STARKVILLE, MISSISSIPPI (TICKER)—Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings did not try and sugarcoat it.
Timmy Bowers and Michal Ignerski keyed an early spurt and No. 24 Mississippi State cruised to an 82-60 triumph over Southeastern Conference rival Vanderbilt.
After Vanderbilt scored the opening basket of the game, Ignerski had a three-point play and Mississippi State (14-5, 4-4 SEC West) never trailed again. Ignerski and Bowers had five points apiece as the Bulldogs opened the contest with an 18-8 burst.
Ontario Harper had eight of his 13 points in the opening 20 minutes as Mississippi State built a 36-24 advantage by the break. Vanderbilt (10-9, 3-5 East) did not regroup and never got within single digits in the second half.
“We couldn’t guard them, we couldn’t score and we couldn’t rebound,” Stallings said. “When they’re better on defense, they’re better on offense and they’re better on the boards, you are going to get your butt waxed. … We were probably lucky it wasn’t worse than the final score indicated.”
Matt Freije had 21 points for Vanderbilt, which has dropped seven of 11 after opening the season 6-2. Stallings questioned his team’s heart in the Commodores’ latest loss.
“I think they’ve got guys that some of our guys are scared of,” Stallings added. “I don’t care what the matchup is like. If you go into the game worried about the guy across from you, then you might as well go home and call mom and see if she can fix you dinner because if not, you’ve got no chance.”
After Ignerski’s three-point play, Austin had a dunk and Bowers a jumper 40 seconds apart for a 7-2 lead. A 3-pointer by Derrick Zimmerman 6:59 into the contest made it 15-8. Harper had a free throw and Winsome Frazier made it 18-8 with a dunk.
“Luckily in the first part of the game, I was able to sink some outside shots and I really got into a groove,” Harper said.
Frazier extended the lead 24-12 with a jumper midway through the half and Harper kept it a 12-point game going into the half by burying a 3-pointer with 19 seconds left.
Mississippi State shot 54 percent (15-of-28) in the first half and capitalized on 12 turnovers by Vanderbilt. The Commodores made just 2-of-9 3-point attempts and never got to the free-throw line in the opening 20 minutes.
Jason Holwerda opened the second half with a layup for Vanderbilt but Bowers buried a 3-pointer that ignited an 11-0 run. Bowers had five points and Zimmerman four in the spurt, which put the game out of reach.
The Bulldogs seized their biggest lead of the game, 80-57, on a dunk by Bowers with 2:04 left.
“We’re very pleased with the win,” Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. “To our team’s credit, we came out defensively and established the way this game was going to be played in both halves. We came out at halftime in the first five minutes and extended our lead because of our defensive pressure.”
Mississippi State missed half of its 18 free throws but went 7-of-14 from 3-point range and held a 38-24 rebounding edge. Vanderbilt did not help its cause with 21 turnovers.
“(Creating turnovers) is something that has been pretty consistent with our basketball team,” Stansbury said. “We sputtered offensively at times, but our defense and rebounding always gives us spurts and chances to win games when we are not scoring.”
“I think we responded well to everything Vanderbilt did,” Ignerski said. “I think we did a very good job tonight.”