Jan. 25, 2006

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Coach Pearl | A. Patterson

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) -- With a quick start and some consistent shooting, Tennessee avoided another letdown.

C.J. Watson scored 19 points and the 19th-ranked Volunteers followed their weekend upset of Florida by routing Mississippi State 88-65 on Wednesday night.

Tennessee, which was coming off an 80-76 win over the then-No. 2 Gators, never trailed, shot 52 percent and led by as many as 25 points in what coach Bruce Pearl said was his team's second straight important victory.

"Mississippi State's been to four straight NCAA (tournaments) and (had) four straight winning seasons, so we look at this as a big win for our program," Pearl said. "Road wins are wins that separate you in league play."

Andre Patterson added 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Volunteers (13-3, 4-1 Southeastern Conference), who had an early 21-5 run and were in control all the way in avoiding their second letdown after beating a Top Ten team this season.

"We've positioned ourselves well at this point," Pearl said.

Last month, Tennessee followed a victory over then-No. 6 Texas with a surprising loss to Oklahoma State. This time, the Volunteers were much more poised in beating outmanned Mississippi State (11-8, 1-5) for the second straight time.

This one was more convincing - 10 of the previous 13 meetings were decided by 10 or fewer points.

"For the first time all year long, that team whipped us," Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury said.

Watson, playing with a sore shoulder, had 12 points in the second half. Stanley Asumnu finished with 12 points for Tennessee and JaJuan Smith added 11.

Tennessee used its press to score 23 points off Mississippi State's 17 turnovers. The Bulldogs entered averaging more than 18 giveaways.

"It creates a little tempo for us," Pearl said of the press. "It allows you to be aggressive."

Jamont Gordon, Charles Rhodes and Jamall Edmondson each had 15 points for Mississippi State, which has lost five straight for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.

The Bulldogs, who are replacing their top six scorers from last season's NCAA tournament team, have lost five of their first six league games for the first time in 16 seasons.

"Our team is not very good right now," Stansbury said. "It's been one thing after another with us. There's no magical speeches after that game."

The Volunteers led 44-29 after a dominant first half in which they shot nearly 52 percent and held the Bulldogs to 29 percent shooting.

Tennessee took command after Mississippi State tied it at 14 on a layup by Gordon with 12:12 remaining, using its big run over the next 6 1/2 minutes to take a 35-19 lead on Asumnu's jumper with 5:27 left.

Tennessee is 11-0 this season when holding its opponent to fewer than 80 points.





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