STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) - In five trips to Humphrey Coliseum, Kevin Stallings had known only misery.
But thanks to Jeffery Taylor's heroics on Thursday night, the Vanderbilt coach can finally leave Starkville a happy man.
Taylor scored 25 points, including a crucial dunk in the final minute, and John Jenkins added 21 as No. 19 Vanderbilt rallied for an 81-74 victory over Mississippi State.
``It feels great to finally see Coach leave here with a grin,' Taylor said. ``We had to work really hard for that one. But when we got down, we didn't panic, we just became more aggressive and took the win.'
The Commodores (15-4, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) won at Humphrey Coliseum for the first time since 1993, breaking a streak of eight straight losses in Starkville.
Vanderbilt trailed by as many as nine points, but used a 12-0 run late in the second half to recover for its third straight victory.
Stallings, in his 12th season at Vanderbilt, has now won on the road against every SEC team. He credited the late surge to a full-court press that forced several turnovers in the waning minutes.
``We became the aggressor and we stayed the aggressor,' Stallings said.
Vanderbilt's press had its best moment in the final seconds. The Commodores led 77-74 when Taylor stole the ball and dunked over two Mississippi State defenders for the clinching basket. The 6-foot-7 junior was 9 of 18 from the field and had five rebounds, three steals and two assists.
``He just read the passer's eyes and made a play,' Stallings said. ``I'm sure there are other players on the court who could have made (the steal), but I'm not sure if any others could have finished it like he did.'
Festus Ezeli added 14 points for Vanderbilt while Lance Goulbourne had nine points and 12 rebounds.
Jenkins made 9 of 9 free throws, including seven during Vanderbilt's crucial 12-0 run that turned a 66-59 deficit into a 71-66 lead.
Ravern Johnson scored 19 points and Dee Bost added 18 for the Bulldogs (10-9, 2-3), who shot 26 of 58 (44.8 percent) from the field. Mississippi State struggled from 3-point range, making just 8 of 29 (27.6 percent).
Renardo Sidney, MSU's best post player, battled foul trouble for most of the game. The 6-10, 275-pound sophomore finished with six points and five rebounds in just 13 minutes.
``Sid was no factor. All I remember is him checking in and out,' Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said.
But the Bulldogs might still have won had it not been for sloppy play against Vanderbilt's press. Even when the Commodores didn't steal the ball, they often forced poor decisions and bad shots.
MSU lost Bost for about a minute during the final stretch after the point guard took an inadvertent elbow to the face from Ezeli, knocking a tooth loose.
``We started playing too fast and taking quick shots,' Johnson said. ``Once they got up, they stayed up. Every bad shot we'd take, they'd go down the court and make it. It hurts.'
Stansbury said the Bulldogs had no answer for Taylor.
``Stud. He's a player. He's tough,' Stansbury said. ``That's why you all talk about him going pro.'
The Bulldogs used an 8-0 run to take a 61-53 lead with 11:06 remaining, but couldn't capitalize on the momentum, as Vanderbilt never let its deficit get bigger than nine points.
Mississippi State led 37-33 at halftime, holding Vanderbilt to 35.3 percent shooting. Bost and Johnson both scored 10 points in the first half, which offset Sidney's foul trouble.
The Associated Press News Service
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