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No. 5 Tennessee looks to keep rolling vs. Mississippi State

no-5-tennessee-looks-to-keep-rolling-vs.-mississippi-state

No. 5 Tennessee will take a run of seven consecutive victories into a road matchup with Mississippi State on Wednesday at Starkville, Miss.

The Volunteers (11-3, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) will play an away game for the first time in conference this season after a 90-64 victory over then-No. 22 Ole Miss on Saturday.

Jonas Aidoo had 24 points and 10 rebounds for Tennessee, while Zaki Zeigler added 17 points with a season-best 10 assists. The Volunteers owned the rebounding battle with a 47-24 advantage. It was the lowest number of rebounds for a Volunteers opponent this season.

The Volunteers’ seven straight wins come on the heels of losing three in a row, including consecutive defeats against Purdue and Kansas at the Maui Invitational just before Thanksgiving and then a loss to North Carolina on the mainland.

The Volunteers have bounced back quite well from that skid. They ripped through one of the last two undefeated teams in the country when they toppled Ole Miss by 26 points while forcing 11 turnovers and taking 18 more shots from the floor.

And it isn’t as if Tennessee did not see areas where it can improve. The Volunteers opened 1-of-12 from 3-point range, then went 10-of-18 over the remainder of the game.

“The thing that I’m most pleased with is that when we missed shots early, guys kept taking them,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said. “… (I’m) talking about the confidence, keeping these guys confident that they’ll continue to shoot the ball when they’re open. And (if) we do that, it will help us to move forward.”

Tennessee will take that shooting confidence to Mississippi State (11-3, 0-1), which will be no pushover. The Bulldogs were on a five-game winning streak before dropping their SEC opener 68-62 at South Carolina on Saturday.

Josh Hubbard and Tolu Smith III each scored 13 points for Mississippi State, while Shakeel Moore had 10. The Bulldogs shot 48.1 percent from the floor, but were 3-of-13 (23.1 percent) from 3-point range.

Jimmy Bell Jr., who leads Mississippi State with 8.6 rebounds per game, did not grab a single board in 19 minutes. South Carolina had a 35-26 rebounding advantage with 15 offensive rebounds they turned into 16 second-chance points.

“Zero chance to win games of this magnitude if we’re getting outrebounded like that,” Mississippi State head coach Chris Jans said. “That’s all I talked about with the team in the locker room. We definitely were talking about it during the timeouts. In the second half, we had unbelievable stretches where we didn’t get any offensive rebounds. …That was the game.”

The challenge only gets bigger against a top-five team in Tennessee, with all eyes on the rebounding battle again.This season, Tennessee is averaging 39.7 rebounds per game and Mississippi State is at 39.4.

–Field Level Media

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