Taylor leads Vandy past State, 81-74

STARKVILLE-- Jeffery Taylor scored 25 points and had a key steal followed by a score to lead Vanderbilt to an 81-74 win at Mississippi State. Vanderbilt rallied from a 9-point deficit with nine minutes remaining to pick up its first SEC road victory of the 2010-11 season.

With Vanderbilt leading by three and only 15 seconds remaining in the game, Vanderbilt's Jeffery Taylor stole a pass from Mississippi State's Brian Bryant and then drove to the basket and dunked despite being fouled by two opposing players. Although Taylor missed the ensuing free throw the damage to the home team was done and Vanderbilt held on to gain an important road victory. It was Vandy's first victory in Humphrey Coliseum since back in the 1992-93 season when Eddie Fogler was still coaching the Commodores.

Vanderbilt trailed 63-54 with 9:18 remaining in the game and it looked like the Commodores would suffer their third straight conference road loss of the season. However, Vanderbilt increased its pressure on defense and the Bulldogs shooting went cold. State had made 45 percent of their field goals in the first half but after the 9:18 mark the Bulldogs were only able to make 23 percent (3-of-13) from the field.

As Bulldog shots missed their mark the Commodores cut into the home team's lead. A Lance Goulbourne dunk followed by a free throw completed a 3-point play and pulled Vandy to within four at 66-62 with 6:43 to go. Two free throws by John Jenkins gave the Commodores back the lead with 5:39 to play, 67-66. Jenkins added two more free throws with 4:39 remaining which put the visitors up 71-66 and Vandy appeared to have the game safely under control. That was not the case however, as the Bulldogs battled back and Ravern Johnson's free throws put MSU back on top 72-71 with 3:32 to go.

Mississippi State's lead was short lived. After Vandy's Festus Ezeli pulled down an offensive rebound, the big African was fouled by Kodi Augustus. Ezeli, who has struggled in the past at the free throw line, coolly sank two shots from the charity stripe to give Vandy back the lead, 73-72, and Mississippi State would never lead again.

Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings went with the full court press in the final minutes of the game. The move paid dividends as the Black and Gold bunch came up with two steals in the final minute of the game. Goulbourne stole a pass with 22 seconds remaining which resulted in a dunk by Taylor. Then, with 15 seconds to go and the Bulldogs attempting to in-bound the ball for a potential game tying 3-point shot, Taylor stole the ball and made his memorable second dunk of the minute to finish off MSU.

The victory was the first for Stallings in 12 seasons at Vanderbilt. The happy coach discussed the win after the game.

"This was very big for us and for me," said Stallings. "I haven't known victory down here and we had to work very hard to get it. When we got down by eight points, I decided to go to our press and I think that turned the game back in to our favor."

Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury was complimentary of Vanderbilt after the game.

"I want to give Vanderbilt credit," said Stansbury. "They made the plays you had to win the game. That is a sign of a very good basketball team, and I said a long time ago that they are one of the better teams in the league."

Vanderbilt led most of the first half but as in the two previous SEC road losses this season, the Commodores sputtered in the final minutes of the half and trailed 37-33 at the break.

In addition to Taylor's 25 points, Vanderbilt got 21 from Jenkins and 14 from Ezeli. Mississippi State was led by Johnson with 19.

Vanderbilt improves to 15-4 (3-2 SEC). Next up for the Commodores is a visit from Arkansas on Saturday. Mississippi State falls to 10-9 (2-3 SEC). The Bulldogs continue their homestand with a visit by Florida on Saturday. Vanderbilt now leads its all-time series with MSU, 73-44.



Vanderbilt forward Jeffery Taylor (44) shoots a basket against Mississippi State guard Ravern Johnson, right, in the second half of their NCAA college basketball game in Starkville, Miss., Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011. No. 19 Vanderbilt won 81-74. Taylor led all scorers with 25 points. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

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