Tennessee Athletics Department
Starkville, MS – Poor free-throw shooting and a sluggish second half spelled trouble for Tennessee as Mississippi State snapped the Vols’ four-game winning streak with a 64-59 victory at Humphrey Coliseum.
Tennessee (13-10, 5-5 SEC) was led by 13 points from freshman Jordan Bone — his first game scoring in double figures since January 14th. Bone also notched a team- and season-high eight rebounds.
Fellow freshman Grant Williams was the only other Vol in double figures, finishing with 11 points.UT led by as many as 19 in the first half, but saw the lead slip away in the second period as MSU (13-10, 5-5 SEC) took control inside. The Bulldogs finished the game with 28 points in the paint, 22 of which came in the second half. MSU also controlled the glass, out-rebounding the Vols by a 55-45 margin, including a 31-17 edge in the second half.
The Vols, who shot a season-worst 45.5 percent (10-of-22) from the foul line had difficulty weathering Mississippi State’s second half runs. Chipping away at the deficit, MSU got to within single digits with 11:26 to play after Schnider Herard hit two free throws. Tennessee answered with a Williams jumper and two free throws from Jordan Bowden, but the Bulldogs countered with a 12-1 run that tied the score at 51-51 with 6:10 on the clock.
Over a minute later, Bone broke the deadlock on a drive to the basket, but MSU knocked down threes on its next two possessions to take a 57-53 lead it would never surrender.
Tennessee controlled the first half, racing out to a 17-2 lead behind early buckets from Kyle Alexander and a 3-pointer from Williams. The Vols would lead by double figures for the remainder of the frame, pushing the advantage to 29-10 with 4:50 following a Lamonte Turner free throw.
Saturday’s loss snapped two notable streaks for the Vols. It ended UT’s season-long four-game winning streak while also curtailing its impressive run of almost 142 consecutive minutes without trailing.
When MSU’s Xavian Stapleton hit a three to put the Bulldogs ahead 54-53 with 4:22 remaining, it marked the first time Tennessee had trailed since the 7:25 mark of the first half in its win over Kentucky on January 4th.
FTs in Mississippi
After going 22-of-27 (.720) from the free-throw line its win over Auburn on Tuesday, Tennessee shot just 10-of-22 (.455) fromt he charity stripe during Saturday’s loss at Mississippi State. That performance was easily the worst on the season for UT, beating its previous low of 54.2 percent (13-of-24) during a January 17th loss at Ole Miss.
All told, Tennessee — a 72.7 percent free-throw shooting team entering Saturday — went just 23-of-46 (.500) from the free-throw line in two trips to the Magnolia State.
Up Next for UT Vols
Tennessee hosts a pair of home games at Thompson-Boling Arena this week. The Volunteers face Ole Miss Wednesday at 5:30pm CT and are looking to avenge a loss to the Rebels last month in Oxford. Wednesday’s game will be televised on the SEC Network.
And on Saturday, Tennessee welcomes border-rival Georgia to Rocky Top for a 5:00pm CT showdown on ESPNU. Saturday’s game includes a reunion and recognition of legendary UT head coach Ray Mears’ 1967 and 1977 SEC Championship teams, which are celebrating their 50th and 40th anniversaries, respectively, this season.