NASHVILLE | Recapping MSU’s 69-53 SEC Tournament loss to Tennessee at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday.
• The buzz: The Bulldogs ended their season at 10-22, and they went out playing the way they have most of the season: Scrapping til the end despite facing a large early deficit. UT led 35-19 at halftime, but MSU trimmed that to nine points by the 4:42 mark. There just wasn’t enough left in the tank, and Tennessee (20-11) found enough answers on the offensive end.
• Turning point: UT had runs of 12-0 and 14-2 in the first half and led by as many as 19 points. During the 14-2 run, 12 of those points were scored in the paint, a common theme for the game.
• MSU leaders: Craig Sword 19 points (9-17 FGs, 0-2 3FGs, 1-2 FTs), 4 steals; Colin Borchert 12 points (5-16 FGs, 2-6 3FGs), 6 rebounds; Trivante Bloodman 10 points (3-8 FGs, 1-3 3FGs, 3-6 FTs).
• Tennessee leaders: Jordan McRae 17 points (6-13 FGs, 1-6 3FGs, 4-6 FTs), 3 blocks, 2 steals; Trae Golden 15 points (6-8 FGs, 1-2 3FGs, 2-3 FTs); Jarnell Stokes 10 points (5-7 FGs), 9 rebounds, 3 steals; Quinton Chievous 10 points (5-8 FGs, 0-1 3FGs), 4 rebounds.
• MVP: Sword, who fueled MSU’s offense in the second half with 13 points. He played some strong defense, too.
• Key stats: Tennessee outscored MSU 42-24 in the paint. … UT out-rebounded State 35-33. … MSU had 16 offensive rebounds but only eight second-chance points. … MSU shot 34.5 percent overall, 21.4 percent (3 of 14) from 3-point range, and 62.5 percent (10 of 16) from the free throw line. … UT shot 51.8 percent overall, 25 percent (5 of 20) from deep, and 66.7 percent (6 of 9) at the line.
• Quotable: “They did a great job attacking the rim, and we didn’t do a good job dropping to the ball, so they got a lot of open shots.” – Bloodman
• Bottom line: MSU won three of its final five games, including a first-round win here over South Carolina, and that should breed confidence heading into the offseason. The Bulldogs can now look forward to having more healthy bodies and more experience next season, and so there is plenty of reason for measured optimism.