Fred Thomas let out a big sigh of relief Saturday afternoon.
The Mississippi State guard had every reason to feel like a weight had been lifted off his and his teammates’ shoulders.
The Bulldogs snapped a 16-game regular season losing skid in Southeastern Conference play with a 57-54 win over Vanderbilt at Humphrey Coliseum.
“Wooooh, thank God, yes. That’s all we needed. We needed a win to build our confidence back up,” Thomas said.
The 16-game losing skid was tied for the longest in school history, as the Bulldogs lost 16 in a row to SEC opponents twice before – 1945-46 and 1981-82.
MSU’s last win against an SEC foe in the regular season came against Auburn last January. The Bulldogs did beat the Commodores in last year’s SEC Tournament in Atlanta.
MSU head coach Rick Ray pointed to the last outing for the Bulldogs as a building block in this victory.
“I thought we took a huge step with our play at Texas A&M,” he said. “I thought we took a huge step to our approach to the game at Texas A&M, but you didn’t get the result that you wanted.”
I.J. Ready led the Bulldogs (8-9, 1-3) with 11 points. He scored the final five points for MSU to seal the victory. With the score tied 52-52 with just over a minute to play, Ready knocked down a three-pointer to give the Bulldogs a 55-52 lead with 1:12 left.
“Shoot it, that’s it,” Ready said of what was going through his mind. “I was trying to do anything to help the team. I was open and I just took the shot.”
The North Little Rock, Ark., native hit a pair of free throws with nine seconds left to give the Bulldogs the three-point lead. Ray told his team to foul on the ensuing possession, and he thought they did, but the whistle never blew and Vanderbilt missed the possible tying shot, giving MSU the win.
“Chicken (Craig Sword) did foul,” Ray said. “I thought he clearly fouled him, but obviously he didn’t because they didn’t call it.”