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Tennessee Volunteers vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs Opponent Preview

Can the Vols avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season?

NCAA Basketball: Texas A&M at Tennessee
It’ll be interesting to see how Rick Barnes and his squad plays on Saturday.
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Whether it’s basketball, football, baseball, softball - whatever - there’s one common thread between all sports in the SEC: it’s hard to win games within the conference on a regular basis.

The Vols experienced this exact scenario on Tuesday night after the Texas A&M Aggies came into Thompson-Boling Arena and handed them their worst loss on the season. Tennessee was an (+11) favorite, yet the Aggies led for most of the game in the upset win.

Fortunately, the Vols get to take on a below-average squad in the Mississippi Bulldogs (13-7, 4-3) on Saturday, but as we saw against the Aggies, nothing is guaranteed in 2019.

Conference Record and Standings

  • Southeastern Conference
  • 13-7 (4-3) t-4th
  • Won last game

Impact Players

F Reggie Perry: 16.9 PPG, 10 REB, 51.7 FG%, 74.3 FT%, 32.1 3PT%, 1 BLK, 2.3 AST, 2.6 TO, 1.1 STL, 29.5 MIN

If you haven’t heard of the talented sophomore by now, odds are you won’t forget his name by the time Saturday’s game is over.

Perry has become one of the more unstoppable forces in the SEC, ranking fourth in points per game (16.9), first in rebounds (10), and fifth in total field goal percentage (51.7). He’s been instrumental in a Bulldog resurgence that has seen the team win four of its last five games.

He won SEC player of the week after wins against Mizzou and Georgia in which he averaged 22.5 points and 11 rebounds per game. Head coach Ben Howland is aware of Perry’s growth and is on record stating that Mississippi State’s success is likely tied to as far as Perry can take them.

The Vols will need to be extra aware of Perry’s presence on Saturday.

G Tyson Carter: 13.6 PPG, 36.8 FG%, 86.1 FT%, 31.9 3PT%, 2.5 REB, 3.5 AST, 2.0 TO, 1.3 STL, 30.4 MIN

Carter has proven to be an effective scorer, especially over the last five games. He’s averaging around 13 points per game while making close to 47% of his shots. All five games have seen Carter exceed double digits points-wise, as well.

Jordan Bowden will likely draw this matchup, so it will be interesting to see if he can lock Carter down. Regardless, it’s going to be hard containing all three of these guys with how they’ve been playing lately.

G Nick Weatherspoon: 12.3 PPG, 40.8 FG%, 81.6 FT%, 16.7 3PT%, 3.3 REB, 4.1 AST, 2.6 TO, 1.1 STL, 28.6 MIN

Even if the Vols are able to handle Carter, they will still have to worry about Weatherspoon. He isn’t as pure a scorer as Carter, but he can certainly gash a defense en route to the basket.

He’s not very lethal from the perimeter, but don’t worry, he can easily find the right guy to drain one from downtown. Weatherspoon is much better at reading the court in 2019 and leads the team in assists. If someone is open, he will find them.

Most Recent

Reggie Perry - get used to hearing his name - led the way with a career-high 27 points in a 78-71 win over Florida earlier in the week.

The talented sophomore was 9-of-14 from the floor, including 3-of-3 from downtown. It was the fourth straight conference win for the Bulldogs, who seem to have found a groove over the last couple of weeks.

Robert Woodard added 16 and Tyson Carter chipped in 12 points of his own. If the Bulldogs can get this type of offensive output, then it will certainly be tough sledding for the Vols on Saturday.

Game Outlook

I have no clue what to expect after Tuesday’s loss to Texas A&M.

Just going off of what I’ve watched/read/listened to concerning these teams, it really feels like Tennessee is walking into a buzzsaw, here.

The Vols are still trying to figure out who they are as a team, while it feels like the Bulldogs are starting to figure out who they are as a team. The growth of Perry is pretty much a case-in-point situation, here, and I don’t know if there is any one player the Vols can rely on right now.

I do believe that Rick Barnes is a better coach than Ben Howland, but as we all know, those guys won’t be on the court scoring points. It’s all up to the players and how they execute.

Hate on me if you will, but it really feels like the Vols lose this one.

I hope am I just as wrong as you think I am.