NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Effort. Intensity. Hustle. It was all there.
What wasn't, though, was the sweet taste of another victory when the final horn sounded.
Fresh off a victory in their SEC Tournament opener, the Mississippi State Bulldogs could not make it two-straight wins. No. 13 seed MSU battled valiantly, before falling to fifth-seeded Tennessee 69-53 Thursday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena.
"I thought Tennessee was an NCAA Tournament team before we played them and I definitely think that now," MSU head coach Rick Ray said. "I think they needed that win to validate them being in the NCAA Tournament."
With the defeat, the Bulldogs finish the first season under Ray with a 10-22 overall record.
After MSU scored the game's first four points, Tennessee seized control with a 12-0 run. The Volunteers led 35-19 at halftime and enjoyed a healthy lead for most of the second half.
"I thought Tennessee did a really great job executing their offense and attacking our man defense and especially our 1-3-1 defense," Ray said. "I thought we did a great job to get some opportunities at the rim and got some easy looks at the basket. I thought we did a poor job in the first half of turning the basketball over which led to some easy offense for them."
The Bulldogs battled back from the early deficit. MSU closed within nine points once with slightly more than five minutes remaining in the contest. Tennessee answered with four points on one possession, as the Volunteers scored a basket, missed a free throw and scored a putback.
Fred Thomas, who tallied 21 points in MSU's tournament win over South Carolina, was held to eight points and did not convert a 3-point shot attempts. Tennessee also enjoyed a healthy advantage, where it posted 42 points in the paint, compared to 24 for MSU.