#6 Lady Vols fall to #3 Mississippi State - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

#6 Lady Vols fall to #3 Mississippi State

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Knoxville, Tenn. (UTSports.com)-- Mercedes Russell recorded 16 points on 7-for-9 shooting, but No. 6/7 Tennessee was unable to overcome a 13-point halftime deficit in a 71-52 loss to No. 3/3 Mississippi State on Sunday at Thompson-Boling Arena.
 
Jaime Nared added 12 points for the Lady Vols (16-3, 4-2 SEC), who now have dropped three of their last four. Victoria Vivians led the Bulldogs (20-0, 6-0 SEC) with 24 points and nine rebounds, while Teaira McCowan recorded 12 points and 18 boards.
 
After Anastasia Hayes made it a seven-point game with a free throw early in the fourth quarter, MSU was able to shut down UT offensively, allowing no field goals over the final eight minutes while closing the game on a 14-2 run.
 
Russell was active early on for the Lady Vols, scoring six of the team's first eight points. While much of the first quarter was highlighted by a fast pace and five lead changes, the Bulldogs began to chip away in the closing minutes, going on an 11-4 run to take a seven-point advantage heading into the second stanza. Vivians led MSU with nine points in the period.
 
The Bulldogs' defense continued to stymie UT in the second quarter, holding the Lady Vols to just 12 points on six shots. MSU dominated the offensive glass throughout the first half, hauling in nine offensive rebounds that led to 14 points off second chance opportunities. With under three minutes remaining, a Roshunda Johnson layup put the Bulldogs ahead by double digits for the first time of the afternoon. Russell continued her strong offensive play for UT, finishing the half with 12 points as the Lady Vols went into the break trailing, 39-26.
 
Tennessee started to regain momentum on both ends of the floor in the third quarter. After holding the Bulldogs scoreless over a two-minute stretch, a layup by Rennia Davis trimmed the deficit back to 10. With time winding down, Evina Westbrook worked her way into the lane and sunk a mid-range jump shot to bring UT to within nine going into the game's final quarter.
 
The Lady Vols cut the lead to seven, 57-50, with 7:19 to go in the contest, but they were met with more offensive struggles the rest of the game and recorded a season-low eight points on 2-for-14 shooting during the period. MSU, meanwhile, shot 47 percent from the floor, and was able to pull away down the stretch thanks to a Tennessee scoring drought that lasted 3:44.
 
Davis grabbed 10 rebounds in addition to scoring seven points in the losing effort. Johnson netted 16 for MSU, while Blair Schaefer added four 3-pointers for 12 points.
 
Next Up: Tennessee plays at home for the second straight game, as Ole Miss (11-8, 1-5 SEC) comes to Thompson-Boling Arena on Thursday night. The contest tips at 7 p.m. ET and will be broadcast online via SECN+ (WatchESPN).

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