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Strong finish lifts No. 9 Tennessee at Mississippi State

Jan 17, 2023; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Tennessee Volunteers guard Zakai Zeigler (5) dribbles as Mississippi State Bulldogs guard Dashawn Davis (10) defends during the first half at Humphrey Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Zakai Zeigler scored 24 points and played all 40 minutes in his third start of the season as No. 9 Tennessee shook off the absence of two starting guards to earn a 70-59 victory over host Mississippi State at Starkville, Miss.

Julian Phillips added 18 points with 11 rebounds and Josiah-Jordan James had 13 points for the Volunteers (15-3, 5-1 SEC), who were without leading scorer Santiago Vescovi (shoulder) and Tyreke Key (illness). Vescovi, who has averaged 12.9 points per game, came away with his injury during Saturday’s 63-56 loss to Kentucky.

Shakeel Moore scored 20 points for the Bulldogs (12-6, 1-5), who lost to Tennessee for the second time in two weeks. Tolu Smith scored 11 points with 10 rebounds as Mississippi State also lost at home for the second time this season.

Tennessee sputtered at the outset, looking nothing like the team that scored the first 16 points when the teams met Jan. 3 at Knoxville, Tenn. Mississippi State used a 7-2 run to take a 19-10 lead just over 13 minutes into the game.

The Volunteers closed the first half on a 13-4 run to pull even at 23-23 after neither team shot better than 32.0 percent from the field before the break.

With Mississippi State up 46-44 with 9:54 remaining, Tennessee went on a 11-3 run to take a 55-49 lead with 5:59 remaining. Consecutive 3-pointers by James and Olivier Nkamhoua put the Volunteers up 64-55 with 2:48 remaining.

Nkamhoua scored seven points with nine rebounds as Tennessee went 8 of 9 from 3-point range in the second half to finish 10 of 24 from distance in the game.

After committing 11 turnovers in the first half, five by Zeigler, Tennessee had six in the second half. The Volunteers had a 39-31 rebounding advantage, while holding the Bulldogs to 33.3 percent from the field.

–Field Level Media