’t lose. The magic is back for sure.”

The Commodores had four scorers ―Wright, Lawrence, Manjon and Stute ― in double figures.

Vanderbilt’s 11-7 final SEC record is their best since 2015-2016, a season when the Commodores reached the NCAA Tournament but were eliminated in the First Four.

As the No. 6 seed in the SEC Tournament, Vanderbilt will open their postseason on Thursday, March 9 at 8 p.m. CST against the winner of Georgia versus LSU at Bridgestone Arena.

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About the Contributors
Frankie Sheehy
Frankie Sheehy, Former Deputy Sports Editor
Frankie Sheehy ('24) wrote for The Hustler Sports section and graduated from the College of Arts and Science with majors in economics and law, history and society. He was also the president of the Vanderbilt Chess Club and a superfan of the Chicago White Sox. You can reach him at [email protected].
Ophelia Lu
Ophelia Lu, Deputy Photography Editor
Ophelia Lu (’26) is from Los Angeles and is double majoring in biomedical and electrical engineering in the School of Engineering. She previously served as a staff photographer. When not covering events and sports games for The Hustler, you can find her listening to a lot of music, studying at Starbucks or lying on Alumni lawn. She can be reached at [email protected].
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