SEC Champs! Dogs take Vols 64-61

After four victories in four days, Mississippi State earned their way to the NCAA field of 65 with a hard-fought 64-61 victory over eastern division champs Tennessee in Tampa, Florida.

kodi-augustusState started quickly, jumping out to a 9-2 lead, as Jarvis Varnado had two quick inside baskets before Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl decided to put big body Brian Williams in the game to provide a physical presence. It was only the first of several coaching moves by Pearl and MSU coach Rick Stansbury in a defensive chess match that saw numerous ties and lead changes.

A turnover by Barry Stewart, and a three pointer at the buzzer by UT’s Tyler Smith tied the game at 36 at the end of the first half.

The second half devolved into a tight defensive struggle, marked by runouts and jump shots, as neither team was able to solve the opposing defense. A three-point bucket by Phil Turner with 1:40 left gave the Dogs the lead for good, as the game ended on a series of bizarre inbounds plays and turnovers by both squads.  Two more free throws by Turner with 8 seconds left provided the final margin, as a final  3-point shot by Tennessee missed as time expired.

This is the second year in a row that the SEC Tournament has been won by a lower seed playing 4 games in 4 days, as last year’s champion, Georgia, mad an improbable run in the tornado-wracked tournament in Atlanta.

Phil Turner led 4 Bulldogs in double figures with 12 points, the final two coming at the line with 8 seconds left. Barry Stewart and Ravern Johnson each had 12, and big Jarvis Varnado added 10, to go along with 7 boards, 6 blocks, and numerous altered shots. Tennessee was led by Wayne Chism with 15 points, JP Prince with 14, and Tyler Smith with 12. Neither team shot the ball particularly well, but that had as much to do with the tight defense played by both clubs.

With the victory, State earns their second consecutive trip to the NCAA’s.

read more about State’s first round opponent from The Seattle Times

It’s a great day to be a Bulldog!

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More at Veasyville, ESPN, and SEC Sports

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