STARKVILLE, Miss. – Mississippi State turned in another competitive effort Wednesday night. However, the Bulldogs fell short again in the victory column.
Tennessee built an early lead, never relinquished the lead and held on to post a 75-68 win against MSU at Humphrey Coliseum.
With the win, Tennessee improved to 17-11 overall and 8-7 in league play. MSU dropped to 13-15 and 3-12.
“It came down to stops and we didn’t get enough of them,” Johnson said. “You have to stop and score. We did enough things well offensively. However, we just couldn’t make enough shots. They got too many rebounds and too many second shots.”
The Bulldogs struggled out of the gate offensively. MSU managed its field goal on a jumper by Thomas with 14:30 left in the first half. By that time, Tennessee had an 8-4 lead. The Volunteers stretched the lead to eight at 25-17 on a 3-pointer by Jordan McRae with 6:34 left in the half.
A 13-6 run by Tennessee stretched the lead to 33-19 with 3:04 left in the half. A layup by Johnson capped off a strong finish to the half. Tennessee led 35-24 at the intermission.
“We are going to keep competing,” Thomas said. “We have to keep fighting to find a way to get some wins. We want to break the losing streak and start having some confidence again. We keep competing but sometimes things don’t go our way.”
The Bulldogs energized and closed within four points at 43-39 on a layup by Craig Sword with 14:34 left in the contest. Sword was hampered by foul trouble and finished with nine points.
MSU closed within four points again at 47-43, 52-48, 54-50 and 67-63. However, the Bulldogs could get no closer.
“From the beginning of the game, we weren’t prepared for Tennessee’ physicality,” MSU coach Rick Ray said. “They knocked on us our heels early. They had 17 offensive rebounds and the main thing is you take 35 seconds off the shot clock when you have a rebound. We did a much better job of matching their physicality in the second half but we were down too many too early.
“Fred (Thomas) did a great job after not playing in the last game (against Arkansas). Roquez (Johnson) gave us some great minutes. If you look at our team, you know we are a couple of bodies away from being a pretty good team.”
Tennessee received double-doubles from McRae (29 points, 10 rebounds) and Jeronne Maymon (10 points, 11 rebounds). Jarnell Stokes had 14 points for the Volunteers.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 24 of 56 shots from the field (42.9 percent), 3 of 14 shots from 3-point range (21.4 percent) and 17 of 24 shots from the foul line (70.8 percent). The Volunteers hit 26 of 66 shots from the field (39.4 percent), 6 of 21 shots from 3-point range (28.6 percent) and 17 of 20 shots from the foul line (85.0 percent).
Tennessee held a 43-35 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 10 assists and 11 turnovers, while the Volunteers had 12 assists and 11 turnovers.
MSU returns to the road for a 12:30 p.m. start Saturday at Missouri in a contest that will be televised regionally by SEC TV.