#18 Vols Grind Out 56-53 Win Over Mississippi State

Wednesday, January 27, 2021
A dominant defensive showing and an offensive effort that saw every Vol score helped the 18th-ranked Tennessee basketball team battle past Mississippi State, 56-53, on Tuesday at Thompson-Boling Arena.

After uncharacteristically losing the turnover battle in each of their last two games, the Volunteers (11-3, 5-3 SEC) forced 18 (9-8, 4-5 SEC) turnovers, earning a +7 turnover margin on the night.

Senior Yves Pons led UT in scoring, dropping 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting with three ferocious dunks.

In 12 strong minutes off the bench, sophomore Olivier Nkamhoua scored five points, grabbed four rebounds and dished off an assist.

The freshman duo of Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer combined to score 17 points while delivering several key plays late to give Tennessee some winning momentum entering Saturday's SEC/Big 12 Challenge showdown with 15th-ranked Kansas (6 p.m.
ET, ESPN).


Springer—who missed UT's last two games due to injury—scored nine points Tuesday and added a team-high five assists, four rebounds and one block in 25 minutes off the bench.

Johnson tallied eight points and was highly efficient on the defensive end, blocking a pair of shots and nabbing three steals.

Tennessee dominated the early stages of the first half, using an 8-0 run and a stifling defensive display that held Mississippi State to just one field goal through the opening eight minutes to gain a 15-4 advantage at the under-12 media timeout.

The Bulldogs fought their way back into the contest, eventually tying the score at 20-20 with just more than four minutes to play in the half.

Those final four first-half minutes were defined by defense, as the teams combined for just nine points, with the Orange & White taking a slim 26-23 lead into the break.

The second half was largely a back-and-forth affair, with the programs trading buckets and defensive stops, leading to a score knotted at 44-44 near the 6:00 mark.

Tennessee held Mississippi State to just nine points over those final six minutes and earned a number of timely buckets before two clutch free throws from Santiago Vescovi iced the game with 12 seconds left.

Up Next: The Vols return to action for the last of three consecutive home contests when they welcome #15 Kansas to Knoxville for a Saturday night clash in the SEC/Big12 Challenge. Tipoff from Thompson-Boling Arena is slated for 6 p.m. ET on ESPN.

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