Basketball Bulldogs Fall At Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Mississippi State could not keep the pace in the game's final half Wednesday night, as homestanding Tennessee racked up a 81-76 Southeastern Conference men's basketball victory in the Thompson-Boling Arena.

The Bulldogs held an eight-point lead midway through the first half. Tennessee only led 31-28 at halftime. However, the Bulldogs could not keep pace when the Volunteers found another gear offensively in the game's final 20 minutes.

Tennessee improved to 17-10 overall and 8-5 in conference play, while MSU fell to 17-11 and 7-6. The Volunteers remain in a three-way tie for second place in the Eastern Division, while the Bulldogs are now tied with Auburn for second place in the Western Division. Overall, MSU has now lost four of its last five games.

The lead changed hands nine times and the score was tied six times in a competitive first half. Tennessee suffered through a six-minute draught without a field goal. That stretch of play allowed MSU to open up a six-point advantage, at 17-11. Minutes later, a 3-point basket by MSU's Ravern Johnson stretched the lead to 25-17.

Over the final 7:13 of the half, the Bulldogs then had their stretch of going cold. A layup by UT's Brian Williams gave the Volunteers the lead at 27-26. MSU would never lead again in the contest. The first half ended with four straight turnovers by MSU, as the Volunteers closed the half on a 14-3 run.

In the second half, the Volunteers held the upper hand most of the way. The Bulldogs got no closer than 37-35 a couple of minutes into the half. UT eventually stretched the lead to 70-59 with 3:03 remaining. The Volunteers missed four of 10 free throw attempts to allow the Bulldogs to close back within three points in the final half minute.

For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 25 of 53 shots from the field (47.2 percent), 11 of 30 shots from 3-point range (36.7 percent) and 15 of 19 shots from the foul line (78.9 percent). The Volunteers hit 31 of 65 shots from the field (47.7 percent), 6 of 18 shots from 3-point range (33.3 percent) and 13 of 18 shots from the foul line (72.2 percent).

UT held a 38-31 rebounding advantage. The Volunteers had 16 assists and 10 turnovers, while the Bulldogs had 15 assists and 17 turnovers.

For UT, Scotty Hopson led all scorers with a career-high 21 points. Bobby Maze added 14 points, Tyler Smith added 13 points and Wayne Chism added 12 points. Smith had a team-high nine rebounds. For MSU, Barry Stewart had 20 points, Ravern Johnson had 18 points and Phil Turner had 17 points. Turner had a team-high eight rebounds. Jarvis Varnado had eight points, six rebounds and three blocked shots.

The Bulldogs now return home, closing out the home portion of its regular season schedule with back-to-back games in the Humphrey Coliseum. MSU will host Auburn at 5 p.m. Saturday. That contest will be televised regionally by Fox Sports Net South. Next Wednesday, MSU will host Florida in a 7 p.m. start. That contest will be televised regionally by Raycom Sports and shown in selected markets on Fox Sports Net South.

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