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Mississippi State men’s basketball falls 72-59 to No. 9 Tennessee in SEC Tournament quarterfinals

Collin Wilmes

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Mississippi State Athletics

TAMPA, Fla. — Four players scored in double figures for the Mississippi State men’s basketball team on Friday, but the Bulldogs fell 72-59 to No. 9 Tennessee in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals at Amalie Arena.

The Bulldogs (18-15, 8-10 SEC) were led by sophomore guard Shakeel Moore with 15 points, while redshirt junior forward Tolu Smith added 14 points. Junior forward D.J. Jeffries scored 12 points and junior guard Iverson Molinar scored 10. Molinar was held to one point in the second half on 0-for-6 shooting.

MSU shot 19-for-48 (39.6%) from the floor and 6-for-17 (35.3%) from 3-point range. MSU managed to outrebound Tennessee 33-29.

The Volunteers (24-7, 14-4 SEC) were led by junior guard Josiah-Jordan James with 16 points and five rebounds. Freshman guards Kennedy Chandler and Zakai Zeigler both finished with 11 points, while junior guard Santiago Vescovi and freshman forward Brandon Huntley-Hatfield both scored 10 points.

The first half was close, but MSU’s only lead of the game was at 2-0 on a Molinar layup in the opening seconds. Chandler answered with a triple and Huntley-Hatfield made a layup off an MSU turnover to give the Volunteers a 5-2 lead.

Tennessee used a 6-0 spurt to go up by eight at 26-18 with 7:38 left in the first half, but the Bulldogs scored 12 of the next 16 points to tie the game at 30-30 with 3:12 left. A pair of free throws at the end of the half gave the Volunteers a 39-37 halftime lead.

In the second half, James hit four 3-pointers in a row in a span of 3:22 to spark a 12-3 run for Tennessee that put the Volunteers in front 51-40 with 15:45 to play.

The Volunteers then pulled away with a 12-4 run that extended their lead from eight points to 16 at 65-49 with 7:28 remaining before going on to win 72-59.

The Volunteers advance to the SEC Tournament semifinals to take on No. 5 Kentucky on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. CT, while the Bulldogs will now await an invite to the National Invitation Tournament.

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