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By DANNY P. SMITH
Mississippi State's chance at a home basketball victory was blocked away on Thursday night.
Whether you think it was stolen away by the referees, given away by the Bulldogs or earned by the Vanderbilt Commodores, the 81-74 loss was a tough one for MSU to take.
The Bulldogs had the 22nd-ranked team in the country on the ropes, but failed to put them away at Humphrey Coliseum.
In the final 2 minutes of the game, MSU's Brian Bryant and Riley Benock had shots blocked as the Bulldogs just couldn't get anything going down the stretch.
MSU head coach Rick Stansbury was complimentary of his players following the game and wasn't faulting the effort. He knows that the negatives will be magnified.
"We just had a couple of bad plays at the wrong time," Stansbury said.
It was a tough couple of minutes for Bryant to close the game.
After having his shot blocked by Festus Ezell, Bryant ended up turning the ball over and had to foul Jeffrey Taylor. Taylor was the best Commodore for the night with 25 points.
Stansbury said there's nothing else he can tell Bryant about his mistakes today in practice other than just forget it and there will be better days ahead.
Taylor made Bryant's foul hurt as he stepped up and hit a couple of big free throws for Vanderbilt.
It's not a good thing to ever put the Commodores on the line because traditionally they are good at it.
Vanderbilt came into Thursday's game hitting 88 of 115 from the line for 77 percent, which is second in the Southeastern Conference.
The Commodores didn't hurt their standing much after making 21 of 31 from the charity stripe for 68 percent against the Bulldogs.
Vanderbilt ended up getting seven more points off the line than MSU did and that turned out to be the difference in the final score.
There isn't any time for the Bulldogs to think about what might have been as the 24th ranked Florida Gators come to Starkville at noon on Saturday.
Ravern Johnson, who led MSU with 19 points against Vanderbilt, said there's no choice than to bounce back.
"We've just got to get ready," Ravern Johnson said.
The Bulldogs have some talented players and if Stansbury can continue to get them to play as hard as they did against the Commodores, then there will be some wins somewhere for this team.
Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.