Whether or not Jeffery Taylor liked the feedback he received from his Vanderbilt coaches Thursday night, he responded to it.
And, in many ways, the junior forward grew in the moment as he scored 17 points after halftime to finish with 25 in the Commodores’ 81-74 victory at Mississippi State.
“He won the prize [Thursday] night for battling through some adversity and coming out on top of it and playing extremely well,” coach Kevin Stallings said. “He did not play well in the first half. He did not play with the type of energy and didn’t show the leadership and wasn’t vocal. He got several earfuls at halftime from coaches – not really even me. It was the other guys. Now, I got on him a little bit but not like them. To his credit, he responded and really was terrific in the second half.”
Taylor provided a big lift for No. 19 Vanderbilt (15-4, 3-2 SEC) as the Commodores began a stretch of three games in six days.
They host Arkansas (13-6, 3-3), 5 p.m. on Saturday, and play at No. 24 Florida on Tuesday.
On Thursday, Taylor’s second-half burst reenergized a Vanderbilt squad that was trying to win its first Southeastern Conference road game after blowing double-digit leads in the first two.
The 6-foot-7, 225-pound Taylor is arguably the best all-around athlete on the team, averaging 15.3 points. Against Mississippi State, he was 3-of-10 from the field and had just one rebound in the first half.
After his effort was questioned at halftime, he was 6-of-8 in the second half, grabbed four rebounds and recorded three steals – including one with 16.3 seconds left that led to a breakaway slam and all but clinched the win.
“There were people who felt that I wasn’t playing up to my capabilities,” Taylor said. “Personally, I felt like I just wasn’t making shots in the beginning of the game. In the second half I became a lot more aggressive and left the first half behind me.
"I really just did everything I could do to help the team win. I felt like the biggest difference from the first half to the second half was that in the second half, most of my shots were going in. I don’t think there was too much different about it.”
Still, Taylor didn’t deny that the remarks from his coaches landed.
“You have to take in consideration everything that is said to you. I respect my whole coaching staff and I respect my teammates,” Taylor said. “When somebody says something to me, I might not like it at the time, but you really take it to heart. They felt a certain way about my performance in the first half. So I felt like ‘OK. I have to change it. I have to step up for my team.’ And that is what happened.”
• Vanderbilt has had the upper hand lately in the series, winning its last two games against Arkansas. Prior to that, however, the Razorbacks won five in a row and eight of nine against the Commodores.
• Vanderbilt starting forward Andre Walker will miss his eighth straight game due to a high ankle sprain. He hasn’t played in a game since hitting the game-winning shot against Marquette on Dec. 29.
• With 12 rebounds against Mississippi State, Lance Goulbourne has recorded double-digit rebounds in three consecutive games. He is the first Commodore to achieve the feat since Dan Langhi did so in 1998.