The Vanderbilt Commodores got a painful reminder that playing defense is just as crucial as offense in snapping their eight-game winning streak.
The Commodores blew an 11-point halftime lead by letting 18th-ranked Mississippi State shoot away, especially from 3-point range, in losing 78-77 in overtime Saturday night.
"I don't know if we relaxed and thought it was going to be easy or what we thought," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "But we sure let them get their heads going like they thought they could score every time."
Vanderbilt (14-5, 4-1) missed a chance to match Stallings' best start in Southeastern Conference play, and the loss also left No. 2 Kentucky as the league's lone undefeated team.
The Commodores led 39-28 at halftime, then watched Mississippi State hit eight of its first nine shots as part of an 18-2 run to open the second half. During its winning streak, Vanderbilt had been holding opponents to 38.1 percent shooting.
"We had a letdown," Vandy senior Lance Goulbourne said. "That's all there is to it. We didn't have the same mindset that we had in the first half. We let the game go. They scored 18 points in 4 minutes, which is a complete letdown."
Still, Vanderbilt had plenty of chances in regulation and in overtime to extend its winning streak. The Commodores missed three shots after Dee Bost's go-ahead layup with 51.8 seconds left, the last a 3-point attempt by John Jenkins that hit the front of the rim just before the buzzer.
"I thought it was going in when I shot it," Jenkins said. "I didn't know how much time I had when I got the ball, so I kind of just guessed. I probably could have landed and shot it, but in the heat of the moment I just shot the ball."
Bost scored 24 points, reserve Jalen Steele finished with 15 on five made 3s, and Arnett Moultrie had his 11th double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds.
Mississippi State (16-4, 3-2) left Memorial Gym with its first win since 2004 and only its ninth all-time. Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury said this Vanderbilt team is playing some of the best defense he's seen from the Commodores in his 22 years of coming to this old gym.
"That makes me incredibly proud of my guys to be able to come in here and ride the waves and get a win," Stansbury said.
Jenkins led Vanderbilt with 21 points, Jeffery Taylor had 19, and Festus Ezeli had 12 points and 14 rebounds. Goulbourne added 12 points with a career-high four 3s.
In a game featuring four of the SEC's top scorers — and with 16 NBA scouts watching — these teams put on a show from beyond the arc. The Bulldogs hit nine of 10 after halftime, while Vanderbilt was 14 of 27 overall — its most 3s since hitting 15 against Mississippi State on March 5, 2008.
"So no wonder why you lose the game," Stallings said. "We fell in love with the 3-point shot. We made it in the first half. I think we thought it was going to be easy perhaps. We came out the start of the second half and weren't ready to go. We shouldn't have to learn that lesson with a team that is our team's age."
Each team also took turns blowing leads.
Vanderbilt was up 39-26 late in the first half, while Mississippi State was ahead 63-53 with 7:50 left and had a 68-62 lead with 1:56 remaining in regulation.
Vanderbilt rallied with Jenkins, the league's best scorer for two seasons running, hitting his fifth 3-pointer with 32.8 seconds left to tie it 68-all.
Rodney Hood missed a jumper for the Bulldogs, then Renardo Sidney tried to put it back up and clanked a short jumper off the left side of the rim before Dai-Jon Parker got the rebound for Vanderbilt with 1.3 seconds left. Vandy had the last shot with Brad Tinsley tossing the ball into Ezeli, who missed a jumper in the lane to send it into overtime.
Vanderbilt led twice in the extra period, the last on a 3-pointer by Goulbourne with 1:09 remaining at 77-76. Bost then scored, and Vanderbilt couldn't take advantage of both Bost and Moultrie missing the front end of one-and-one down the stretch. Tinsley missed from long range then drove to the basket with his layup hitting off the rim.
After Moultrie's miss, Vanderbilt had 3.4 seconds left and the length of the court to go. Goulbourne threw the ball to Ezeli, who caught it in midair and threw it to Jenkins, but the nation's 3-point leader came up short.
Mississippi State bounced back from a loss to Ole Miss by outrebounding Vanderbilt 37-3, but the Bulldogs had a big edge at the free-throw line, going 14 of 21 compared to 5 of 9 for Vandy.