STARKVILLE • Vanderbilt shocked the Southeastern Conference, as well as the landscape of college basketball, with its 99-90 win over No. 18 LSU on Wednesday night.
The victory snapped a record 26-game losing skid for the Commodores in conference play and dealt the Tigers their first SEC defeat after starting out league play at 8-0.
Mississippi State coaches and players were watching as well and understand there will be a confident group of Commodores coming to Humphrey Coliseum tonight for a 7:30 contest on the SEC Network.
“That surprised me,” said MSU guard Nick Weatherspoon, who simply tweeted ‘wow’ after Vandy’s upset. “I was actually watching that game and noticed how LSU was just chilling and those (Vanderbilt) guys were just making shots.
“(LSU) was waiting for them to break and they didn’t break. Vanderbilt showed me a lot and we’ve got to be ready to play.”
The Commodores (9-13, 1-8 SEC) have been close several times in conference play. First-year coach Jerry Stackhouse’s squad suffered a four-point loss at Auburn and lost by nine at Kentucky after the Wildcats pulled away late. Vandy have also dropped a pair of overtime games to Richmond and SMU.
“They’ve been able to continue to fight on,” said MSU coach Ben Howland. “I think they run a lot of good stuff offensively. They shoot a lot of 3s and really stretch the floor and space you out. (Saben) Lee is such a good driver and finisher at the rim. It’s a hard team to match-up with.”
Lee, a junior guard, scored a career-high 33 points against LSU and ranks fifth in the SEC at 16.7 points per game. He led the Commodores with 13 points in a 71-55 loss to Mississippi State in Nashville last season.
The Bulldogs (14-8, 5-4) saw their five-game SEC winning streak come to a close with an 80-72 loss at No. 15 Kentucky on Tuesday. The Wildcats held two of State’s biggest stars – Weatherspoon and Reggie Perry – to a combined 6 of 27 from the field.
“I think we got (Kentucky’s) very best game,” Howland said. “We didn’t play our very best game and a lot of it did have to do with them and just how good they are and how good they are at there at Rupp Arena. But yet, we had a chance.
“As poorly as we thought we did compared to what we’re capable of, we’re still right there. That was frustrating.”
MSU will recognize the 25th anniversary of the 1994-95 Sweet 16 team during today’s game as well as honor the 1995-96 Final Four squad. Those teams combined for 48 wins under Richard Williams and claimed the program’s first SEC Tournament title in 1996.