Vols beat Mis­sis­sippi State in key SEC bat­tle

Schofield-led Vols win, tied for first in SEC

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID COBB STAFF WRITER

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Ad­mi­ral Schofield drew the con­tact, got the shot off and fell to the floor as the fans in Humphrey Coli­seum let out a col­lec­tive groan. As the ball fell through the bas­ket, a bois­ter­ous crowd of 7,548 seemed to feel Mis­sis­sippi State’s chance at a mar­quee win slip­ping away.

Schofield had been named South­east­ern Con­fer­ence co-player of the week with Mis­sis­sippi State’s La­mar Peters on Mon­day, but the Ten­nessee ju­nior for­ward was in a league of his own Tues­day night on the Bull­dogs’ home floor.

Schofield scored a game-high 24 points to lead the No. 16 Vol­un­teers to a 76-54 vic­tory over the Bull­dogs, who were hun­gry for a boost to their NCAA tour­na­ment re­sume on se­nior night.

In­stead, the Vols (22-7, 12-5) drew closer to at least a share of the SEC reg­u­lar-sea­son cham­pi­onship by hand­ing Mis­sis­sippi State (21-9, 9-8) just its sec­ond home loss of the sea­son. The other was to Auburn, the team Ten­nessee is try­ing to over­take for the reg­u­lar-sea­son ti­tle.

Auburn lost Tues­day at Arkansas, so the Tigers and Vols are tied with a game re­main­ing for each on Satur­day. Auburn holds the tiebreaker for the top seed in next week’s SEC tour­na­ment, but the Vols as­sured them­selves a dou­ble-bye in the tour­ney by beat­ing the Bull­dogs.

Schofield’s con­tested bas­ket and sub­se­quent made free throw capped a 12-2 run that put the Vols ahead 56-42 with 12:08 re­main­ing. Be­fore his trip to the free-throw line, Schofield stood and flexed his arms as he peered to­ward the stands.

“My team­mates were flex­ing, so I de­cided to flex,” Schofield said. “This was a great team win.”

Af­ter lead­ing much of the first half, Mis­sis­sippi State never truly chal­lenged the Vols again af­ter Schofield found a groove of­fen­sively in the mid­dle of the sec­ond half.

“Get­ting that dou­ble-bye and be­ing able to get a rest those two days will be big,” said La­monte Turner, who scored 12 points off the bench for Ten­nessee.

Ten­nessee hosts Ge­or­gia on Satur­day to close the reg­u­lar sea­son.

“As a team, we’ve re­al­ized we’re in great po­si­tion to win a cham­pi­onship,” Schofield said. “Not just win a cham­pi­onship in our league, but com­pete for one na­tion­ally.”

Vols coach Rick Barnes ac­knowl­edged that dis­cus­sion about a league cham­pi­onship has been a locker-room topic re­cently.

“You can talk about them all you want. But you have to play every game like it mat­ters, and for the most part this team has done that,” Barnes said. “Every game? No. But for the most part, yes.”

The Vols re­ceived scor­ing con­tri­bu­tions from all nine who played Tues­day. Ten­nessee shot 68.2 per­cent in the sec­ond half af­ter lead­ing 40-34 at the break.

Ten­nessee and Mis­sis­sippi State ranked first and sec­ond in the league in scor­ing de­fense en­ter­ing the game, but the early pace did not re­flect a de­fen­sive-minded ap­proach by ei­ther team.

The Bull­dogs jumped ahead 18-11 with 12:21 left in the first half. Af­ter a me­dia time­out at the 11:16 mark, Ten­nessee is­sued a quick re­sponse.

Schofield scored four straight for the Vols out of the time­out, in­clud­ing a thun­der­ous one-handed dunk off a Jor­dan Bone as­sist to bring Ten­nessee within 20-17.

The Vols tied the game at 25 and again at 30 when James Daniel banked in a 3-pointer from nearly mid­court as the shot clock ex­pired with 4:48 left in the half. Fi­nally, the Vols took a 32-30 lead on a Der­rick Walker layup and then scored their last eight points of the half on free throws.

Ten­nessee shot 16 free throws in the first half com­pared to five for Mis­sis­sippi State.

“It was be­cause I thought we were re­ally at­tack­ing in tran­si­tion, putting the ball in­side, fight­ing for space, do­ing the lit­tle things that we re­ally, truly had got­ten away from,” Barnes said. “But the ex­e­cu­tion was just bet­ter on the of­fen­sive end to­day.”

Barnes brought the team in on Sun­day for a long video-study ses­sion af­ter Satur­day’s 73-65 win at Ole Miss. Ten­nessee had com­mit­ted turnovers in the Ole Miss game, es­pe­cially late, that both­ered Barnes.

“Turnovers are OK,” Barnes said. “But we’re not go­ing to make silly turnovers.”

Af­ter a con­vinc­ing win over Mis­sis­sippi State, the eter­nally vig­i­lant Barnes was less crit­i­cal.

“He was pretty happy,” Turner said. “As a mat­ter of fact, I don’t think he even had any com­plaints.”

Con­tact David Cobb at dcobb@ times­freep­ress.com. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @DavidWCobb and on Face­book at face­book.com/vol­sup­date.


Ten­nessee for­ward Ad­mi­ral Schofield goes up for a shot against Mis­sis­sippi State on Tues­day in Starkville, Miss. Schofield scored 24 points to lead the Vols to a 76-54 vic­tory.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.