Defense, Smith’s double-double carry Mississippi State over Vanderbilt

Published 8:33 pm Saturday, January 20, 2024

STARKVILLE — Tolu Smith III and Mississippi State doubled down on Vanderbilt.

Smith finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds for his 27th career double-double as Mississippi State beat Vandy 68-55 in a men’s basketball game Saturday.

It’s the third time this season Smith has reached 20 or more points. His 27 career double-doubles lead all active players in the Southeastern Conference.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am

“I think the coaching staff and my team did a great job of getting me and (Jimmy Bell Jr.) the ball,” Smith said. “We put a lot of work in on the low block and a lot of work in just in our game in general, so the results showed tonight.”

Josh Hubbard came off the bench to score 11 points. Trey Fort added six points, and Jimmy Bell Jr. had four points and seven rebounds. The Bulldogs’ reserves outscored Vanderbilt’s 23-7.

Starter D.J. Jeffries also had 10 points, six rebounds and three assists.

Mississippi State’s defense was a big difference-maker. It held Vanderbilt to 25.9 percent (7-for-27) shooting in the first half, and enjoyed a 25-15 rebounding advantage, while building a 36-21 lead.

Vanderbilt outscored the Bulldogs 34-32 in the second half but never got closer than 10 points.

“We were playing a style that, you know, we’ve been trying to do lately,” Bulldogs coach Chris Jans said. “Trying to play inside-out, get a bunch of paint touches, trying to get to the line and we were doing it. The defense was pretty locked in from the jump.”

The Bulldogs (13-5, 2-3 SEC) have won six of their last seven at home against Vanderbilt (5-13, 0-5).
Mississippi State will be back in action Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., when it goes on the road to play Florida. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.