NO. 15 MISSISSIPPI STATE (15-4, 2-2 SEC) AT VANDERBILT (14-4, 4-0 SEC)
Time/TV: 7 p.m./ESPN2
Location: Memorial Gym
Mississippi State 52 (No. 6 SEC)
Vanderbilt 33 (No. 3 SEC)
Line: Vanderbilt -7 (Total 135½)
Mississippi State Players to Watch: F Arnett Moultrie, 6-11 Jr. (16.5 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 58.1% FG); G Dee Bost, 6-2 Sr. (16.1 ppg, 4.3 apg, 2.3 spg); G Rodney Hood, 6-8 Fr. (11.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 48.6% FG). Hood has turned into a strong second scoring option for the Bulldogs. In Wednesday’s loss to rival Ole Miss, Hood scored 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting. He has scored in double figures in 13 of 19 games during his freshman season.
Vanderbilt Players to Watch: G John Jenkins, 6-4 Jr. (19.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 45.3% 3s); F Jeffery Taylor, 6-7 Sr. (16.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 53.6% FG); C Festus Ezeli, 6-11 Sr. (7 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 49.6% FG). After a 20-point performance in a 69-59 win over Alabama, Jenkins is 19th in the nation at 19.8 points per game. The junior is third in the nation with 63 3-pointers made this season.
Storylines: Vanderbilt has won eight in a row after starting 6-4. The Commodores, who scored an impressive 69-59 win at Alabama on Thursday, are 4-0 in SEC play, tied with Kentucky atop the league standings. Mississippi State suffered a 75-68 loss at Mississippi on Wednesday to fall to 2-2 in the SEC. Since starting 12-1, the Bulldogs are just 3-3.
Keys: Mississippi State has had trouble shooting at times on the road. The Bulldogs went 23-for-61 in the loss to Ole Miss, including 10-of-29 from the 3-point line. Vanderbilt had no such trouble in its road win at Alabama on Thursday. The Commodores made 8-of-18 from deep against a Tide team that has arguably the best perimeter defense in the SEC. Tipoff is schedule for 7 p.m., approximately 46 hours after the Commodores concluded their win over Alabama. That’s not an easy turnaround against two tenacious defenses like Alabama and MSU. Bost has struggled from the 3-point line this season. He’s shooting 32.5 percent from the 3-point line, including 14 of his last 54. However, Bost was 5 for 14 from 3 against Vanderbilt last season. Vanderbilt’s help defense helped hold Alabama’s JaMychal Green to 3-of-7 and six points. The Commodores will need to do the same against Moultrie, who has scored at least eight points in every game this season. Jenkins and Taylor, who combined for 37 points in Thursday’s win over Alabama, is the SEC’s highest-scoring combination at 36.7 points per game. They averaged 47.5 points on 53 percent from the field combined against MSU last season. The Bulldogs have played just three true road games this season. After beating Detroit 80-75 in their only non-conference road test, Mississippi State has dropped decisions to Arkansas and Mississippi. Vandy is 8-3 at Memorial Gym but since dropping home games to Cleveland State, Xavier and Indiana State early, the Commodores have won five straight at home.
The Bottom Line: Vanderbilt is starting to look like the Final 4 team many expected it to be.
The Pick: Vanderbilt 71, Mississippi State 60
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