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No. 8 Tennessee steamrolls Mississippi State

Jan 3, 2023; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers forward Julian Phillips (2) dunks the ball against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the first half at Thompson-Boling Arena. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Santiago Vescovi scored all 14 points of his points in Tennessee’s 46-point first-half Tuesday night as the No. 8 Volunteers beat Mississippi State for the fourth straight time, walloping the Bulldogs 87-53 in Knoxville, Tenn.

The Volunteers (12-2, 2-0 Southeastern Conference), who won their third straight game overall, shot 63 percent in the first half as they raced away for their 11th straight SEC home win and 24th consecutive overall at Rocky Top.

In the blowout, Tennessee shot a blistering 69.2 percent (36 of 52) and made 12 of 21 3-pointers (57.1 percent).

Vescovi was 4 of 8 from the field — all 3-pointers — and Zakai Zeigler had 11 points and 10 assists. Julian Phillips scored 11 points with seven rebounds. Uros Plavsic and Olivier Nkamhoua had 10 points apiece as the Volunteers dished out a season-best 28 assists.

Josiah-Jordan James (offseason knee surgery) made his first appearance in the lineup since Dec. 7 and tallied eight points in 17 minutes.

Last season’s SEC tournament champions, who led by as many as 36, moved their all-time record against Mississippi State to 89-44 and 48-11 at home.

Tyler Stevenson scored a season-high 15 points and made 7 of 10 shots for the Bulldogs (11-3, 0-2), who were just 4 of 18 from distance and were outrebounded 34-19 in losing their third straight game.

After slipping one spot in Monday’s AP Top 25, basically trading places with No. 7 Alabama, Tennessee broke out on a massive 16-0 run in the game’s first 4:26. The left-handed Vescovi was feeling it right away and keyed the start by connecting on all three of his 3-pointers.

Behind 6-of-9 shooting from distance to start, the home side built a 30-10 lead after Phillips rolled in a long shot at 6:50 of the first. The half’s finish was highlighted by thunderous dunks by Phillips and James for a 40-14 lead at 2:48.

The sizzling Volunteers crafted a 46-22 halftime advantage with an impressive show of shooting. They were 17 of 27 from the field and netted 9 of 14 from distance.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs made just 7 of 23 shots (30.4 percent) and missed nine of their 11 treys.

–Field Level Media