Tuesday night’s SEC matchup between the Tennessee Volunteers and Mississippi State Bulldogs played out much differently than the game two weeks ago. In this neck-and-neck battle, it came down to the final 5 minutes before the Vols were able to pull away, unlike the 34-point blowout in the first matchup.
Tennessee was able to overcome early shooting struggles by relying on their strong defense, and several key players. Tennessee moves to 15-3 and takes on LSU in Baton Rouge on Saturday. Mississippi State moves to 12-6 and hosts Florida on Saturday.
1) Key players stepped up in the absence of Santiago Vescovi and Tyreke Key.
The Volunteer’s best 3-point shooter, Santiago Vescovi, was unable to play today because of a shoulder injury. However, this didn’t seem to stop them from firing at will behind the arc. The Vols went 10-of-24 from three and buried the Bulldogs in Starkville. The three-point shooting was led by Zakai Zeigler and Josiah-Jordan James, who combined for 7.
In addition to the sharpshooters from deep, Julian Phillips stepped up in a huge way. Putting together an 18-point, 11-rebound double-double, Phillips helped pave the way for the Volunteers’ huge road SEC victory.
2) Vols capitalized from the charity stripe.
Tennessee improved their free throw shooting since last week against Kentucky. Not only did they shoot 23% better than last week, but also increased the number of times they got to the foul line. Zeigler led the way for the Vols by shooting 6-of-6 from the line.
3) Mississippi State’s crowd was nonexistent.
The reason that teams like Indiana, Duke, Kansas, and Purdue dominate at home is that they have some of the loudest, rowdiest, most insane fans in all of college basketball. The only way that State was going to have a chance in this game, was to have a stadium like that tonight.