Rapid Reaction: Tennessee pulls away from Mississippi State to advance to SEC Tournament semifinals
After a close first half, Tennessee pulled away in the second half to defeat Mississippi State 72-59. Tennessee will face the winner of Friday night’s Kentucky-Vanderbilt game in Saturday afternoon’s SEC Tournament semifinal.
Tennessee’s Josiah-Jordan James led all scorers with 16 points, making 6-of-11 field goals. Five Vols reached double-figures, with Kennedy Chandler (11 points), Brandon Huntley-Hatfield (10 points), Santiago Vescovi (10 points) and Zakai Zeigler (11 points) joining James. John Fulkerson led the UT rebounding effort with 8 boards.
Kennedy Chandler’s ankle caused him to leave the game multiple times. Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said Chandler relayed that he felt fine, so Barnes let him return. Chandler played 18-of-20 minutes in the first half. In the second half, as Tennessee opened up a double-digit lead, Chandler logged just 9 more minutes of playing time. He finished with 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the floor.
It was a 39-37 Volunteer lead at the half. MSU kept the score close in the first half by winning the rebound battle 18-10. Tennessee won the battle of the boards in the second half, narrowing the final difference to 33-29 at the buzzer.
Tennessee shot an even 50 percent from the floor, making 29-of-58 field-goal attempts. The Vols had the better box score in 3-point shooting (42 percent to 35 percent), turnovers (6-13), bench points (21-12) and points in the paint (32-22). Barnes’ squad led for over 37 minutes on Friday night.
Mississippi State drops to 18-15. The Bulldogs could potentially receive a bid to the NIT.