Mississippi State Basketball vs. Tennessee: Scouting Report, Prediction


STARKVILLE — The Mississippi state basketball team’s time pressures are well known. When coach Ben Howland looked at the calendar on Tuesday, he saw nine games in 26 days – a span that limits training time and puts pressure on any performance.

The Bulldogs need wins. Without a true street win, adding another quadrant 1 win would empower you NCAA Tournament Summary for a team that rests on the bubble.

Howland said the state of Mississippi conducted intensive training Monday and took a close look at the film to see what went wrong against Arkansas, when the Bulldogs (14-8, 5-4 SEC) lost a chance to win away. The sense of urgency begins with him and dictates to his players that time is running out for a clear win.

Mississippi State will have ample opportunity to do so during its last nine games, including when No. 18 Tennessee (16-6, 7-3) visited Humphrey Coliseum Wednesday (8 p.m., ESPN2).

“In the hour-long and 10-minute film session, it was very clear that the head coach felt a sense of urgency about effort, execution and desire,” Howland said. “It’s crunch time.”

VIEW OF THE ENEMY:Tennessee Basketball vs. Mississippi State: Scouting Report, Result Prediction

SIGHTSEEING:How to Watch Tennessee Vols Men’s Basketball vs. Mississippi State on TV, Live Stream

The matchup with the volunteers is impressive. They are on a five-game winning streak in the SEC, with a loss to Texas during the Big 12/SEC Challenge in January being their only recent loss. They have amassed 181 points in their last two wins while keeping teams at 63 points per game, second-lowest in the conference.

Mississippi State, to make a statement regarding the NCAA tournament, these are the matchups the Bulldogs will face beginning Wednesday and through the end of the month.

Involve Iverson Molinar more

There were times during the loss to Arkansas when Iverson Molinar fired ill-advised shots, forcing a drive or a jumper, although another option would have been more to Howland’s liking. But overall, Molinar is the heart of Mississippi State’s offense, averaging 20.6 points in conference games.

However, Molinar attempted just one shot in the final five minutes against Arkansas, which swarmed him on defense. It’s a look you’ve seen before. Florida double-teamed Molinar the entire time, holding him to 12 points. The Panama City, Panama guard made 18 shots against the Razorbacks but managed 19 points — an uninspiring return on a volume shooting performance.

There’s a balance between taking over late in games and forcing shots. Molinar was picky and chose not to shoot because the defenses were covering him. But Howland hopes to get him more involved when the clock runs out.

Part of Saturday’s problem was fatigue for Molinar. He missed practice Thursday before the game due to COVID-like symptoms, despite testing negative. Still, he played 34 minutes against Arkansas, a number that wore him down.

“I just need to play Rocket (Watts) more minutes,” Howland said. “I ended up playing DJ (Jeffries) a lot more on the 2, which we’ve rarely done this season because it suited her 6-5, 200-pound wings rebounding better.”

How to boost the offense

The Bulldogs have seen their share of good defensive teams like Texas Tech and Arkansas in recent games.

Playing man-to-man, the Volunteers have been known to switch from point guard to power forward — especially when guard Josiah-Jordan James is on the ground. The Red Raiders also switched to defense down the middle, with the length at each position offering a unique defensive look.

Texas Tech smothered Mississippi state and held it to a season-low 50 points.

“We need to screen better,” Howland said. “We need to do a better job of helping each other open up. We have to be more patient offensively when we’re in the half-court. We need to get more opportunities for quick breaks.”

Arkansas beat Mississippi State 18-8 on fast-break chances. To have any chance of an upset, transition defense needs improvement, not just the Bulldogs’ ability to score at the break.

Boosting Shakeel Moore’s Confidence

During Monday’s practice, Howland guard Shakeel begged Moore to take more risks.

“Shoot the ball,” Howland told him. “I trust you. Let it go.”

Moore has been hesitant to move up lately, especially as his numbers are falling off a deep slump. He hasn’t scored a double-digit goal in four straight games, and he’s 0-4 with 3 points combined in his last three games.

The state of Mississippi needs a player like Moore to get on the edge and force teams to close rather than sit in the paint. If they do, there will be opportunities for Molinar, Garrison Brooks and Tolu Smith to drive or post up front.

Outcome Prediction

Tennessee 73, Mississippi 65: The Volunteers’ ability to force the 16th-most turnovers in the country could cause problems for the Bulldogs, especially in late-game moments when Howland’s offense has looked.


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