STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State blocked Tennessee’s hopes for a breakthrough road victory.
UT sophomore point guard Trae Golden
The No. 20 Bulldogs (14-3, 1-1 SEC) rejected 10 shots in their 62-58 victory over the Vols (8-8, 1-1) on Thursday night at Humphrey Coliseum.
UT had the last shot in the game with a chance to tie or win after a Skylar McBee steal with 18 seconds left.
After the Vols called timeout with 11.3 seconds remaining, Trae Golden took the inbounds pass and slipped on a wet spot when he tried to dribble the ball between his legs on a drive, and Mississippi State All-SEC point guard Dee Bost came up with the steal with seven seconds left.
Bost dunked home his 13th and final point of the night with three seconds left for the final margin.
“Coach told me to break Dee down, make the right play, Skylar was in the corner, he’s our best shooter, and Renaldo (Woolridge) was popping out behind me,” said Golden.
“It’s supposed to be a victory right now, but I slipped and fell.’’
UT out-rebounded the Bulldogs 35-28, led by freshman Yemi Makanjoula’s six boards, and held a 32-24 advantage in points in the paint.
UT basketball coach Cuonzo Martin
Mississippi State’s 10 blocked shots, however, were the most against the Vols this season.
“I thought that was the difference in the game, 10 blocks, seven in the second half,’’ said Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury, who beat UT at home for the first time since an 82-60 win on Jan. 28, 2004. “That’s a good team; you don’t dismantle Florida like that if you’re not a good team. Tennessee is an athletic team that gets up into you defensively and really guards you.’’
The Vols upset 13th-ranked Florida last Saturday in Knoxville.
The Bulldogs took their first double-digit lead of the game when former Fulton High School standout Jalen Steele hit a 3-pointer to open the second half and make it 39-27. Steele, who scored six, also hit the first basket of the game, a 3-pointer.
UT made its run by holding Mississippi State without a field goal for nearly eight minutes midway through the second half.
“I just think to develop a great program you have to play that way all the time,’’ said first-year UT coach Cuonzo Martin, who’s 0-4 on the road with the Vols. “You have to defend at a high level all the time. That’s the way for us to be the last team standing.’’
Arnett Moultrie, who had 13 points and four rebounds, scored with 13:45 left to put the Bulldogs up 47-37 before the UT defense clamped down.
The next basket Mississippi State scored came from Renardo Sidney, who had 13 points and seven rebounds, with 5:53 left, putting the Bulldogs up 53-47.
Woolridge hit a 3-pointer with 44.2 seconds left to pull UT to within 60-58 before the McBee steal.
The Bulldogs took a 36-27 lead into the half on the strength of a 9-2 run over the final 2 ½ minutes.
Martin said that was a key point in the game.
“They did a really good job setting the tone at the end of the first half, made some plays,’’ he said. “I think they made seven shots in a row between baskets and free throws.’’
After falling behind 6-0 the Vols battled back and reclaimed the lead, their last advantage coming at the 6:08 mark when Golden drained a 3-pointer to put UT up 22-21, it’s final lead of the night.
UT returns to action on Saturday (TV: ESPN, noon) at Thompson-Boling Arena against No. 2 Kentucky (16-1, 2-0).
The Wildcats bring an eight-game win streak into the action that dates back to their 73-72 loss to Indiana on Dec. 10.
The Vols have a five-game home winning streak that started with a 72-68 win over UNC Asheville on Dec. 20.