Jan. 7, 2007
TENNESSEE HEAD COACH Bruce Pearl: "Every Southeastern Conference win is a good win. Every one of them will be precious. Because of the support from the crowd, our fans have made this a tough place to play, and our players have helped create that atmosphere.
"Mississippi State is much improved and shooting far better than they did last year. They create isolation situations, one on one.
"So we are pleased to come back against them and win the game. We showed a lot of heart and character this afternoon. We are extremely challenged defensively, and we need to make their catches more difficult.
"Chris Lofton wanted the ball during the second half. He got some difficult two-point baskets. Mississippi State could not guard him, just like we could not guard Jamont Gordon. Gordon is as strong as any guard we will play against.
"Mississippi State will beat some people this year. Charles Rhodes is a fine player, and we will be seeing people like him every night. Our guys have tremendous confidence in Ramar Smith, so the fans should not be surprised by anything that he and Duke Crews do. Crews is a load.
"We are challenged. We are an eight-man rotation in which many of our players have to do a lot of different things. Last year in the opener at South Carolina, our players were nervous, but they were not nervous today.
"If we give up 10 3-pointers against Vanderbilt, we will get beat."
MISSISSIPPI STATE HEAD COACH RICK STANSBURY: "I could not be more proud of our kids and how they fought. There are a lot of huge plays in every game. But to come in here - we outrebound them, take care of the ball, we do not have a turnover against the press, we have 21 assists, shoot (nearly) 60 percent. The difference in the basketball game was the free-throw line. We did not make enough and did not get there enough.
"Chris Lofton is a great player. He is as good of a shooting guard as there is in the country. We held him to six field goals, only one 3-pointer. We guarded him about as well as you could guard him. The difference in the game was that last six minutes. That was it.
"Charles Rhodes was making plays, it is pretty simple. That is how you get more playing time.
"Tennessee has two guys who shoot it better than last year. JaJuan Smith shoots it about like Lofton. In the first half, Smith was shooting from 30 feet himself. Last year, Lofton shot it deep and Smith did not shoot it that well. Some of those shots Smith hit in the first half, you cannot guard them.
"They have got a good mixture. The big guys played well for them and Dane Bradshaw continues to do all the little things. He does the little things that help you win."