Mississippi State sneaks past Tennessee
Dee Bost had a crucial steal and dunk on the final possession of the game as No. 20 Mississippi State survived a late scare to beat Tennessee 62-58 on Thursday night.
With the win, Mississippi State (14-3, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) avoided its first 0-2 start in league play since 2003. The Bulldogs led by 12 early in the second half, but Tennessee cut it to 60-58 on Renaldo Woolridge's three-pointer with 44.2 seconds remaining.
Tennessee got the ball back on a steal by Skylar McBee and had a chance to tie or win with seconds remaining, but Bost slapped the ball away from Trae Golden and drove for the game-sealing dunk.
Bost, Renardo Sidney and Arnett Moultrie all scored 13 points for the Bulldogs.
Bost didn't have a very good game until the final play, shooting just 3 of 11 from the field and turning the ball over six times. However, all was forgotten as he dashed down the court, flushed the ball through the hoop with his right hand and listened to the crowd of 8,148 at Humphrey Coliseum roar its approval.
Tennessee (8-8, 1-1) was led by Golden, who had 20 points, while Jeronne Maymon scored 13 and Kenny Hall added 12 off the bench.
The Bulldogs defense was embarrassed in a 98-88 loss to Arkansas in Saturday's conference opener, but they were much more stingy against the Volunteers. Wendell Lewis had five blocked shots and Moultrie added four as Tennessee had to work hard for almost all its points close to the basket.
Mississippi State took a 36-27 lead at halftime, shooting 52 percent (13 of 25) from the field. The Bulldogs managed to keep their offense moving despite early foul trouble for Bost — the team's starting point guard who owns the school record for assists. But backup DeVille Smith did a decent imitation, with five assists in 15 first-half minutes.
MSU extended its lead to 12 early in the second half on a three-pointer by Jalen Steele, but Tennessee fought back thanks to three threes by Golden and stifling defense that limited Mississippi State to 36 percent shooting in the second half.
Tennessee was coming off its biggest win of the season — a 67-56 home victory over No. 13 Florida in the conference opener — but couldn't find enough offense to keep the momentum going.
Golden shot 7 of 11 from the field, including 4 of 6 from three-point range and 2 of 2 from the free throw line. However, he mishandled the ball on the final possession, trying to go between the legs with his dribble before Bost slapped the ball away and ended the Volunteers' hopes for an upset.