Disastrous 3rd quarter doomed Mississippi State women's basketball vs. Tennessee Lady Vols

Sam Purcell's Mississippi State Bulldogs got off to a fast start, but the Mississippi State women's basketball team couldn't sustain that and fell short against Tennessee.
Jan 7, 2024; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Sam Purcell
Jan 7, 2024; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Sam Purcell / Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday afternoon, the Mississippi State women's basketball team found itself unable to protect an early lead. As such, Sam Purcell and his Mississippi State Bulldogs (15-5 overall, 2-3 SEC) found themselves on the losing end of a 75-64 contest with the Tennessee Lady Vols in the Hump.

Mississippi State came out firing early on and the Bulldogs held leads of 6-0, 8-3, and 14-7 at various parts of the first quarter. Mississippi State eventually raced out to a 23-12 lead by the time the first quarter came to a close.

Mississippi State's electric start, especially on the defensive side of things, seemed to momentarily rattle the Lady Vols. But, while the Bulldogs shot over 52 percent in the first quarter (significantly better than Tennessee's 22 percent shooting from the floor), that wasn't sustainable for MSU.

The Bulldogs lead was trimmed to 37-30 by the time halftime came around as the Lady Vols chipped away at the lead in the second quarter. And then in the third quarter, Tennessee really wore the Bulldogs down and halted Mississippi State's ability to score.

Mississippi State women's basketball: Disastrous third quarter doomed Bulldogs vs. Tennessee Lady Vols

The Lady Vols managed to outscore MSU by a margin of 21-5 in the third quarter. And ultimately, that was the difference in the game. While the Bulldogs attempted to rally in the fourth quarter, that disastrous third quarter really ended up dooming Mississippi State. The Lady Vols routinely had an answer for State in the fourth quarter and it was just too little too late.

Thus, the Bulldogs lost 75-64.

And you can largely attribute that to the Bulldogs hitting on just two of their 13 shot attempts in the third quarter.

Erynn Barnum finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds for a really solid double-double against quality SEC competition. Meanwhile, Jessika Carter and Debreasha Powe each scored 12 points. Lauren Park-Lane added 10 more points to the scoreboard for the Bulldogs' starting five.

With as well as Mississippi State managed to play early on in this contest, it's disappointing to see how poorly the Bulldogs played in the third quarter. And it's also frustrating to see MSU struggle with turnovers (15) at home. 14 of Tennessee's points came off of turnovers and the Lady Vols also grabbed 19 second chance points.

Mississippi State has shown the Bulldogs can compete with some of the best in the SEC, but they're not doing it consistently right now. They've got to be able to find more consistency on the offensive end and sustain that through an entire game. The Bulldogs must regroup quickly before a Monday night clash with Florida.