"I was very pleased to see our guys bounce back today with the effort and energy, especially with how they played with in the first half," said Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, whose team is 12-4 and 3-2 in the SEC. "It was one of those games where anything can happen after the devastation we felt on Wednesday night. A team with less character would not show up to play."
DeMarre Carroll led the way with 18 points off the bench, but he had plenty of help. Shan Foster (13 points), Derrick Byars (13), Dan Cage (11) and Mario Moore (10) all landed in double figures, while Julian Terrell grabbed nine rebounds and handed out eight (yes, eight) assists.
Despite the disappointment from Wednesday, the coaching staff appears to have taken a positive approach to the Mississippi State game, and it paid off.
"Right after the game, we were all expecting the worst," Cage said. "I think the coaches did the right thing. We had to put that game behind us and learn from it as much as we can."
Carroll said the players appreciated the coaching staff's approach.
"I give a lot of credit to the coaches," said Carroll, who hit his first five shots of the game. "They came out with a positive attitude after a bad loss to South Carolina. When you have coaches like that, who come out with a positive attitude, that makes the players want to come out and play hard."
Facing a Mississippi State team that led the league in turnovers, Vanderbilt decided it would try to run more than it has. The strategy worked, as the Bulldogs committed 21 turnovers and Vanderbilt succeeded in the transition game.
"We wanted to push the tempo and run it more and I thought we did, especially after the first few minutes of the game," Stallings said. "When the pace got up, it favored us."
Vanderbilt sprinted out to a 46-24 halftime lead and maintained it throughout the second half. Mississippi State (11-7, 1-4) never got closer than 17 and has now lost four straight after opening SEC play with a home win over Arkansas.
"We have no chance to go on the road and turn the ball over five out of the first seven possessions and win, especially against a quality team like Vanderbilt," said Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury, who is 5-4 vs. Stallings.
The Commodores shot 63 percent in the first half, including five-for-nine from three. Cage was two-for-two from behind the arc in the first half and 3-for-6 for the game.
Why does Cage think he had so many good looks against Mississippi State?
"I'm a nobody," he said. "When you've got guys like Shan, Derrick and Mo getting the attention, they're so worried about them, they're like, ‘Uh-oh, who's that white kid over there?'"
Vanderbilt will enjoy a week off before traveling to Florida in what may be the toughest assignment of the season. With a win at Rupp and possibly a new, up-tempo approach, the Commodores are splitting a bit from tradition.
"It is a little bit different Vanderbilt team than in the past few years," Cage said. "I don't know if we realize how good we can be."
Vanderbilt's DeMarre Carroll (22) gets pressure from Mississippi State's Jamall Edmondson, lower right, and Wesley Morgan during the first half of a college basketball game in Nashville, Tenn., Saturday, Jan. 21, 2006. Vanderbilt won 80-52. (AP Photo/John Russell)