Today’s game: MSU (10-21) vs. Tennessee (19-11), 2:30 p.m., SEC Network (Brad Nessler play-by-play, Jimmy Dykes analyst, Shannon Spake reporter), XM 199, Sirius 126.
Can Fred Thomas, who scored a career-high 21 points last night, stay hot? The more important question might be whether the Bulldogs can do something to limit Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes. He had 18 points and 11 rebounds in the Volunteers’ 72-57 win over MSU on Jan. 19 in Knoxville. On the year, Stokes is averaging 12.4 points and an SEC-leading 9.4 rebounds per game.
“The inside presence, we have to get better at that,” MSU forward Roquez Johnson said. “I know Jarnell Stokes, he’s a big body, so we’ve got to figure out what we’re going to do, watching film (on him).”
Tennessee has been playing well, winning eight of its last nine and making a push for an NCAA tournament bid. The Bulldogs could play spoiler in that regard. UT is the tournament’s No. 5 seed, while MSU is the 12 seed. The winner plays No. 4 seed Alabama on Friday.
Thomas said the key the last time these teams met was a poor start, and he also emphasized the need to limit Stokes.
“The only thing we can do is wall up on them,” Thomas said. “We can’t get in foul trouble with the depth chart we’ve got. So we’ve got to wall up and play smarter than them.”