The Vols led 37-34 at halftime, but exploded in the second half to pull away for a big 91-74 win over Mississippi State in Knoxville.
Tennessee scored 44 points in the first 13 minutes of the second half, getting incredibly efficient work from Robert Hubbs (19 points on 8-of-11) and Admiral Schofield (15 on 5-of-6). The normally reliable Vols were sub-par from the free throw line for the second game in a row, shooting 22-of-37 (59.5%). But they made up for it with better-than-usual three-point shooting (7-of-17) including two each from Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden.
But the most encouraging sign was the assist-to-turnover ratio: 20 assists on 31 made baskets, and just seven turnovers on the night. Jordan Bone and Lamonte Turner combined for 10 of those assists, helping Tennessee have excellent ball distribution no matter who was on the floor. The Vols also dominated the glass at +13 on a night when Grant Williams was only credited with two rebounds. Schofield had seven and Lew Evans had eight, but look at the guards: seven for Jordan Bowden, six for Jordan Bone.
Mississippi State shot 44.8% from the floor but only 5-of-19 from the arc and 17-of-28 from the line. Tennessee frustrated Quinndary Weatherspoon to only 11 points on 3-of-8 shooting.
The win made the Vols a Top 50 team in KenPom, sneaking into the final spot at 10-9 (3-4). The Vols have the #3 strength of schedule in those rankings, and it’s only going up as we enter Wildcat Week in Knoxville: Kentucky on Tuesday, Kansas State in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Saturday. As such, getting any win today was important. But playing so well offensively after looking so challenged at Ole Miss was a nice sign too.