Perry, Stewart power Mississippi State past Tennessee 86-73
Perry’s output marked the seventh time in the last 10 games he has scored at least 20 points. The sophomore forward also collected his 12th double-double of the season and 21st of his career. Stewart was 6 of 9 shooting and made 4 of 5 shots from 3-point distance.
“I just wanted to get to the line as much as I could,” said Perry, who was 12 of 15 at the free throw line. “They tried to keep it out of my hands in the first half and we had to adjust. But basically, I just tried to get to the line.”
Robert Woodard added 14 points for Mississippi State (14-7 overall, 5-3 in the SEC), which has won five straight conference games. Nick Weatherspoon had 11 points, eight rebounds and a career-high nine assists for the Bulldogs.
“Obviously a really, really big win for us against a really good program,” Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said. “They did a good job coming out early and playing inside-out, and got (Abdul) Ado in foul trouble. Our defense was not nearly as good with Ado out but it was our defense in the second half. We played much better defensively in the second half and that gave us more opportunities in transition.”
Trailing by six at halftime, Mississippi State stormed out of the gates in the second half. A 10-0 run capped by back-to-back buckets by Perry gave the Bulldogs a 45-40 advantage with 13:21 left. A Vescovi 3-pointer cut the Mississippi State lead to 45-43 but Stewart responded with back-to-back 3-pointers. That jump-started a 14-3 run by Mississippi State and Tennessee never got within 10 points the remainder of the game.
The Bulldogs shot 57% for the game and made a sizzling 69% in the second half. Mississippi State made 5 of 12 beyond the arc and made 25 of 30 free throws. The Bulldogs also held a 36-24 rebounding advantage and out-rebounded the Volunteers 23-8 in the second half. Tennessee shot 47% from the floor and made 10 of 22 from 3-point territory. The Volunteers had just six turnovers and made 9 of 13 at the free throw line.
“Really dominating performance by Mississippi State in the second half,” said Tennessee coach Rick Barnes. “I’m really proud of our guys the way we started the game because we had to change things in the lineup. But I was proud of the way the young guys responded. They just dominated us inside, though, and we had no answer for it.”
Starting freshman guard Josiah-Jordan James did not start for Tennessee due to a groin injury and Barnes said he was “day to day”.
The first half featured several runs by both teams and the lead changed hands five times with three ties. After Mississippi State took an early 13-6 lead, the Volunteers responded with a 15-4 spurt and held a 21-17 lead with 7:36 left in the opening half.
The Bulldogs answered with a 7-0 run to hold a 23-21 advantage but it would be Mississippi State’s final lead of the half. Tennessee closed the half on a 13-5 run and led 34-28 at halftime.
Tennessee shot 52% in the first half and made 5 of 9 shots beyond the arc. Mississippi State made 44% from the floor and made just 1 of 7 attempts beyond the arc. The Volunteers held a 16-13 rebounding advantage in the first half and both teams had five turnovers.
Tennessee: The Volunteers find themselves on a three-game losing streak and remain on the road next week. Saturday’s loss also snapped Tennessee’s four-game winning streak against Mississippi State.
Mississippi State: Since inserting Stewart in the starting lineup, Mississippi State has won five straight SEC games. The Bulldogs opened with an 0-3 conference mark.
Tennessee: At Alabama on Tuesday.
Mississippi State: At No. 13 Kentucky on Tuesday.