Mississippi State lost another conference game to No. 9 Tennessee at Humphrey Coliseum, 70-59, this past Tuesday night.
With Tennessee missing three players, the contest was much closer than the Bulldogs’ previous match up against the Volunteers in Knoxville earlier this season.
In the first half, Tennessee had a terrible start. The Bulldogs’ offense took advantage of Tennessee’s turnovers and sloppy play, leading 19-10 at one point. The Volunteers would rally to tie the game at 23 going into halftime.
The game will continue to be tight in the second half. The Bulldogs led 46-44 before being outscored by Tennessee 26-13 down the stretch, behind the back of Volunteer guard Zakai Zeigler, who went off with 24 points and six rebounds on Tuesday night.
The Bulldogs, who have struggled with their shooting, looked somewhat better making shots, going 14-22 (63.6%) from the free throw line, but also shot 19-57 (33.3%) from the field and 7-26 (26.9% ) from the three.
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Two Bulldog players would finish in double digits. Guard Shakeel Moore led the team with a career-high 20 points, along with two rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a perfect 8-8 from the Charity stripe. Forward Tolu Smith would have a double-double, scoring 11 points and ten rebounds, while also recording two blocks.
With the loss, the Bulldogs sit at a record of 12-6 overall and 1-5 in SEC play, having lost four of their last five games. They have also lost 33-straight games against AP Top 10 ranked opponents.
With the team sliding in conference, the Bulldogs need to regroup and find improvement if they want to hear their name get called on Selection Sunday come tournament time in March.
“[I told the team after Tuesday’s game] that we’re a good basketball team,” Bulldog head Coach Chris Jans said after the loss. “If we can stick together and stay the course, we’ll have the opportunity to win games in this league this year.”
“But it’s a big challenge,” Jans noted. “It’s a big challenge that we all face. It starts with me and my staff to set the mood and the vibe to stay hungry and stay focused and continue to work and believe – just to believe in what we’re doing and believe in one another. That’ll be a big focus for us heading into the Florida game.”
Up next, the Bulldogs will host Florida on Saturday, Jan 21, in Humphrey Coliseum at 7:30 pm CT. The game will also be aired on the SEC Network.