#19 Tennessee (16-7 | 7-3 SEC) vs. Mississippi State(14-8 | 5-4 SEC)
Wednesday, February 9th, 2022 | 9:00pm ET / 8:00pm CT
Starkville, MS | Humphrey Coliseum | TV: ESPN2
Knoxville, TN – The 19th-ranked Tennessee men’s basketball team is set to play its second consecutive SEC road game this week, traveling to Starkville to take on Mississippi State on Wednesday at 8:00pm CT.
Fans can catch Wednesday’s game on ESPN2 and online or on any mobile device through WatchESPN. WatchESPN can be accessed through the ESPN App, or online at espn.com/watch. Tom Hart (play-by-play) and Jimmy Dykes (analysis) will have the call.
Fans can also listen live on their local Vol Network affiliate to hear Bob Kesling and Steve Hamer calling the action. The broadcast is also available on channel 81 on Sirius, SiriusXM and the SiriusXM app.
Zakai Zeigler, who was named SEC Freshman of the Week on Monday, was held scoreless in the first half, but finished the game with a career-high-tying 18 points. Fellow freshman guard Kennedy Chandler also recorded his second career double-double—scoring 11 points and dishing out 10 assists.
Saturday marks the lone regular-season meeting between Tennessee and Mississippi State this season. The Vols have won four of the last five meetings with the Bulldogs
Tennessee leads its all-time series with Mississippi State, 86-44, dating to 1924.
The Volunteers hold a slim, 30-29 edge when the series is contested in Starkville.
The Bulldogs are a perfect 5-0 at home during SEC play this season.
Tennessee has won five of its last six games against the Bulldogs.
MSU leading scorer Iverson Molinar leads the SEC with a 20.6 ppg scoring average during SEC play.
Vols head coach Rick Barnes is 10-3 in head-to-head meetings against teams coached by Ben Howland (7-2 with Tennessee).
Rick Barnes and Ben Howland are among only five active college head coaches who have developed an NBA MVP (Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook).
A win on Wednesday would give the Vols victories in three straight SEC road trips.
Layup Lines – Team
For the fourth time during the Barnes era, Tennessee is riding a streak of at least five straight wins over SEC opponents.
Tennessee stands at No. 12 in the NCAA’s latest NET ratings. Each of UT’s six losses are Quad 1.
Tennessee ranks 21st nationally on the NCAA’s official “toughest schedule” metric.
The Vols rank among the Division I top 15 in steals per game (10.0, eighth), turnover margin (+4.7, ninth), assists per game (17.0, 11th) and turnovers forced per game (17.4, 15th).
According to KenPom, the Vols rank eighth in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing only 88.4 points per 100 possessions.
Tennessee averages an SEC-best 16.2 assists per game during league play (162 assists on 243 FGs).
The Vols also are making a league-best 9.2 3-pointers per game in SEC play.
Layup Lines – Players
John Fulkerson currently shares the SEC record for career games played (152). When Fulkerson takes the court Wednesday, he’ll stand atop the league’s all-time list with 153 appearances.
All-SEC candidate Santiago Vescovi has increased his team-leading 13.9 ppg overall scoring average to 15.7 ppg in SEC play. His 3.60 3-point makes per game during SEC play lead the league.
Only one SEC player has made more 3-pointers than Vescovi (66) this season—Alabama’s Jaden Shackelford (69).
Chandler has scored (278) or assisted (260) on 33 percent of Tennessee’s total points this season (500 of 1,559).
Over Tennessee’s last six games, true freshman Zakai Zeigler is averaging 11.8 points and has attempted a team-high 23 free throws (21 for 23, .913).
About the Mississippi State Bulldogs
After a 10-3 start to the season, Mississippi State (14-8, 5-4 SEC) has split its last eight games.
Mississippi State has posted a 1-5 record this season in Quadrant 1 games, with the lone win coming at home against Alabama on January 15th.
The Bulldogs are 12-1 at Humphrey Coliseum this season, including a 5-0 mark in SEC play. Mississippi State’s lone home loss this season came on Dec. 5 to Minnesota.
Mississippi State ranks 28th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency, scoring 112.8 points per 100 possessions. The Bulldogs rank 79th in adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing 98.1 points per 100 possessions.
Junior guard Iverson Molinar has paced the Bulldogs offensively this season. Molinar is averaging 18.2 points per game for the season. In Mississippi State’s nine SEC games, he is averaging 20.6 points per game—a mark that leads the league for conference games only.
Molinar is also shooting 49.1 percent from the field this season, which ranks third overall in the SEC and is the best mark among guards.
Molinar ranks second in the SEC in minutes played, averaging 33.2 per contest.
Redshirt junior forward Tolu Smith is expected to be available for Mississippi State on Wednesday after returning to the lineup on Saturday against Arkansas. Smith has played just nine games for the Bulldogs this season, but has started every game in which he has appeared. Smith has battled injuries throughout this season and most recently returned from a knee injury.
Smith is averaging 12.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game in his limited action this season.
