NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Mississippi State Bulldogs are known for playing pressure and man-to-man defense under coach Vic Schaeffer. With his team trailing Vanderbilt after three quarters, he finally listened to assistant Dionnah Jackson-Durrett, who kept telling him to switch to a match-up zone.
That change helped No. 9 Mississippi State rally past Vanderbilt.
The Bulldogs outscored the Commodores 22-2 in the fourth quarter and beat Vanderbilt 68-52 Thursday night for a rare victory at Memorial Gym.
“Obviously in the fourth quarter you close out the game on a 22-2 run, just a tremendous effort by our kids,” Schaeffer said. “We went to the match-up and got to give Coach Jackson credit for that. She said, ‘Coach, we might as well go to 15 because we’re having a hard time dealing with them.’ So we did, and you know, held them to two points.”
Mississippi State (17-3, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) bounced back quickly from its 81-79 loss at No. 1 South Carolina on Monday night by notching a seventh straight win against Vanderbilt. This was just the fifth time the Bulldogs won in 24 games at Memorial.
“We weren’t ready to play,” Schaeffer said. “Obviously had a real big hangover.”
Mississippi State rallied after trailing 50-46 at the end of the third quarter. The Bulldogs took control in the fourth, and Xaria Wiggins’ driving layup with 6:14 left put them ahead to stay at 54-52. With a chance at an upset, short-handed Vanderbilt shot only 1 of 11 in the quarter.
Vanderbilt coach Stephanie White was happy with how her Commodores played for 30 minutes, being aggressive and detailed.
“In the fourth quarter, that’s on us,” White said. “As coaches, who would’ve thought in a million years Vic Schaeffer would throw a zone at us? And we didn’t handle it well.”
Aliyah Matharu scored 14 points for Mississippi State, and Jordan Danberry added 10.
Vanderbilt (12-7, 2-4) has lost three straight, all at home to ranked teams. The Commodores are 0-4 against ranked opponents this season and have lost 26 straight overall.
Koi Love led Vanderbilt with 19 points.
Mississippi State looked ready to rout Vanderbilt when leading 24-14 after the first quarter. The Bulldogs used their significant size advantage to score over and over inside the paint with 22 of their 24 points coming there. They also used their speed to force Vanderbilt into eight turnovers, which they turned into 10 easy points.
Carter spent much of the second quarter on the bench with two fouls, and Myah Taylor got her third with 3:59 left in the period.
Mississippi State took its biggest lead at 29-18 on Matharu’s 3-pointer with 5:25 left. Without Carter on the floor, Vanderbilt was able to get into the paint and finished on a 12-2 run capped by a pair of free throws by Jordyn Cambridge with 25.5 seconds left to trail only 31-30 at halftime.
The Commodores scored six straight and took their first lead with 6:38 left when LeaLea Carter missed her second free throw. Vandy got the rebound, and Love hit a 3-pointer to put Vandy up 36-33. The Commodores hit all three of their 3s in the quarter, two by Kiara Pearl off the bench, and led 50-46 after the third.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs dominated in the paint, outscoring Vandy 48-18, and also had a 31-14 scoring edge off 26 turnovers. That made up for a dismal 1-of-8 performance outside the arc.
Vanderbilt: Credit White with pulling her team together despite injuries knocking three players out for the season and forward Autumn Newby missing her second game with an injury. The Commodores dominated on the boards, 42-32, including 18 offensive rebounds.
Carter scored only two points in the loss to South Carolina. She scored 10 in the first quarter this time and finished with seven rebounds. She also made six of seven free throws.
“As y’all can tell from the other night, you can’t win without an inside game,” Carter said. “My coaches have been on me about working the post-up more, and that’s what I did tonight so they could get me the ball easier.”
Mississippi State starts a three-game homestand Sunday against Ole Miss.
Vanderbilt visits Alabama on Sunday.
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