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Mississippi State men’s basketball holds on to beat Vanderbilt 74-69

Bulldogs improve to 17-12.

Austin Perryman/MSU Athletics

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Redshirt junior forward Tolu Smith tallied 22 points and eight rebounds, junior forward Iverson Molinar finished with 20 points and Mississippi State held on to beat Vanderbilt 74-69 on Saturday at Humphrey Coliseum.

With the win, the Bulldogs improve to 17-12 (8-8 SEC), while the Commodores fall to 14-14 (6-10 SEC).

Molinar set a school record by scoring in double figures in 29 straight games for the Bulldogs. As a team, MSU shot 25-for-50 (50%) from the floor and 1-for-6 (16.7%) on 3-pointers. The Bulldogs were outrebounded 33-29, but they managed to outscore the Commodores 32-26 in the paint.

Vanderbilt shot 24-for-52 (46.2%) for the game and 9-for-29 (31.0%) on 3s. Junior guard Scotty Pippen Jr. led the Commodores with a game-high 32 points, while senior forward Quentin Millora-Brown and junior forward Jordan Wright each added 10 points.

The Bulldogs held an early 7-3 lead before a pair of layups tied the game at 7-7 with 12:56 left in the first half. MSU then went on an 8-0 run to go up 15-7. Vanderbilt erased the eight-point deficit by making nine straight shots to end the half as the Commodores led 32-30 at the halftime break.

MSU opened the second half by outscoring Vanderbilt 10-5 to take a 39-37 lead with 17:22 left to play. The teams traded leads a few more times until the Bulldogs used an 11-0 run that erased the Commodores’ last lead of the game. The scoring drought for Vanderbilt wound up turning into a 16-2 surge for MSU as the Bulldogs led 57-46 with 8:41 to play.

Vanderbilt managed to cut the deficit to one possession multiple times. Molinar’s jumper with 55 seconds to play gave MSU a four-point lead at 67-63.

The Bulldogs made seven of their eight free throws in the final minute. After a Vanderbilt miss, junior forward D.J. Jeffries grabbed a rebound and was fouled. He made both free throws to put the Bulldogs ahead 69-63. The Commodores were able to get back within two points at 71-69 with 13 seconds to play, but Molinar made two clutch free throws with 11.7 seconds to play to give MSU a 73-69 lead. Sophomore forward Cameron Matthews made a final free throw to give the Bulldogs a 74-69 win.

The Bulldogs will be back in action Wednesday when they host No. 3 Auburn at 8 p.m. CT on SEC Network.