MSU won the conference tournament title for the third time in school history and first time since 2002. The Bulldogs will learn their postseason destination when the NCAA Tournament field is announced at 5 p.m. CT this afternoon on both CBS and ESPN.
Sunday’s contest was championship worthy. The score was tied 11 times and the lead changed hands on 15 different occasions. The Bulldogs sprinted out of the gates, taking a 9-2 lead. UT quickly answered with a 7-0 run of its own. Neither team would have that type of lead the rest of the way.
In the closing stages of the first half, Barry Stewart was fouled on a 3-point attempt. Stewart hit all three free throw attempts for a 34-30 lead. UT forced a 36-36 halftime with Tyler Smith hitting a 3-pointer as the first half clock expired.
The second half featured more rugged, physical defense. The Bulldogs had a stretch where they went more than five minutes without a field goal. The Volunteers had a stretch of nine straight missed shots from the field. Still, the teams remained close throughout the final half.
A pair of Stewart free throws gave the Bulldogs a 46-41 advantage. The Volunteers answered with a 6-0 run. Minutes later, trailing 57-56, MSU took the lead for good on a Phil Turner 3-point basket with 1:31 left.
Turner also made his mark on the defensive end with a key steal with nine seconds left. After the subsequent foul, Turner hit a pair of free throws to seal MSU’s sixth straight win.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 17 of 47 shots from the field (36.2 percent), 7 of 28 shots from 3-point range (25.0 percent) and 23 of 32 shots from the foul line (71.8 percent). The Volunteers hit 20 of 69 shots from the field (29.0 percent), 8 of 27 shots from 3-point range (29.6 percent) and 13 of 19 shots from the foul line (68.4 percent).
UT held a 47-39 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 10 assists and 17 turnovers, while the Volunteers had 13 assists and 14 turnovers.
Turner paced four Bulldogs in double figures with 12 points. Stewart and Ravern Johnson each added 11 points, while Jarvis Varnado had 10 points. Turner had a team-high 10 rebounds, while Stewart had eight rebounds and Varnado has seven rebounds. Dee Bost had a team-high five assists.
For their efforts in Tampa, Stewart and Varnado were named to the all-tournament team, with Varnado taking top honors as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
Wayne Chism paced UT with 15 points, while J.P. Prince added 14 points and Tyler Smith scored 12 points. Chism had a team-high seven rebounds.