Vanderbilt continues SEC-T futility

NASHVILLE-- Barry Stewart scored 14 points and Jarvis Varnado added 11 points and blocked six shots as Mississippi State topped Vanderbilt, 62-52, in the SEC Tournament. The loss to the Bulldogs continues a tradition of Vanderbilt futility in the conference tournament since 1951.

Vanderbilt jumped out to an early 5-0 lead after Jeffery Taylor made two free throws and Jermaine Beal canned a 3-pointer. However, Mississippi State would outplay Vanderbilt for the rest of the half. The Bulldogs tied the game at 5-5 on a Barry Stewart 3-point shot with 17 minutes to go in the half. Less than a minute later, a Stewart jump shot gave MSU its first lead of the game, 7-5.

The Commodores, who were plagued with poor shooting and turnovers, saw that Bulldog lead grow to 19-13 on a Romero Osby 3-pointer. Things got even worse for the No. 2 East seeded Commodores when their fine center, A.J. Ogilvy, was forced to leave the game with his second foul with 10 minutes before the half. Vanderbilt would go on to fizzle for the remainder of the half with scoring lapses of two minutes and four minutes before heading to the locker room down, 33-27.

In the second half the struggles continued for the local squad from West End. The Bulldogs quickly got to work adding to their advantage and took 15-point lead on a layup by Dee Bost with 17:05 remaining in the game. Although that lead would be State's biggest of the game, the Commodores, plagued by turnovers and poor play, were unable to seriously cut into the MSU lead until a Brad Tinsley 3-pointer with nine minutes to go pulled the ‘Dores to within eight at, 49-41. The Tinsley three was part of a 10- Vanderbilt run that would narrow the score to 49-45 with six minutes to go. However, two Varnado free throws ended the run and the Commodores would never get any closer to the Bulldogs.

Another scoring drought would spell doom for Vanderbilt. Trailing only 53-49 with 4:56 to play, Vanderbilt would not score again until less than a minute remained in the game and after an 8-0 State run. As Mississippi State's fans and team celebrated, Vanderbilt's squad fumbled and bumbled in the final moments as they had most of the game. Tinsley made his third three of the game with less than a minute to go but it was too little to late as the Commodores fell once again in the SEC Tournament. Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings attributed the poor semifinal showing to his team's lack of getting to the free throw line, "We've got to figure out what it was we were doing earlier in the season where we were averaging 31 free throws a game, and now we can only average about 15." Stallings also blamed his own coaching strategy during the game, "I made some mistakes and screwed up at the end."

The Commodores were led in scoring by Beal who had 11. A.J. Ogilvy, who averages almost 14 points per game, was held to only two points. The two teams were tied in the rebounding battle, 37-37, but the Bulldogs blocked eight shots to Vanderbilt's three.

Vanderbilt falls to 24-8 but is almost certain to get a four to seven NCAA seed. Mississippi State improves to 23-10 and will face Kentucky tomorrow for the SEC Tournament title. Despite the loss, the Commodores still lead their all-time series with MSU, 72-44.

Vanderbilt's all-time SEC Tournament record is now a dismal 30-48. Since 1951 the Commodores have failed to make it to a SEC-T finals. Vanderbilt is the only SEC team to not have an appearance in the finals since the conference tournament was renewed in 1979. Every other conference team has at least two appearances in the championship game. Only two teams, Vanderbilt and South Carolina, have failed to win a tournament championship since the tournament was renewed.

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