NASHVILLE, TN (WLBT) - Mississippi State battled one of the nation’s best before being handed an 83-76 hard-fought defeat by third-seeded and No. 8 Tennessee during Friday’s quarterfinal action at Bridgestone Arena, home of the NHL’s Nashville Predators.
The Bulldogs (23-10) will await an at-large bid to next week’s NCAA Tournament, and the program’s first March Madness selection since the 2008-09 season. The NCAA Field of 68 will be unveiled at 5 p.m. CT on Sunday televised by CBS.
Tennessee (28-4) will advance to meet second-seeded and No. 4 Kentucky in Saturday’s semifinal action.
Aric Holman dropped in 15 of his game-leading 20 points in the second half. He was a flawless 5-for-5 from behind the three-point line and dialed up a 7-for-9 shooting clip. The 20-point performance marked Holman’s best since a 20-point output at South Carolina on Jan. 8 to start SEC play.
Quinndary Weatherspoon provided 17 points and moves to within 15 points of reaching 2,000 for his career. Lamar Peters added 15 points, five assists and four steals whereas Reggie Perry notched his ninth double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Tyson Carter tacked on six points followed by Abdul Ado with two points and four rebounds. Robert Woodard II also hauled down seven rebounds for the Maroon and White.
For the contest, MSU hit 28-of-62 shots from the field (45.2 percent), 9-of-25 shots from three-point range (36.0 percent) and 11-of-20 shots from the foul line (55.0 percent).
Tennessee countered with a 34-of-66 mark from the field (51.5 percent), a 5-of-11 mark from three-point range (45.5 percent) and a 10-of-15 mark from the foul line (66.7 percent).
Mississippi State had 11 assists and 11 turnovers, while the Volunteers had 21 assists and nine turnovers.
Tennessee was led by Admiral Schofield (20 points, 7 rebounds), Kyle Alexander (16 points, 9 rebounds), Grant Williams (16 points) and Jordan Bone (14 points, 9 assists)
FROM THE BENCH WITH COACH HOWLAND
“Tough loss for us, I thought we really played tough and physical basketball. It was a very physical game. We went down six at halftime, but we came out and had the game tied a few times at 40-40 and 42-42. We had a free throw to tie it again at 46-46 after Tyson got fouled on a three. Then, they went on that run.”
“The thing that hurt us were allowing second shots. They got some key second shots that lead to baskets. I was really proud of our guy’s fight, the way they hung in there and fought bought once we got down. Cut it to seven – I thought Aric (Holman) came in and gave us a great lift off the bench and knocked down some big three’s. Credit Tennessee, they’re a really good team. They’re going to be either a one or two seed based on these next two days coming up. We’re going to get back home, rest the next two days and find out who we get to play in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.”
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The two teams went back-and-forth in the game’s opening five minutes. A 9-0 run for the Volunteers capped by an Admiral Schofield dunk made it 17-9 with 9:59 remaining.
Down 28-20, the Bulldogs worked their way back behind an Abdul Ado jump hook in the lane coupled with a Reggie Perry layup courtesy of a driving Lamar Peters to bring the tally back to 28-24 at the 2:55 mark.
Tennessee took a 34-28 advantage into the locker room. Mississippi State landed the opening punch of the second 20 minutes as Perry and Peters dialed up back-to-back treys sandwiched between a pair of Carter free throws to draw even at 38-38 with 17:14 to go.
The Volunteers crept back out to a 49-46 edge and stretched the lead into double figures after 10 straight points capped by a Schofield jam and two James Bowdon free throws.
The Bulldogs wouldn’t go away as Holman began to heat up. He ripped off 12 points over the closing 4:15. The closest MSU got was within seven points on multiple occasions down the stretch. Tennessee salted the game away and converted on 8-of-10 at the charity stripe over the final 79 seconds.
Mississippi State will await an at-large selection to next week’s NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Field of 68 will be announced Sunday at 5 p.m. CT televised by CBS. The Bulldogs will look to secure their first NCAA Tournament appearance since the 2008-09 season.