NASHVILLE, Tenn. — For the second game in a row, Vanderbilt lost a game by three points. Being that close to breaking a now three-game losing streak doesn’t soften the hurt any more.
“Coach (Jerry Stackhouse) likes to call (the last five minutes) winning time and he’s 100 percent right. It is winning time,” Vanderbilt sophomore Dylan Disu said. “You have to lock in and not let any mistakes happen on defense or offense – no turnovers, no easy buckets, no defensive lapses.
“So I think us locking in come winning time, we’ll be able to get a lot of wins coming down the stretch.”
The Commodores clawed their way back into Saturday’s contest at Memorial Gymnasium after trailing by 11 in the second half against visiting Mississippi State. They even had the ball back down 83-81 with six seconds left – then turned the ball over in the backcourt.
Then Jordan Wright’s desperation, full-court heave at the buzzer wasn’t anywhere near the goal and time ran out on an 84-81 defeat for the Dores.
Vandy, which lost 77-74 at Kentucky on Tuesday, dropped to 0-3 in SEC play.
“We need a break, that’s all it is,” Stackhouse said. “Right there at the end we had a nice set, (Scotty Pippen’s) guy reached his hand in there and got his hand on the ball. We played everything right – just one of those freak plays. But I would have loved to have seen us at least have an opportunity to possibly tie or win the game with a last-second shot.
“But if we keep fighting, if we keep doing what we’re doing things will start to turn our way.”
In three league contests, Vandy opponents have shot 54.7 percent against the Commodores and 61.3 percent in Nashville. Mississippi State helped continue that trend Saturday.
The Bulldogs (8-4, 3-1 SEC) made eight of their first 10 shots in the second half before cooling off a tad to the tune of 59.3 percent of the final 20 minutes.
Mississippi State finished the day 31 of 51 and had four players score in double figures.
“Everybody that comes in this damn building makes shots,” Stackhouse said. “So I don’t know – we got to figure that out. Obviously it’s a shooter’s gym for everybody but us.”
While the Commodores trailed by as many as 11 in the second half and by six (81-75) with 25 seconds to play, they never quit fighting.
Led by Pippen’s 18 points and 12 assists and Trey Thomas’ 17, Vanderbilt made 15 3s, got 24 points off the bench and only fell short in the rebounding battle by four against the league’s top rebounding team.
Disu added 16 to go along with seven rebounds while DJ Harvey added 13. It still wasn’t quite enough to nab that first SEC victory.
“We just played with that team very well. We should have won that game,” Disu said. “We know we can compete with anyone in the country at this point. If we just come out ready to play and ready to compete we’ll be alright and we’ll be able to play with anyone.”
Vanderbilt faces another tough week ahead when it welcomes No. 9 Tennessee at 6 p.m. Tuesday and then must turn around and travel to Knoxville, Tennessee, to face the Volunteers (9-1, 3-1 SEC) on Saturday.
“As well as our guys are learning, we’re learning some things about them and about different guys that we can trust in different situations,” Stackhouse said. “Overall it’s obviously disappointing (to lose), but there’s still some positives that we can try to take from this game.”
• Vanderbilt has made at least four 3s in 24 consecutive games.
• The Commodores are now 79-52 in the all-time series against Mississippi State and 47-11 at home.
• Vanderbilt had not lost three in a row to Mississippi State since a four-game losing skid between 2001-04.
• The Bulldogs won back-to-back trips to Memorial Gymnasium since 2002 and 2004.
• Vandy is 0-3 in SEC for the third season in a row.
• The Dores are 4-42 in their last 46 against SEC competition.
• Vanderbilt is 10-3 (10-1 in regulation) under Stackhouse when scoring at least 80 points.
• The Commodores are now 4-1 on the weekend this season and 0-4 on weekdays.
— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com. Follow him @MrChadBishop.