KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee bounced back in emphatic fashion from Tuesday’s disappointing loss at Ole Miss, taking out its frustrations on another team from the Magnolia State on Saturday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The Vols (10-9, 3-4 SEC) easily dispatched the Mississippi State Bulldogs 91-74, leading by as many as 27 points in the second half. Senior guard Robert Hubbs III led the way with 19 points and 5 rebounds.
For the game, Tennessee had 20 assists and just 7 turnovers, collecting 19 offensive rebounds, too. The Vols will host Kentucky on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Here’s what Tennessee basketball coach Rick Barnes had to say about the win…
* The Vols shot just 39 percent before halftime, but they scored 54 points in the second half thanks to efficient shooting, offensive rebounds and physical defense. “We rebounded the ball better. … I thought we did a good job attacking in transition. A big part of it too, having Grant (Williams) back on the floor. We got some shots at the rim.”
* On Williams scoring all 17 points after halftime: “Again, I can’t tell you what I said to them, but the fact is they responded. I thought Grant would be fine. He just didn’t get to play in the first half.
* “Rebounding is a big part of the game. Turnovers are a big part of the game obviously.”
* On fifth-year senior forward Lew Evans having 9 rebounds in 25 minutes: “He does a lot of the little intangible things. Where he shows up better than anything, is really helping our point guards. He’s out there talking and making sure they settle down and know what’s going on in the game.”
* Asked about difference in second halves the last two games: “Well, when you’re a .500 team I think the word is inconsistent. That’s the bottom line. I kept saying to them, we were here the other night. What are we going to do now?”
* On the team’s 20 assists Saturday: “We’re a much better team when the ball doesn’t stick. I don’t think we’re a very good team late in the shot clock.”
* “We’ve got to play this game inside-out. It got us to the foul line. Now we did a horrendous job from the free throw line tonight, but we got there.” Vols were just 22-of-37 from the charity stripe.
* On Hubbs’ game Saturday night: “He’s important. He’s the one guy on the team that can make a tough shot. He has a target on his back.”
* Asked about the team’s inconsistencies: “I’m sitting here with you and I have no idea what’s going to happen the next game. I’d like to think we can move forward, but now you’ve got the top team in the league coming in. Undefeated in conference play. I’d like to say, ‘I think this. Or I think that.’ But to be brutally honest, I don’t know what to expect.”
* Barnes said Tennessee had a really physical practice Thursday — “as hard a practice all season. When I came in on Friday.” Strength and conditioning coach told Barnes “the guys are sore.” He responded, “Well, they should’ve played harder the other night.”
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