Last Meeting With Mississippi State
A dominant defensive showing and an offensive effort that saw every Vol pen their name on the score sheet helped 18th-ranked Tennessee battle past Mississippi State, 56-53, on Jan. 26, 2021, at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The Volunteers forced 18 turnovers, earning a +7 turnover margin on the night.
Senior Yves Pons led UT in scoring, dropping 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting with three ferocious dunks.
In 12 strong minutes off the bench, Olivier Nkamhoua totaled five points, four rebounds and an assist.
Springer added a team-high five assists, four rebounds, and one block in 25 minutes off the bench.
Johnson tallied eight points and was highly efficient on the defensive end, blocking a pair of shots and nabbing three steals.
Tennessee dominated the early stages of the first half, using an 8-0 run and a stifling defensive display that held Mississippi State to just one field goal through the opening eight minutes to gain a 15-4 advantage at the under-12 media timeout.
The Bulldogs fought their way back into the contest, eventually tying the score at 20-20 with just more than four minutes to play in the half.
The second half was largely a back-and-forth affair, with the programs trading buckets and defensive stops, leading to a score knotted at 44-44 near the 6:00 mark.
Tennessee held Mississippi State to just nine points over those final six minutes and earned a number of timely buckets before two clutch free throws from Santiago Vescovi iced the game with 12 seconds left.
Memorable Tennessee Performances Against Mississippi State
Junior Dale Ellis grabbed a school-record seven steals as the Vols defeated the Bulldogs 54-44 at “The Hump” in Starkville on January 20th, 1982.
Bill Justus’s two game-winning free throws in the third overtime in Starkville on March 6th, 1967, gave the Vols the outright SEC regular-season title. Justus scored 14 in the contest.
While Justus earned the credit for sealing the win in Starkville in 1967, the Vols would not have contended for the win without 35 points from Knoxville native Ron Widby, who went on to be a Pro Bowl punter for the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.
Ernie Grunfeld scored 37 and Bernard King added 30 as the “Ernie & Bernie Show” rolled to a 97-87 win in Starkville. on January 25th, 1975.
Fulkerson Set To Break SEC’s Career Games Played Record
After taking advantage of a sixth (COVID) year this season, John Fulkerson has seized Tennessee’s program record for career games played. His record-breaking 143rd appearance was the January 5th overtime win over Ole Miss.
Fulkerson on Wednesday will break the SEC games played record:
RANK PLAYER, YEARS SCHOOL GP
1. John Fulkerson, 2016-pres. Tennessee 152
Darius Miller, 2008-12 Kentucky 152
3. Wayne Turner, 1995-99 Kentucky 151
Walter Hodge, 2005-09 Florida 151
5. Patric Young, 2010-14 Florida 150
Zeigler Making Case For SEC Sixth Man Of The Year
True freshman guard and SEC Sixth Man of the Year candidate Zakai Zeigler has proven to a rock-solid addition to this Tennessee roster.
Zeigler is Tennessee’s third-leading scorer in SEC play (9.4 ppg) and ranks second on the team with 2.2 steals per game vs. conference foes.
Zeigler also stands among the league leaders with an .897 free-throw percentage in SEC games.
He twice exploded for 18 points in wins away from home over North Carolina and South Carolina—two of his seven double-digit scoring performances off the bench this season.
The Tennessee Vols rank third in the country in steal percentage, logging steals on 14.2 percent of opponents’ possessions.
Five times this season, the Vols have held an SEC opponent to 60 points or fewer; UT is 5-0 in those games.
In handing No. 6 Arizona its first loss of the season, the Vols were the first team to hold the Wildcats—who boasted the highest scoring average in Division I (91.0 ppg)—to fewer than 80 points.
Tennessee’s 76-36 win over UNC Greensboro on Dec. 11 marked UT’s fewest points allowed during the shot-clock era. It was the lowest point total for an opponent since Ohio Northern scored 33 in 1983.
The Vols are forcing 17.4 turnovers per game and averaging 18.7 points off turnovers
The Vols have forced 25 or more turnovers three times this season, including a Barnes-era best 27 turnovers forced in the win over Ole Miss (January 5th).
The Vols average 28.3 pass deflections per game.
The opponents’ leading scorer this season averages 17.9 ppg against the Vols. Only eight players so far have scored 20 or more against Tennessee.
Epiphany In Austin?
Despite suffering a one-point loss at Texas in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on January 29th, Tennessee closed the game by completely erasing a 16-point deficit in four minutes and nine seconds. That furious, late-game rally seems to have sparked an offensive awakening for the UT Vols.
In Tennessee’s two games since its trip to Austin, the Vols’ scoring average jumped to 85.5 points thanks to the team shooting .467 from the field, .472 from 3-point range, and .829 at the free-throw line.
The Vols also are averaging an impressive 20.0 assists over those last two games while boasting a +17.0 ppg scoring margin.
Five different Vols are averaging 10 or more points during this two-game win streak.
Next Up For UT Vols Basketball
The Tennessee men’s basketball team is back at Thompson-Boling Arena for the first of two consecutive home games, taking on Vanderbilt Saturday. Tip-off is set for 5:00pm CT on SEC Network.