Vols Shoot Down Miss State 72-59 in SEC Tourney Opener

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Josiah-Jordan James led five players in double figures 16 points, 14 of them during a six-minute stretch in which ninth-ranked Tennessee pulled away to a 72-59 victory over Mississippi State in the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament on Friday night.

The Volunteers (24-7) won for the 10th time in 11 games to advance to Saturday’s semifinals against either No. 5 Kentucky or Vanderbilt.

Kennedy Chandler had 11 points for Tennessee despite missing time in the first and second half after suffering what appeared to be a right foot or ankle injury. He finished the game, though, making a layup for the final margin of victory.

James and Chandler were joined in double figures by Zakai Zeigler (11), Brandon Huntley-Hatfield (10) and Santiago Vescovi (10) for the Vols, who led 39-37 at halftime.

Shakeel Moore led Mississippi State (18-15) with 15 points. Tolu Smith had 14 and Iverson Molina, the SEC’s third-leading scorer, finished with 10 on 3 of 9 shooting.

The 10th-seeded Bulldogs advanced to the quarterfinals with a 73-51 tournament-opening victory over South Carolina. They lost to Tennessee at home by 19 in early February and kept Friday’s game close until James led a surge that helped the Vols open a double-digit lead early in the second half.

James made his first five shots after halftime, four of them of 3-pointers. By the time Chandler returned to the bench after receiving attention for his injury a second time, Tennessee was up 13 and in complete control without the freshman guard.

Vescovi’s 3-pointer hiked Tennessee’s lead to 68-54 and the closest Mississippi State got over the final five minutes was 11.

BIG PICTURE

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs missed 11 of 17 3-pointers and led only once — scoring the first basket of the game.

Tennessee: The second-seeded Vols shot 50%, including 8 of 19 on 3-point attempts.

UP NEXT

Mississippi State: Likely a NIT bid.

Tennessee: Faces either fifth-ranked Kentucky or Vanderbilt in Saturday’s semifinals.

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Categories: Sports – Local Sports News, Sports – UT Vols