Mississippi State vies for season sweep of Vanderbilt

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Vanderbilt and Mississippi State renew acquaintances on Saturday afternoon when the Southeastern Conference rivals meet at Starkville, Miss.

Iverson Molinar collected 24 points and eight rebounds to lift Mississippi State to an 84-81 win over the Vanderbilt on Jan. 9 in Nashville, Tenn. Molinar's effort for the Bulldogs overshadowed the performance of Commodores point guard Scotty Pippen Jr., who had 18 points and 12 assists.

Mississippi State (11-10, 5-7 SEC) also exploited Vanderbilt in the paint, outscoring them by a 42-18 margin.

The Bulldogs weren't as fortunate in their last outing. LSU held a 48-34 edge in the pain during its 94-80 victory on Wednesday.

"We had problems just matching up and not communicating," Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said. "I was really, really disappointed in our transition defense. ... We had 15 turnovers. Every time we'd turn it over, it was a dunk at the other end."

Vanderbilt (5-10, 1-8) had problems defending another point guard in its last game. Auburn's Sharife Cooper scored 18 of his 19 points in the second half as the Tigers left Nashville with a 73-67 win on Tuesday.

Just as problematic was Cooper's drawing a fifth foul on Pippen with five minutes left. Few players in the SEC have meant more to their team than the Pippen, who leads the Commodores in points (20.4), assists (5.1) and steals (1.6) per game.

But Pippen has been held to 12 points on back-to-back games. He combined for six assists against eight turnovers as the Commodores have dropped their last two games after logging their lone conference win in a 93-81 victory over South Carolina on Jan. 30.

Forward Dylan Disu, who averages 14.4 points and 8.3 rebounds, stepped up against Auburn by collecting 18 points, 10 boards, three steals and a block. Unfortunately, Disu also committed six turnovers for a team that has little margin for error.

"Disappointing loss for us," Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse said. "I thought we let a great defensive effort in the first half come up short for us. I thought our offense failed us a little bit."

Mississippi State exploited a quickness advantage on the perimeter between Molinar and D.J. Stewart in the first meeting.

State's Tolu Smith (6-foot-10) and Abdul Ado (6-11) also pose potential problems for Vanderbilt.

The Commodores, though, can be a challenge when they make their 3-pointers. Seven players have made at least 10, and Vanderbilt drained 13 from beyond the arc in its lone conference win.

The Bulldogs gave up 15 3-pointers against the Commodores, who made 45.5 percent that afternoon.

Mississippi State has won the last three games in the series.

--Field Level Media