No. 5 Tennessee used a fast second-half start to power past Mississippi State on Senior Night at Thompson-Boling Arena, 71-54.
Heading into its final game of the regular season Saturday at Auburn, Tennessee remains in a tie atop the Southeastern Conference standings.
Leading by six points at halftime, Tennessee (27-3, 15-2 SEC) used a 17-4 run to open the second half and create a comfortable, 19-point lead, capped by a Jalen Johnson 3-pointer from the left wing. The Bulldogs (21-9, 9-8) never drew closer than 14 points after the Vols’ initial second-half burst, and Tennessee’s lead expanded to as many as 24 points.
Mississippi State’s 54-point total was its lowest scoring output of the season, and the Bulldogs’ 33 percent shooting performance was their second-lowest of the season.
For the Vols, the win capped off a perfect 18-0 home campaign for during 2018-19 season.
Playing in his final home game, senior Admiral Schofield led all scorers with 18 points. Grant Williams had 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Jordan Bowden had 12 to round out Tennessee’s double-figure scorers. Senior Kyle Alexander grabbed 10 rebounds, scored six points and blocked four shots in his final performance on Rocky Top.
Tennessee’s defensive effort of holding Mississippi State to just 54 points — coupled with limiting Kentucky to 52 on Saturday — marks the first time that the Vols have won back-to-back SEC games while holding the opponent to less than 60 points since the 2013-14 season.
Tennessee also recorded a season-high in steals, registering 12 takeaways in the win.
At halftime, the Vols led, 31-25, thanks to a Lamonte Turner layup at the buzzer. Schofield led all scorers with 11 points at the break, while Alexander grabbed seven rebounds in the opening frame.
Tennessee led by as many as nine points in the first half, taking a 24-15 lead on the heels of a 10-0 run – capped by an Alexander dunk on a cross-court bounce pass from Jordan Bone.
Vols Surpass Last Season’s Win Total: The win over Mississippi State is Tennessee’s 27th of the season, surpassing last season’s year-end total. Last season, 23 of Tennessee’s 26 wins came in the regular season.
Additionally, the Vols reached 15 regular-season SEC wins for just the third time ever. Tennessee went 15-3 during the 1966-67 season and 16-2 in league play during the 1976-77 campaign.
Vols Continue Defensive Stand Versus Bulldogs: Mississippi State has scored 54 points or less just three times since the start of SEC play last season – two of which have been against Tennessee. In addition to Tuesday’s 71-54 win, the Vols defeated the Bulldogs in Starkville last season, 76-54.
Williams Climbs Blocks List: With a two-block performance in Tennessee’s win over Mississippi State, junior Grant Williams claimed sole possession of fourth-place on Tennessee’s all-time blocked shot leader list, surpassing Doug Roth. Williams now has 148 blocks during his Tennessee career, just four behind third-place Wayne Chism.
Seniors Close Out Defense of Home Court: Seniors Kyle Alexander, Lucas Campbell, Admiral Schofield and Brad Woodson concluded their home careers in Thompson-Boling Arena with a win Tuesday, bringing the group’s final four-season home court record to 54-11 (.831).
Senior Night: Tennessee has now won three straight Senior Night games, including last season’s 66-61 win over Georgia that clinched a share of the SEC regular-season title.
Up Next: Tennessee closes out regular-season play this Saturday with a road contest against the Auburn Tigers. Tipoff is scheduled for noon ET on ESPN.
Story and photo courtesy of Tennessee Athletics