STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP)—Jamont Gordon is playing the best basketball of his career.
It’s no coincidence Mississippi State has powered its way to the top of the Southeastern Conference’s Western Division during that stretch.
Gordon recorded his first career triple-double—and the second in school history—with 15 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists as Mississippi State snapped a 13-game losing streak against ranked opponents Wednesday night with an 83-70 win over No. 17 Vanderbilt.
The Bulldogs remained in first place in the SEC Western Division.
“That’ll be 44 assists and 16 turnovers in the last nine games,” Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said of his point guard’s assist-turnover ratio. “I’m not very good at math, but I’ll take that from any point guard.”
Mississippi State (16-10, 7-6) simply ran away from Vanderbilt (18-9, 8-5) by the end of the first half and is in a first-place tie with Mississippi (18-9, 7-6) atop the SEC West with No. 25 Alabama (19-8, 6-7) trailing by a game. All three teams have three games left in the regular season.
Charles Rhodes had 23 points, including five crowd-rousing dunks, Dietric Slater added 18 points for the Bulldogs and Reginald Delk had 13.
The last Mississippi State player to record a triple-double was Lawrence Roberts in 2004.
But that one wasn’t nearly as important as Gordon’s all-around game Wednesday. The Bulldogs have won four straight and five of the last six, but their resume was missing a win over a top opponent.
Mississippi State hadn’t beat a ranked opponent since the 2004-05 season and needed the win as jockeying for postseason bids cranks up.
“I got juiced because I know how far away we are from winning a championship,” Gordon said.
Vanderbilt entered the Top 25 this week for the second time this season after upsetting then-No. 1 Florida 83-70 on Saturday. The Commodores were ranked as high as No. 23 earlier this season, but dropped out of the poll.
They appeared flat and wilted under the Bulldogs’ defensive pressure.
Mississippi State held Derrick Byars, the reigning SEC Player of the Week and the SEC’s No. 2 scorer during conference play with 19.7 points per game, to seven points. Dan Cage led the team with 12 and Shan Foster had 11. Byars and Foster each scored 24 points against Florida.
“They had us out of rhythm, out of sync,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “They were deflecting balls and everything else. They’re a very athletic team.
“They have a gear athletically that we do not.”
Mississippi State held Vanderbilt without a point for 4:17 late in the first half and led by 18 several times, including 45-27 at halftime.
Gordon was dynamic in the first half and helped his team wrap up the game quickly. In the first five minutes, he had six points, two assists, a rebound and a steal.
In the same span, Rhodes had three dunks, including two to open the game and a third that came after Gordon fed him the ball with a behind-the-back pass on a 3-on-1 fastbreak.
That dunk started an 11-2 run that gave Mississippi State a 17-6 lead with 14:58 remaining and featured two 3-pointers from Gordon and a three-point play by Slater.
Gordon, a Nashville, Tenn., native, started a second run with a scooping finger roll. Jarvis Varnado hit two mid-range jumpers during the 10-2 spurt that gave the Bulldogs a 37-19 lead with 3:51 left.
The Bulldogs had eight steals in the first half and held a 22-10 advantage in the paint and outscored the Commodores down low 38-20 in the game.
“Charles Rhodes was a beast in the middle,” Stansbury said. “They had no answer for him.”
Mississippi State opened the second half with an 11-3 run that put the Bulldogs up 56-32 with 16:28 remaining and clinched it.
“I think that’s the best we have played,” Gordon said of his team’s first-half effort. “Everybody was involved and making plays. That was great defense out there and everybody was sharing the ball.”