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Tolu Smith III, Mississippi State knock off No. 5 Tennessee

tolu-smith-iii,-mississippi-state-knock-off-no.-5-tennessee

Tolu Smith III scored 23 points and converted a decisive three-point play with 14.7 seconds remaining and Mississippi State turned early defensive pressure into a 77-72 victory over No. 5 Tennessee at Starkville, Miss.

Josh Hubbard scored 25 points for the Bulldogs (12-3, 1-1 SEC), who bounced back from a conference-opening defeat at South Carolina on Saturday. Smith, in his first start of the season, played in his third game after missing the first 12 with a foot injury.

Mississippi State held Tennessee to 22 first-half points and 33.3-percent shooting in the opening 20 minutes and forced 10 turnovers, then withstood a fierce rally from the Volunteers.

Dalton Knecht scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half and Zakai Zeigler added 26 points as Tennessee (11-4, 1-1) saw its seven-game winning streak come to an end.

Jonas Aidoo had nine points before he fouled out with 4:55 remaining as the Volunteers finished 45.8 percent from the floor while losing to a team outside of the Top 25 for the first time this season.

Tennessee had just 18 points with less than a minute remaining in the opening half and went into the break with a 35-22 deficit after trailing by as many as 15. The Volunteers were 2 of 13 (15.4 percent) from 3-point range in the first half.

Tennessee turned up its own defense in the second half, using full-court pressure to go on an 18-7 run to pull within 51-49 with 11:36 remaining after a 3-pointer from Knecht. The Volunteers finally drew even in the second half 62-62 on two free throws from Knecht with 5:17 remaining.

Mississippi State went on a 7-1 run capped on a layup from Cameron Matthews just before the shot clock expired to lead 69-63 with 1:50 remaining.

Tennessee answered with a 7-3 run to pull within 72-70 with 52.5 seconds remaining after Knecht made 1 of 2 free throws. Knecht then tied it 72-72 on a fastbreak dunk with 34 seconds remaining before Smith’s three-point play put the Bulldogs ahead for good.

Knecht was 9 of 13 (69.3 percent) from the field in the second half and 4 of 6 from 3-point range.

Mississippi State won despite committing 13 of its 18 turnovers in the second half.

–Field Level Media

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