NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Jordan Wright went 4 for 4 from the free-throw line in the final seconds and finished with 19 points, Ezra Manjon had 15 points and seven assists and Vanderbilt beat Mississippi State 77-72 Saturday night in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Vanderbilt (18-13, 11-7 SEC), which has won eight of its last nine games following a 101-44 loss at No. 2 Alabama on Jan. 31., earned a first-round bye and the No. 6 seed in the Southeastern Conference Tournament, which begins Wednesday in Nashville.
Tyrin Lawrence and Wright sandwiched 3-pointers around back-to-back baskets by Emmanuel Ansong to make it 10-3 and the Commodores never trailed. Colin Smith hit a 3 before Manjon made a layup less than a minute into the second half that stretched the lead to 42-27 — Vanderbilt’s biggest of the game. Tolu Smith scored nine straight points to pull the Bulldogs within six about two minutes later, and Mississippi State twice trimmed its deficit to two points — the latter coming when D.J. Jeffries made a jumper with eight seconds to play — but got no closer.
Lawrence finished with 16 points and Myles Stute scored 12 on 4-of-8 shooting, all from 3-point range, for Vanderbilt.
Smith led Mississippi State (20-11, 8-10) with a career-high tying 27 points and 11 rebounds. Jeffries added 17 points and 11 rebounds and Shakeel Moore scored 13 points.
Liam Robbins — Vanderbilt’s leader in scoring (15.0 per game) and rebounding (6.8) and the conference’s leader in blocks (3.2) — did not play. The former Drake and Minnesota player suffered a season-ending leg injury in a win at No. 23 Kentucky on Wednesday. The 7-footer averaged 22 points, 10.1 rebounds and 4.6 blocks in February as the Commodores went 6-1, their best February since 2008.
Mississippi State takes on No. 11 seed Georgia or 14th-seeded LSU in the second round of the SEC Tournament on Thursday.
Vanderbilt, the No. 9 seed in the conference tourney, plays No. 8 seed Florida in the second round Friday.
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