NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Sixth-seeded Mississippi State took on a Tennessee team expected to be a national seed on Selection Sunday and the Bulldogs battled hard but fell to the Volunteers 83-76.
The game was played at Bridgestone Arena in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference men’s tournament.
“Tough loss for us," MSU head coach Ben Howland said. "We played tough, physical basketball. It was a physical game.
“We had the game tied 42-all and then they went on that run. They made some key shots. I was proud of the way our guys fought back when they got down, but credit Tennessee. They’re a really good team.
“We’re going to get back home and rest two days and find out who we’re going to play in the NCAA Tournament Sunday.”
State was led in scoring by Aric Holman with 20 points, while Quinndary Weatherspoon had 17. They were joined in double figures by Lamar Peters and Reggie Perry with 15 points each.
“I give all thanks to my teammates,” Holman said. “They were giving it to me and I just step up when I’m needed.”
Perry’s 12 rebounds gave him a double-double.
“I feel like I can go out and get a double-double every night, but a double-double doesn’t mean anything if you don’t win," Perry said.
Tennessee (28-4) was led by the 20 points of Admiral Schofield. Two of those points came on a resounding dunk with 10:40 left in the game.
The battle of the boards was won by the Vols by a 40-36 count.
“We knew it was going to be a really hard-fought game which it was," Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said. “You have to know what goes into winning. I thought today they were locked in.”
Down 34-28 at the half, the Bulldogs tied matters at 38-38 with 3 minutes into the second stanza. A turnover cost State a four-point Vols trip and with 10:04 left, Tennessee led 57-46.
The Vols were on a run and MSU didn’t seem to have an answer. Tennessee led by as many as 14 points with 7:02 to go.
With the score favoring the Vols 67-57 and 4:50 to go, the teams were separated as officials reviewed video of things getting chippy. Reggie Perry picked up both a technical and a personal foul while Kyle Alexander of Tennessee also got a technical. Seconds later, Alexander dunked and the Vols led 69-58.
With 63 seconds left, a Holman trey cut the lead to 77-70. Jordan Bone made two free throws to get the advantage back to nine for the Vols.
Mississippi State heads into Selection Sunday assured of an NCAA berth with a 23-10 record and a NET of 20 before Friday’s loss of 20.
“They’re going to be a tough matchup for anybody,” Barnes said of he Bulldogs. “I think they can make a run.”
Tennessee upped its season mark to 28-4 and is set to face second seeded Kentucky in the SEC semifinals today. The game will begin 25 minutes after the conclusion of the noon matchup between Florida and Auburn.