Mississippi State (21-8, 9-7 SEC) will host No. 19 Tennessee in Starkville on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET on the SEC Network. The Volunteers (21-7, 11-5 SEC) are on a two-game winning streak and look to complete the sweep over Mississippi teams in 2018 against the Bulldogs. Meanwhile, Mississippi State is in search of its fourth-straight win as it battles for third place in the SEC standings.
Head coach Ben Howland and the Bulldogs have been on a tear recently, as they have won three straight games for the fourth time this season. The run started with an impressive 17-point win over Ole Miss at home and a 93-81 win over Texas A&M in College Station. In its last game, Mississippi State won its bout with South Carolina at home by a score of 72-68.
“That was a phenomenal, gut-check win for us,” said Howland. “South Carolina is so difficult to play against. It’s hard to simulate that pressure in a couple of days of practice because they deny everything.”
The Bulldogs finished off the Gamecocks in overtime by a four-point margin behind a combined 32 points 11, rebounds and nine assists from the guard duo of Lamar Peters and Quinndary Weatherspoon. Weatherspoon’s clutch pair of free throws with seven seconds remaining iced the game for the Bulldogs. The last time that Mississippi State won 21 games was the 2011 season.
Turnovers were the biggest problem for South Carolina, as Mississippi State forced 21 turnovers, 13 steals and seven blocks. The Bulldogs finished the game with four players in double-digit points, including a 13-point performance from guard Tyson Carter off the bench. Quinndary Weatherspoon and his brother Nick Weatherspoon lead Mississippi State in scoring with a combined 25 points per game.
After dropping an ugly loss to Georgia on the road two games ago, Tennessee bounced back with a win over Florida at home. The Volunteers than took care of Ole Miss in Oxford on Saturday, 73-65. Forward Admiral Schofield and guard Jordan Bowden combined for 40 points and 11 rebounds in the Magnolia State last weekend. The Orange-and-White remain undefeated when Bowden goes for over 15 points this season.
“I was just really aggressive offensively,” Schofield said. “I usually play off of Grant, but he got in foul trouble early. I had to step up.”
Most importantly, the Vols held the Rebels to just four percent shooting from 3-point range, and just 33 percent shooting from the field as a whole. Ole Miss’ 1-of-23 shooting from beyond-the-arc would prove to kill them late in the game, as they were unable to rally back. The Rebels out-scored Tennessee by a seven-point margin in the second half, but couldn’t manage to pull off the upset.
“We had a chance to maybe break it loose earlier, but they stayed after it,” said Barnes. “Then we were able to build the lead back up and get a win. This time of year, a win is a win.”
Dominating the boards is extremely important for the Volunteers, as well as getting consistent shooting from players other than Schofield or Grant Williams. Meanwhile, Ole Miss has to focus on shutting down Tennessee’s paint presence and forcing players other than Williams or Schofield to make plays.
Edited by Ben McKee
Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics