Hot-shooting Commodores rally for 4th straight win

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — James Siakam told his teammates where he would hit the first 3-pointer of his career before the final home game of his Vanderbilt career.

Then he went out and did just that.

Siakam finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, and freshman Riley LaChance scored 15 points as Vanderbilt beat Mississippi State 66-56 Wednesday night for the Commodores’ fourth straight victory.

“I didn’t want him to be the first guy to go through our program and not make a jump shot for his entire career,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said with a smile.

It was a perfect end to a final night for Siakam, the Cameroon native whose family couldn’t make the game because of bad weather. So his teammates joined him in walking out in the pregame ceremony. He hit his first 3 on his sixth career attempt from the top of the key late in the first half.

“I told these guys exactly where I was going to hit it from, and that’s what happened,” Siakam said.

The Commodores (18-12, 8-9 Southeastern Conference) now are 7-2 since ending January on a seven-game skid, and they did it yet again with great 3-point shooting and another second-half comeback.

Wade Baldwin IV and Damian Jones each added 11 points. Jones scored six straight late when the Bulldogs got within two.


Mississippi State (12-18, 5-12) now has lost five straight. Craig Sword scored 20 points for the Bulldogs, and Gavin Ware had 12. Coach Rick Ray blamed their nine turnovers in the second half.

“We took away our own opportunities to score there by not taking care of the basketball,” Ray said. “It’s the same old bugaboo.”

Vanderbilt had trailed by 11 at halftime of its last two games. Against Mississippi State, the Commodores were only down 36-32 at intermission, and they took control opening the second half with a 14-4 run including back-to-back 3s from Matthew Fisher-Davis and LaChance. They never trailed again.

When Baldwin scored on a layup, Vanderbilt had a 46-40 edge with 16:09 left.

The Commodores forced Mississippi State into a handful of turnovers but couldn’t build on their lead missing seven straight. Demetrius Houston ended Mississippi State’s own drought where the Bulldogs hit only one of their first six shots in the half with a layup with 11:19 left, then finally Shelton Mitchell drove the lane for a jumper at 8:56 ending Vandy’s drought for a 48-42 lead.

After Sword’s layup with 4:57 left, Jones hit a jumper for a 58-54 lead and the Bulldogs couldn’t get any closer the rest of the way.

Both teams shot 57.1 percent from the floor in the first half (12 of 21) and each hit six 3-pointers with the Bulldogs taking a 36-32 lead into halftime thanks to an edge at the free-throw line. Sword hit his first three shots, all from beyond the arc, in helping Mississippi State lead by as much as 11. But the Commodores used an 8-0 run to get close by intermission.

Vanderbilt: The Commodores, who came in as the SEC’s best 3-point shooters, went 8 of 17 and now are 42 of 85 beyond the arc over their past four games. … With a winter storm warning in effect, plenty of empty seats were available at Memorial Gym. Officially, 8,685 tickets were sold. … The Commodores now have trailed in five of their last six wins.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs led at halftime for the sixth time in nine SEC road games this season and now have their fifth loss when leading at halftime. … The Bulldogs have not won four SEC road games since 2011. … The Bulldogs went 14 of 20 at the free throw line but cooled off shooting only 6 of 18 from the floor in the second half. They didn’t hit another 3 after halftime.

Vanderbilt had four seniors to honor, one a manager. Center Josh Henderson had only his second start this season, while Siakam got his 12th start this season and 30th of his career. Shelby Moats missed the last five games because of a concussion.

Vanderbilt visits Mississippi on Saturday night. Mississippi State hosts Missouri on Saturday.