The Tennessee Vols won their first SEC home game of the season 91-74 over the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The host broke away from a tight contest and cruised to the finish line. The Big Orange led 37-34 at the intermission but quickly stretched that lead to 52-42. After the visitors cut the lead to just six at 55-49, Tennessee dominated the game as the Vols then went on a run to put the game away. Tennessee enjoyed its largest lead at 84-60. The game was played in stark contrast to the loss at Ole Miss on Tuesday, and Tennessee will need to play its second straight game at its best on Tuesday if the Big Orange is going to have a chance at upsetting the Kentucky Wildcats.
Offense: Scoring 88 points and shooting 46 percent from the floor is certainly an indication that things went well for the Vols on offense. The stats look even better when looking at the assist to turnover ratio. The Vols only committed seven turnovers and dished out 20 assists. Leading the way in the assist department were the point guards,Jordan Bone(4) and Lamonte Turner(6). Both committed two turnovers each but those mistakes occurred well after the outcome had been decided. The Big Orange was led in scoring by Robert Hubbs III with 19. Admiral Schofield's 15 points were key in the blow out win and he continues to play extremely well off the bench. Grant Williams added 17 and Jordan Bowden 14. This game was played at high level on offense for Tennessee but they did struggle in one area. The Vols shot an uncharacteristic low percentage at the free throw line making just 22 of 37 for less than 60 percent. This has been an area the Vols have excelled at all year but tonight it was a struggle.
Defense: The Big Orange held the visitors to 44% from the floor and well under the Bulldogs season average from outside the 3-point arch. Mississippi State made just five of 20 from long range. Tennessee did have trouble defending the post as the length of the Bulldogs were a tough match up. Lew Evans continues to be a garbage man as he made his presence known frustrating the visitors and drawing some offensive fouls in key spots. The effort by Rick Barnes and company was one of their stronger defensive efforts in recent games even with the struggles in the post. The biggest improvement was Tennessee showed a better ability to keep the ball out of the lane tonight.
Rebounding: Going into the season, no one thought this team had a chance to be a good rebounding team or would have ever guessed they would dominate a SEC game on the glass. This team is working its way toward being a very solid overall rebounding team and tonight they completely destroyed the Bulldogs on the glass with relentless effort that keeps proving those expectations wrong.Tennessee out rebounded Mississippi State 49-35 overall and 19-9 in offensive rebounds. It wasn't just a select few getting the job done either. In fact the Vols leading rebounder on the season only had two in Williams. The Vols got excellent work from Bone(6), Hubbs(5) and Bowden(7) in positions that normally don't play big roles in this category. Evans made his biggest contribution in this area with nine and Schofield added eight. Kyle Alexander recorded just four rebounds but they were all key in holding the lead in the first half. The Tennessee Volunteers simply were the tougher team and played with more effort than State in this area of the contest.