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Mississippi State 73, Tennessee 56

Mississippi State 73, Tennessee 56

TERESA M. WALKER
ASSOCIATED PRESS

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Cameron Matthews and Josh Hubbard each scored 18 points and ninth-seeded Mississippi State dominated fifth-ranked Tennessee 73-56 in the Southeastern Conference Tournament quarterfinals.

This victory should push the Bulldogs (21-12) firmly off the NCAA Tournament bubble with their second win over No. 1 seed Tennessee this season. They will play the winner of No. 15 South Carolina and No. 12 Auburn in the semifinals Saturday, their first semifinal since winning this event in 2009.

Mississippi State, which ended the regular season on a four-game skid, never trailed against the SEC’s top seed with the Vols managing one tie at 2-2. The Bulldogs also held Dalton Knecht, the AP SEC Player of the Year who averaged 25.5 points in league play, to 14 points.

Tennessee (24-8) hurt its hopes for the first No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament in program history with a second straight loss.

The regular season champions came in looking to add a tournament title for the first time since 1942-43. They leave as losers in the quarterfinals for a second straight year after winning this tournament in 2022.

Zakai Zeigler had a game-high 20 points, and Jahmai Mashack added 10 for Tennessee.

The Volunteers had lots of orange for support with fans desperate to give them energy. Yet they struggled to shoot no matter how open the look at the basket. Mississippi State, who beat LSU in its tournament opener, seemingly couldn’t miss.

The Bulldogs shot 62.5% from the floor and led 38-19 at halftime with Shawn Jones Jr. finishing off the dominating start with a dunk to beat the buzzer after a rare miss by a teammate. They held Tennessee to a season-low for points in the first half, three fewer than the last time these teams met.

Mississippi State led by as much as 23 midway through the second half. When the Vols got within 60-48 with 10 straight points, D.J. Jeffries hit a 3 and then a layup to smother Tennessee’s hopes of a comeback.

BIG PICTURE

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs are one of 16 teams with at least two victories over top 10 teams during league play, and this was another one after beating Tennessee in January.

Tennessee: Knecht dug the Vols out of a few poor first-half performances during the regular season with big runs by himself. This time, he was 2 of 9 in the second half. ... The Vols are now 10-4 against the Bulldogs with coach Rick Barnes.

Mississippi State athletics press release

March 15, 2024





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