There is still a tough road ahead with games against nationally ranked conference opponents Kentucky and Florida still on the books to finish the regular season, but Vanderbilt continued its recent success by taking care of business at home with a 77-48 win over Mississippi State.
The 39-point win not only marks the largest margin of victory for the Commodores, but also the first time this season they have held an opponent under 50 points.
Mississippi State came into this game closer to the bottom of the SEC standings with a 5-10 conference record, but nothing was a given as the loss against lowly Missouri earlier in the season demonstrated.
The Commodores did not exactly start guns blazing as it took three and a half minutes to register a field goal, a Mathew Fisher-Davis three to cancel out the early trey by big man Aric Holman. The three by Fisher-Davis opened the account for the Commodores, who would make five more before heading into the locker room for the half.
Vanderbilt was able to pull away in the first half with a series of small runs. With the Dores trailing 6-7 five minutes into the game, they mustered a 7-0 run, led by Riley LaChance’s three pointer and layup, with Fisher-Davis adding in a jumper. After the bulldogs had a 5-0 run of their own, an 8-0 Vanderbilt run again separated the two teams. Clevon Brown and Luke Kornet joined the three-point party, with Brown throwing it down at the rim as well.
Vanderbilt closed the half with a 7-0 run, which featured another three-pointer from Kornet, who led the team with 10 points going into the locker room with a 14-point lead.
The second half was a breakout period for Jeff Roberson, who came out of the half-time team talk with only 4 points, but finished the game with a career high 23 points, including five made three-pointers. Roberson made his mark straight away with two shots from the charity stripe and back to back makes from downtown to command an 8-0 run by himself to open the second period, growing the lead to over 20 points.
After Mississippi State chipped away through guard Quinndary Weatherspoon, who led his team with 15 points for the game, Roberson was back at it again, this time making three consecutive shots from beyond the arc without a Bulldog reply.
“His stretch was fun to watch,” said Vanderbilt head coach Bryce Drew of Roberson. “We tried to keep him in a little longer since he’s hot.”
LaChance added insult to injury with a three-pointer of his own to follow, his third of the night.
Weatherspoon made back to back threes as the bulldogs tried to claw back late in the game, but the damage had already been done. The Commodores closed the game out with a dunk by Djery Baptiste, who contributed eight points off the bench, all in the second half and without missing a field goal, as part of a 9-3 run to balloon the lead to over 25.
Vanderbilt shot the ball at a 47% clip, including an impressive 48% from beyond the arc as a team, while holding the opposing Bulldogs to 30% shooting from the field.
“When we get stops on defense, it allows us to get into transition and … a lot of our threes came in transition off of defensive stops,” said Drew.
The Commodores also held the advantage in rebounding and points in the paint in their rout.
Next, Vanderbilt visits Kentucky on Wednesday before coming back to Memorial Gym to battle against a second nationally-ranked opponent to close out the regular season. The Commodores will also have to string some wins in the SEC tournament, at Bridgestone arena March 8-12, if they are to get a place at the big dance.
“What a great opportunity to be able to have these teams left on our schedule and to be able to, at this time of the year, still playing for something,” said Drew of the situation.