Foster-Led Vandy Edges Bulldogs 86-85

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - In a hotly-contested matchup of ranked teams, Mississippi State co-captains Jamont Gordon and Charles Rhodes each contributed more than 20 points but saw the 25th-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs (20-9, 11-4 Southeastern Conference) fall a point short in overtime to Vanderbilt as Shan Foster scored 42 points to lead the 16th-ranked Commodores (25-5, 10-5) to an 86-85 victory.

Foster put on a shooting exhibition that will not soon be forgotten, easily surpassing his previous career high with 42 points. After missing his first six three-pointers, Foster nailed his next nine, many from well beyond the arc, including the game-winning trey with 2.7 seconds remaining in overtime. Foster ended the game shooting 16-of-25 from the floor, 9-for-15 from three-point territory.

Rhodes, who entered the game as the current SEC Player of the Week, hit 9-of-15 shots to score 22 points and also claimed a game-best 14 rebounds to notch his eighth double-double of the season. Gordon fell a point shy of his season high with 24 points, while also grabbing eight boards and dishing out five assists. Sophomore Jarvis Varnado tied a career-high 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting, while sophomore Barry Stewart's 10 points rounded out State scorers in double digits.

The game seemed to be controlled by State for most of the night, as MSU led nearly the entire game, but never by large margins. Vanderbilt hit only four of its first 21 shots and State led 21-14 at one point. The Commodores clawed their way back and tied the game at halftime, 30-30.

MSU came out in the second half aggressively and took a 40-36 lead, but Foster began raining threes. At one point, Vandy reclaimed the lead at 49-46, but no other Commodore could find an offensive rhythm and State went on a 9-0 run to go back on top. Executing an offensive gameplan designed to get the ball to the basket, MSU managed to maintain a small lead throughout the second half despite Foster's constant long-range barrage.

With just 33.5 seconds left in regulation, Gordon hit two free throws to give MSU a 73-68 advantage. Foster responded with another three and a Gordon free throw gave State a 74-71 lead with 21.0 seconds left in the half. Foster then drained yet another trey with 1.6 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime.

The extra period went much like regulation, with the teams playing very tight throughout. State sophomore shooting guard Ben Hansbrough hit his first field goal, a long-range shot, to put State up by three early. Varnado and VU star freshman A.J. Ogilvy each fouled out in the extra period, but MSU still managed to approach the final minute up 81-78. Hansbrough hit another three with 35.0 seconds left to give the Bulldogs an 84-80 edge, but Foster yet again answered with a trey to cut the score to 84-83 with 29 seconds left. After Hansbrough was fouled on the ensuing possession and knocked down one of two free throws, Vanderbilt ran out most of the remaining time and Foster completed his magical night with the game-winning bomb with 2.7 seconds left.

Vandy's victory closed out a perfect season for the Commodores at home this year.

The 2008 SEC Western Division Champion Bulldogs will now close out regular-season play with a home contest in the friendly confines of the Humphrey Coliseum this Saturday, March 8, against the LSU Tigers (13-16, 6-9). Tipoff for the event is set for 3 p.m. CT and will be televised by Raycom Sports.

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