Bulldogs take down No. 5 Tennessee; Ole Miss crushes Florida

Published 11:19 pm Wednesday, January 10, 2024

STARKVILLE (AP) — Mississippi State’s first Southeastern Conference victory of the season was a doozy.

Tolu Smith scored 23 points, including a three-point play owith 14.7 seconds remaining, to lead the Bulldogs to a 77-72 win over No. 5 Tennessee on Wednesday.

The win was Mississippi State’s first over a top-five team since defeating Oklahoma in December of 2002. The Vols were the fourth top-five team to lose in a span of 24 hours as No. 1 Purdue, No. 2 Houston and No. 3 Kansas also were beaten.
Freshman Josh Hubbard led Mississippi State (12-3, 1-1 in SEC) with 25 points, highlighted by a 5-of-10 showing from 3-point territory.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am

“We just stuck together,” Mississippi State coach Chris Jans said. “And we made some plays. The game changed quickly in the second half. Out of the gates they made some baskets and Tennessee played with great intensity and passion. We obviously struggled with the press and we’re not a huge pressing team. But I was glad we stuck together.”

Smith missed the first 12 games of the season due to a preseason foot injury. Wednesday marked just his third game of the season and he was 7-of-10 from the field and 9-of-12 at the foul line in 29 minutes.

“I think the main thing we focused on in the huddle was not going too hot and not going too low,” Smith said. “We just stayed together. I’ve got great players on my team like Cam Matthews that get me the ball inside. It is like a feeling and it is hard to explain. When I see him and he sees me, we make things happen.”

Dalton Knecht scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for Tennessee (11-4, 1-1). Zakai Zeigler added 26 points for the Volunteers.

Tennessee trailed by 13 at halftime, 35-22, but made a second-half charge led by Knecht. With 11:36 left, Knecht’s 3 pointer capped a 12-2 Tennessee run that cut State’s lead to 51-49.

Later in the half, Knecht tied the game at 62 with two free throws and then his dunk tied the game at 72 with 35.3 seconds remaining. However, Smith’s three-point play with 14.7 seconds left gave the Bulldogs the lead for good and a Cameron Matthews dunk in the final second clinched the victory.

Mississippi State shot 50 percent from the field and was 19-of-27 at the foul line. The Volunteers shot 46 percent from the floor and made 8 of 29 from 3 point range. The Bulldogs had 18 turnovers while Tennessee had 16, and both teams had 33 rebounds.

“That’s the most disappointing thing and just so inconsistent,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said of the first-half deficit. “We took a couple of steps forward and then a step back. But I don’t want to take anything away from Mississippi State and Coach Jans had his guys ready to play. In the first half we had some good looks and just didn’t make them. The second half we fought hard to get back in it and I appreciate that effort.”

Ole Miss 103, Florida 85
Jaemyn Brakefield scored 28 points, Jamarion Sharp added a school-record nine blocked shots, and Ole Miss dominated the second half to defeat Florida.

Brakefield was 11-of-16 from the field and the Rebels (14-1, 1-1 SEC) outscored Florida 21-10 in the opening seven minutes of the second half to build an insurmountable 65-50 lead. The Gators (10-5, 0-2) never got closer than 13 points again.

Matthew Murrell scored 23 points, Allen Flanigan had 17 and Jaylen Murray added 12 in a balanced Ole Miss attack. The Rebels finished 39-of-66 (59 percent) from the field, including 8-of-20 (40 percent) from the 3-point line, led by Murrell with three 3-pointers.

Walter Clayton Jr. and Zyon Pullin led Florida with 23 and 18 points, respectively.

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

email author More by Ernest