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MISSISSIPPI STATE: VANDERBILT’S GET-THROUGH-IT GAME


The theme of the Tennessee game preview was "comportment and composure." The Vanderbilt men's basketball team responded as well as it reasonably could to Wednesday night's test. The game wasn't so much a masterclass of basketball as it was a portrait of poise in the face of negative circumstances. The Commodores appeared to be giving the game away -- as they have done so many times to the Vols in recent years -- but unlike past episodes against Tennessee, they arrested their slide and made timely plays to fend off their archrival in Knoxville.

This team is growing, but growth doesn't stop based on one game or one cleared hurdle. Saturday's game against Mississippi State isn't sexy, but it's the kind of occasion which challenges a team to continue the process of self-improvement.

Vanderbilt's players have no reason to be overconfident about this upcoming clash against Ben Howland's Bulldogs. The reason can be summed up in one word: M-I-S-S-O-U-R-I.

The embarrassing blowout loss to the lowly Tigers underscores, very neatly and simply, what happens when Vanderbilt doesn't focus against an inferior opponent. There's no need for any explanation; Missouri should give the Dores more than enough reason to confront the Bulldogs with tenacity and verve.

What is noteworthy about this game is how coach Bryce Drew will handle his bench.

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