Rick Stansbury's Bulldogs have had a strong season thus far with wins in 13 of their first 16 games. The SEC slate however, began on a sour note this past weekend, as Mississippi State lost a shootout with Arkansas in Fayetteville, 98-88.
Cuonzo Martin's first season at the helm at Tennessee has had mixed reviews thus far. The Volunteers are treading water at just one game above .500, although the team seems to have shaken off a poor start to the season with wins in five of its last six games. Tennessee got its SEC schedule off on the right foot, with a 67-56 win over nationally-ranked Florida last time out.
Tennessee holds a 75-40 advantage in the series with Mississippi State and has won six of the last eight meetings, including three straight in Starkville. However, 15 of the last 20 meetings have been decided by eight points or less.
The Volunteers have shown glimpses of strong play at both ends of the court this season, but it was their defensive tenacity that proved to be the difference against Florida. Tennessee held the Gators to just 56 points on 35.7 percent shooting and forced 15 turnovers in the win. Four Vols finished in double figures, led by Kenny Hall's 13 points off the bench. Trae Golden and Jeronne Maymon added 12 points apiece, while Jordan McCrae chipped in with 10. On the season, Tennessee is netting 74.5 ppg on a decent .465 shooting. Golden headlines a trio of double-digit performers with his 14.6 ppg. The 6-1 sophomore also doubles as the team's primary distributor, doling out 5.4 assists per outing. Maymon leads the team down low with 7.8 rpg, while adding 11.2 ppg. McCrae rounds out the top scoring threats at 10.8 ppg.
Mississippi State is similar to Tennessee at both ends of the floor, averaging a steady 75.6 ppg, while allowing 65.2. Scoring depth is apparent with four players currently averaging double figures. Dee Bost leads the way at the point, averaging 16.2 points and 4.3 assists per game. Arnett Moultrie is the perfect complement with his presence down low. The 6-11 junior is shooting .556 from the floor and matches Bost's scoring at 16.2 ppg, while completing a double-double with a hefty 11.3 rpg. Rodney Hood and Renardo Sidney provide a couple of other offensive options at 12.6 and 10.1 ppg, respectively. The Bulldogs shot over 50 percent from the floor, but it wasn't enough in a 10- point loss to the Razorbacks. DeVille Smith led the way with a career-high 25 points in defeat. Bost poured in 21, while Hood added 17. Moultrie just missed another double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds.