NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt hasn’t been able to enjoy the splendors of victory in quite some time.
But on Wednesday, the Commodores (9-13, 1-8 SEC) downed No. 18 LSU 99-90 to snap a nine-game skid dating back to Jan. 4. Now Vandy is looking to create a different kind of streak – a winning one.
“We’re playing at great level right now,” Vanderbilt junior Maxwell Evans said. “Each game is building up to create something special. I just think if we keep that pace up we can win some more games.”
Evans scored a career-high 31 points while fellow junior guard Saben Lee poured in a career-high 33 during Wednesday’s win. That triumph also snapped a spell of 28 straight defeats against Southeastern Conference foes.
The latter streak is one first-year Vanderbilt head coach Jerry Stackhouse grew weary of discussing whilst understanding the necessity of the talking point. But now that talking point is no more.
“That streak, everybody was talking about it for all of the wrong reasons – it’s like what are you going to talk about now? What’s next? Now it’s about what are we going to do? It’s about from game to game how do we play? And that’s what it should be about,” Stackhouse said. “The thing about us, now we can start fresh, just from last game without anything about losing streaks or 3-point streaks or any of that. It’s just about what can we build ourselves? We hoped that’s how we could start it from Day One, but the reality of it was it didn’t work that way.
“That was a symbolic moment of winning that (LSU) game to, ‘OK, now let’s hit the reset button and go see what we can accomplish from here on out.’ ”
Oddly enough, despite all the long losing streaks Vanderbilt has suffered through recently, it now has to avoid the letdown going into a hostile environment at Mississippi State at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The Dores were lauded and praised for their performance against the Tigers who had come to Nashville winners of 10 in a row and who were sitting atop the SEC standings.
Keeping momentum from a win is something Vandy hasn’t dealt with since Dec. 30.
“Guys should have confidence just because of their work, not just because they won the game,” Stackhouse said. “It’s because of the work that they’ve done and its proven and shown that being consistent and being diligent about going about our business has helped us have the success that we had last time out. I think that it will continue.
“When you have low confidence you’re not sure when you’re going to win again. Once you start getting a feeling of winning and you’re able to string a couple together I think it works the same way.”
Mississippi State (14-8, 5-4 SEC) had won five straight in league play until an 80-72 loss at Kentucky on Tuesday. But the Bulldogs still boast a 10-2 record at home and have one of the SEC’s top big men in sophomore Reggie Perry.
Perry is averaging 17.1 points, 10 rebounds, a steal and a block per game. He’s also shooting 50 percent from the field and 30.9 percent from long range.
Vanderbilt hasn’t won in Starkville, Mississippi, since 2013 – a streak of three consecutive defeats. There’s that word again: Streak.
Saturday gives the Commodores another opportunity to go streak-busting.
“We’re looking to continue doing what we’ve been doing – building and getting better,” Stackhouse said. “(Mississippi State) is a tough challenge for us, but it’s on the schedule and we got to play it so might as well go and try to win another one.”
• Vanderbilt leads the all-time series with Mississippi State 79-50, but the Bulldogs own a 34-23 advantage in games played in Starkville.
• Lee (1,112) is currently 41st on Vanderbilt’s all-time scoring list and needs 24 points to pass Luke Kornet (1,135) for 40th. Mario Moore is 39th (1,137).
• Lee and Evans are only the second scoring duo in the country to score 30 or more points in a single game this season, joining Austin Peay’s Jordyn Adams and Terry Taylor who have done it twice.
• Lee and Evans put together the first multiple 30-point efforts by SEC teammates since Jodie Meeks (32) and Patrick Patterson (33) did so for Kentucky against Tennessee State on Dec. 22, 2008.
• Lee and Evan’s 30-point games are the first in a single SEC game since at least the 1996-97 season. It was the first Vanderbilt duo to score 30 or more points in a game since Jeff Fosnes (39) and Butch Feher (34) vs. Jacksonville on Dec. 21, 1974. Clyde Lee (33) and John Ed Miller (30) also accomplished the feat Feb. 16, 1965 against Kentucky.