NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Sophomore guard Iverson Molinar scored 24 points and Mississippi State shot the lights out on its way to an 84-81 victory over Vanderbilt at Memorial Gymnasium on Saturday.
Molinar shot 9 of 11 from the field and made six of his nine free throws. He also tallied a team-high eight rebounds. Redshirt sophomore forward Tolu Smith scored 18 points on 7-for-8 shooting and brought down seven rebounds, while redshirt sophomore guard D.J. Stewart Jr. added 16 points and redshirt senior forward Jalen Johnson added 10.
The Bulldogs improve to 8-4 (3-1 SEC), while the Commodores fall to 4-5 (0-3 SEC).
MSU shot 31-for-51 (60.8%) for the game, including 4-for-7 (57.1%) from 3-point range. Free throws continue to be a struggle as the Bulldogs made 18 of 28 (64.3%) from the charity stripe.
The Bulldogs scored 20 of their 36 first-half points in the paint and finished with 42 points total.
Vanderbilt shot 25-for-60 (41.7%) from the field and 15-for-33 (45.5%) on 3-pointers.
Sophomore guard Scotty Pippen Jr. led the Commodores with 18 points and 12 assists. Freshman guard Trey Thomas finished with 17 points, including a career-high five triples, while sophomore forward Dylan Disu and senior guard DJ Harvey added 16 and 13 points, respectively.
With the score tied 8-8 early, the Commodores made two consecutive 3-pointers to go up 14-8 with 13:56 left in the first stanza.
The Bulldogs used a jumper from Molinar and two consecutive triples from Johnson to go up 23-22 with 8:57 left.
The game was knotted up again at 27-27 before MSU scored the next five points to go up 32-27.
The Bulldogs went into the halftime break with a 36-35 lead.
MSU made eight of its first 10 shots in the second half and had a 57-48 lead after sophomore forward Quinten Post made a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
A jumper by freshman guard Deivon Smith with 11:01 remaining gave the Bulldogs a 61-50 lead.
The Commodores then went on a 10-0 run to get within 61-60 with 8:18 left. However, the Bulldogs scored the next six points to increase the lead to 67-60. MSU managed a double-digit lead at 71-61 with 4:56 to play.
Vanderbilt hit three 3-pointers on its last four shots, coming as close as 82-81 with 6.4 seconds left.
Johnson then made one free throw to go up 83-81. Pippen had the ball with three seconds left before losing it in the backcourt and fouling freshman guard Cameron Matthews. Matthews made one free throw to go up 84-81. Vanderbilt’s full-court desperation heave at the buzzer was off target and MSU held on for the 84-81 win.
The Bulldogs return home for a game against Texas A&M at Humphrey Coliseum on Wednesday. Tip time is set for 8 p.m. CT. It will be televised by SEC Network.