STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Tennessee stayed in the hunt for a Southeastern Conference title thanks to a stellar second-half performance on the road.
Admiral Schofield had 24 points, Lamonte Turner added 12 and the 16th-ranked Volunteers pulled away for a 76-54 victory over Mississippi State on Tuesday night.
Schofield also had seven rebounds and shot 9 of 18 from the field for the Volunteers (22-7, 12-5 SEC), who made 13 of their final 15 field goal attempts.
Quinndary Weatherspoon led Mississippi State (21-9, 9-8) with 17 points. Nick Weatherspoon had 11 points and Aric Holman finished with 10 for the Bulldogs.
“Mississippi State came out really locked in, defensively, and it was hard to run our offense the way we wanted to,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “They are difficult to guard but we stayed with it and figured out the best way to guard their ball screens. We started switching ball screens to keep them out of the lane.
“We were much better today on the offensive end, overall, and we had a lot of execution inside and out. When we move the ball we are capable of doing that.”
Tennessee turned a tight game into a blowout during the second half by shooting 68 percent from the field and out-rebounding the Bulldogs 18-8.
Mississippi State suffered just its second home loss of the season and finished the regular season 18-2 at Humphrey Coliseum.
“That was a very tough loss against a very good team,” Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said. “Tennessee is just so physical and they played smart offensively. We had some great opportunities in the first half but we got sped up with the excitement of the game. We had a 25-17 lead and didn’t handle that well.”
Mississippi State used a 9-2 run to lead 18-11 midway through the first half. The Bulldogs held their largest lead of the half at 25-17 following a 3-pointer by Quinndary Weatherspoon.
Tennessee quickly responded with eight straight points and tied the game at 25-25 after a 3-pointer by Jordan Bone. The Volunteers closed the half on a 15-6 run and led 40-34 at halftime.
Tennessee started the second half on a 16-8 run to grab complete control and led 56-42 with just under 14 minutes left in regulation. Mississippi State never got within 14 points the rest of the way.
“We just had a lot of breakdowns on defense in the second half,” Mississippi State’s Quinndary Weatherspoon said. “We didn’t defend well in the first 5 or 10 minutes of the second half. We started taking some quick shots and started being impatient.”
Tennessee shot 56.3 percent from the field for the game. Mississippi State shot 39.2 percent for the game, including just 28.6 percent in the second half. Tennessee was 18 of 23 at the free throw line and out-rebounded the Bulldogs 34-24.
Mississippi State made just 4 of 20 shots beyond the arc and had 13 turnovers.
Tennessee: The Volunteers kept their SEC regular-season title hopes alive and have won 10 of their last 12 games. Tennessee continues to use depth to its advantage – the Volunteers’ reserves scored 25 points compared to six for Mississippi State.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs missed a big opportunity to boost their NCAA Tournament resume. Mississippi State will likely have to make serious noise in the SEC Tournament along with getting a road win at LSU on Saturday to stay in the conversation.
Tennessee concludes the regular season on Saturday when it hosts Georgia.
Mississippi State finishes regular-season action on Saturday when it visits LSU.