Vanderbilt 3-point shooting leads to blowout win over Mississippi State
From tip-off, the Commodores turned their game against Mississippi State on Saturday into a 3-point shooting barrage, knocking down 13 of 30 in a 72-51 win over the Bulldogs in Starkville.
The win was Vanderbilt's most complete performance in SEC play this season, and it came after an 84-81 home loss to Mississippi State (11-11, 5-8) on Jan. 9.
Sophomore guard Scotty Pippen Jr. set the tone 50 seconds into the game, making his first 3-pointer en route to hitting three in a row. He was 4-for-8 from 3-point range and finished with 18 points.
It was a bounce-back performance for Pippen, who only attempted two 3-pointers against Auburn on Tuesday.
"I just stayed aggressive the whole game," Pippen said. "The last couple of games, I had a hurt wrist, so I was reluctant to shoot, but I've been doing rehab stuff and my wrist is better. So today, I was being aggressive in taking my shots."
Vanderbilt (6-10, 2-8 SEC) made 10 3-pointers in the first half, the first time that has happened this season for the Commodores and just the fourth time with that many in a game in coach Jerry Stackhouse's tenure.
Maxwell Evans led all scorers with 20 points and forward Clevon Brown scored a season-high 15.
Vandy's 3-point shot overwhelms MSU
The Commodores made eight 3-pointers in the 73-67 loss to Auburn on Feb. 9. On Saturday, Vanderbilt hit 13, eclipsing the total they made in its other SEC win against South Carolina on Jan. 30.
Vanderbilt cooled off in the second half, connecting on 3-for-12 from deep. But the damage done on the offensive end in the first half, and the Commodores shot 43% from 3-point range for the game.
What kept Vanderbilt's lead intact was a defensive scheme that isolated Mississippi State guard Iverson Molinar (19 points) as the lone Bulldog to score in double digits.
Defensive traps and zones help Vandy
Alternating between a compact 1-2-2 zone and a half-court man trap prevented Molinar, D.J. Stewart and others from penetrating into the paint and replicating Mississippi State's 61% shooting performance from January.
Stewart scored 16 points in last month's matchup, but was held to nine on 3-for-10 shooting Saturday. He and Molinar combined for seven of the Bulldogs' 17 turnovers.
"Our traps were great," Stackhouse said. "We had really high hands (on defense). Our bigs were low and weren't allowing their guards to beat them around (the trap). When they picked up the ball, we were able to get a couple of steals and even made them call a timeout one time.
"We know that those guys want to get into the paint," he added. "They didn't really want to get off of it and we wanted to make them play with their big's and force them to make plays, so I thought our energy was great."
Clevon Brown has his best game
On top of scoring 15 points, Brown led all players with five steals, comprised of pass interceptions and loose balls collected from Vanderbilt's zone pressure.
Pippen said the key to Brown's improvement in just his fifth start of the season was his confidence. The guard gave a shout from the Mississippi State bench in the first half that let Pippen know Brown was destined for a strong offensive performance.
"After I hit my first couple of 3s, I heard the other team's coach (Ben Howland) trying to tell them to take me off of the ball screens and double me," Pippen recalled. "I knew in the second half, especially, that Clevon was going to be open on the roll. I told him, 'keep rolling and I'm gonna find you'."
Another rematch: Hosting Kentucky
Vanderbilt's three-point loss to Mississippi State in January came after a three-point loss to Kentucky four days earlier.
Kentucky guard Davon Mintz sank the go-ahead 3-point shot with 47 seconds left to beat Vanderbilt 77-74 in Lexington on Jan. 5. The Wildcats come to Memorial Gym on Wednesday for a rematch (6 p.m., SEC Network).
For sports stories, contact Drake Hills at DHills@gannett.com. Follow Drake on Twitter at @LiveLifeDrake.