The Tennessee Volunteers are moving on to Saturday. They will face the winner of Arkansas — Florida after their narrow win over Mississippi State.
Here’s how it played out tonight.
It was a story of defense early on, really from both teams. Tennessee limited Mississippi State to 24 points in the first half, frustrating the Bulldogs in their half-court sets. The Weatherspoon brothers and Lamar Peters weren’t able to get going too much done in transition early, which is what Mississippi State does best.
For Tennessee, it was Lamonte Turner getting things going. Eight points, three big rebounds and two steals powered the Tennessee attack as Mississippi State keyed in on Grant Williams. Admiral Schofield took over near the end of the first half, grabbing four rebounds and adding eight points of his own.
Tennessee held a 31-24 lead at the break.
Disaster struck for Mississippi State out of halftime. Nick Weatherspoon was carried off on a stretcher after taking a shot to the head. He took another shot under the basket after play wasn’t stopped. It was an ugly scene with both sidelines visibly shaken by the sequence.
Weatherspoon exited the game with six points and four rebounds. His exit was not ideal for Mississippi State, who was already struggling on offense.
Tennessee went right back to Grant Williams out of the break, but the Bulldogs continued to collapse their defense around the SEC’s player of the year. It was tough sledding for Grant, but he was able to get a couple of buckets to extend Tennessee’s lead in the early stages of the second half.
The Vols struggled to find any consistency offensively, however. It was Admiral Schofield making a couple of long range shots to keep the Tennessee lead in tact. Despite holding a huge advantage in the rebound department, Tennessee let Mississippi State hang around.
The Bulldogs took advantage and closed the gap, getting to within four points of Tennessee with nine minutes to play.
Jordan Bone fixed that with a couple of explosive drives to the rim to extend the Tennessee lead to 49-40. But Mississippi State’s Lamar Peters immediately popped a couple of three pointers to get back into it.
Suddenly, it was a two point game with five minutes to play.
Tennessee got a much needed transition bucket from Lamonte Turner with under three minutes to play. That brought the lead back to five. Turner hit a mid-range jumper to bring the lead to seven on the next trip.
The Vols turned it over after two free throws, giving Lamar Peters an open three ball. He didn’t miss, bringing the Tennessee lead to just two with a minute left.
Admiral made two from the free throw line to get the lead back to four points, but Mississippi State had a chance. However, Peters made a bad pass which led to a Bulldogs’ foul. Tennessee added a point to their lead at the free throw lline, but Peters scored an old-fashioned three point play at the other end.
It was a two point game again with under 40 seconds to play.
Schofield missed on a three point attempt, giving Mississippi State one last shot. They got a wide open look, but couldn’t convert.
Tennessee escapes, winning 62-59.
It was a brutal offensive night for Tennessee, who saw Grant Williams’ impact minimized all night long. Williams was just 3-12 from the field, scoring only ten points. Admiral Schofield was just 4-12.
Tennessee out-rebounded Mississippi State 50-33, but they were still just one three pointer away from losing. It was far from Tennessee’s best performance, but it’s all about surviving and advancing at this stage of the season.