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No. 5 Vols Set Sights on Overcoming Mississippi State Upset

SportsNo. 5 Vols Set Sights on Overcoming Mississippi State Upset

March 15 – The first-round Southeastern Conference tournament quarterfinal in Nashville, which pits ninth-seeded Mississippi State against top-seeded Tennessee on Friday, holds significant implications for both teams.
The fifth-seeded Volunteers (24-7) hope to start the process of obtaining a possible No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament the following week, but a victory over Tennessee for the second time this season by the Bulldogs might eliminate any doubts over an at-large selection.

With a 70-60 victory over eighth-seeded LSU on Thursday, Mississippi State (20-12) earned the chance. Josh Hubbard, a rookie guard for the Bulldogs, scored a game-high 24 points. Hubbard, who leads the club in scoring with 17 points per game on average, had at least 20 points for the sixth time in a row.
“This shows me that when we play the way we can and we stick together we can beat anybody in the country,” Hubbard commented on the victory. “This is a good confidence booster for us.”

The outcome ended the Bulldogs’ four-game losing streak, which had taken them from a secure NCAA berth to unquestionably on the bubble. Hubbard scored points, but they also succeeded defensively, holding the Tigers to just 38% shooting, forcing 18 turnovers, and securing 10 steals.
Mississippi State also performed admirably in terms of ball control, committing just 12 turnovers.
With 16.3 points per game, Tolu Smith is the Bulldogs’ other major scoring danger. On January 10, Mississippi State defeated Tennessee 77-72 in Starkville, Miss. Smith added 23 points on just 10 shot attempts, making 9 of 12 foul shots, to go along with Hubbard’s 25-point performance. That evening, Hubbard made five of ten 3-pointers.

After the game, Tennessee coach Rick Barnes stated that his squad had faced a difficult final stretch. Before playing Kentucky, the Volunteers defeated Auburn, Alabama, and South Carolina in a row to move up into the Top 25. Kenpom.com states that they have played the tenth-toughest schedule in Division I.
Barnes expressed, “I sincerely hope this is one we can learn from.” “We were overly sentimental. It’s been a terrible three weeks.”
Knecht scored 28 points in the first meeting with Mississippi State, averaging 21.4 points per game. Zeigler scored 26 points in 15 shots, but his teammates combined for just 18 points, shooting 8 of 26 (30.8%) from the field.

In a Saturday semifinal, the winner of Tennessee vs. Mississippi State will play either fourth-seeded Auburn or fifth-seeded South Carolina.


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