By Matthew Stevens
Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings has released a statement apologizing to Mississippi State for a comment he made Sunday night to the local media.
In a press conference discussing Vanderbilt's selection to the NCAA Tournament Stallings, who has been the Commodores coach since 1999, said he questioned whether Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury or any other member of the MSU coaching staff ordered their players to intentionally hurt Commodores sophomore guard John Jenkins during Vanderbilt's 86-81 victory over the Bulldogs in the Southeastern Conference Tournament Quarterfinal matchup.
“We actually had an incident in the tournament of a player intentionally stepping on it, and being told to by his coach,” Stallings was quoted as saying early Monday morning in The Nashville Tennessean. “I thought that was very interesting that his coach was telling him, ‘Step on his foot! Step on his foot!’"
Attempts by The Starkville Daily News to contact Stansbury, who is out of town recruiting this week, directly about the matter were unsuccessful.
Jenkins, who sat out in the victory over LSU the previous night because of a left foot injury, scored a game-high 29 points against Mississippi State while making 10-for-17 from the field. The 6-foot-4 sophomore guard led the SEC in scoring this season with a 19.4 points per game clip and earlier today was named as a first-team All-SEC selection by The Associated Press.
In a statement released by the Vanderbilt University athletics department, Stallings submitted a public apology for his comments saying he’s contacted Stansbury directly about the matter as well.
“I simply misunderstood what my player told me about an incident that happened in the SEC Tournament. I have apologized to Coach Stansbury, and I want to publicly apologize to the Mississippi State athletic department for the misunderstanding and for saying something that was erroneous.”
Mississippi State athletics director Scott Stricklin publicly thanked and accepted Stallings' apology on his Twitter page for clearing up the matter in a quick and respectful manner.
“Appreciate Coach Stallings publicly clearing up the misunderstanding. I respect the Vanderbilt program and wish Dores well in NCAAs.”
Vanderbilt defeated Mississippi State twice during the 2010-11 season and for the first time in his coaching career won a game in Humphrey Coliseum in a 81-74 victory on Jan. 27.
Vanderbilt was selected to the 2011 NCAA Tournament as a 5-seed in the Southwest Region and will play Richmond in Denver on Thursday at 3 p.m.