By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – Last year, Mississippi State was able to end a 13-game losing streak and finish the regular season on a high note.
The Bulldogs are hoping for similar results this time around with four regular season games remaining. MSU is reeling after nine consecutive losses but wants to reverse that trend tonight, taking on Tennessee at 7 p.m.
“We’ve just got to keep on grinding out there,” said MSU forward Colin Borchert. “We can’t get frustrated. We’ve just got to go out there every day at practice and in games and make sure we’re going hard and competing. As long as we’re doing what we have to as Mississippi State Bulldogs we’ll be fine. We’re going to get over this hump somehow.”
The Bulldogs are coming off a 73-69 loss at home to Arkansas over the weekend. Not even 21 points by Borchert off the bench were enough to keep State from sporting its first losing record of the season at 13-14 overall.
Rick Ray’s Bulldogs fell twice to Tennessee last year. The Volunteers won 72-57 in Knoxville during the regular season and ended Mississippi State’s season in the second round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament with a 69-53 victory.
“They are a very physical ball club,” Ray said. “I just watched our game against them in the SEC Tournament and I thought with their physical strength just overpowered us. It’s going to be very important for us to limit post touches to (Jarnell) Stokes and (Jeronne) Maymon because once they get the ball in the post they’re either going to get to the rim or we’re going to get in foul trouble.”
Vols lead series
Tennessee holds a 77-41 lead in the series having won eight of the last 11 meetings. The Bulldogs hold a slight 27-26 advantage in Starkville although the Vols have won three of the last four outings in Humphrey Coliseum.
MSU enters tonight’s with just a 3-11 mark in league play and are tied with South Carolina for last place. Sophomore shooting guard Craig Sword continues to pace the Bulldogs with 13.5 points and averaged 14.5 against Tennessee last season.
“It’s a hungry Mississippi State team that plays extremely hard and battles,” said Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin. “Rick is doing a great job with their offense and they make it hard on you defensively trying to protect the lane. Their guards do a great job of attacking the rim. They’re just a team that won’t quit.”
The Volunteers are currently tied in a seven-way logjam for fourth place in the SEC at 7-7 and are 16-11 overall. Tennessee has lost three of its last four including a 68-65 overtime loss at Texas A&M on Saturday.
Senior guard Jordan McRae leads the Vols with 19.3 points.