KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Tennessee looks to halt a four-game losing streak and bolster its fading chances for an NCAA Tournament berth on Wednesday when No. 21 Mississippi State visits Thompson-Boling Arena for a Southeastern Conference matchup.
Tennessee (15-10, 7-7 SEC East) has seen its hopes for the NCAA Tournament slip away after its latest defeat, an 88-67 loss to Louisiana State on Saturday. Ron Slay scored 19 points and Jon Higgins added 18 for the Volunteers, whose defense was shredded to the tune of 54 percent shooting by the Tigers.
"We are trying to get ourselves back together," said Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson, who feels his team must win the SEC tournament to make the NCAAs. "We've been streaky. We won six in a row, then lost four straight. Mississippi State is coming in here needing a win very badly. We've just got to stay positive and see if we can turn it around versus Mississippi State. I want to send these seniors off on a positive note."
Slay and Higgins are two of five seniors that will be honored by Tennessee, which has won five straight on Senior Day. Slay leads the SEC with a 21.8 scoring average and Higgins is the team's best perimeter threat.
Mississippi State (18-7, 8-6 West) can clinch a share of the West division title and earn a much-needed road win. The Bulldogs are just 2-5 on the road in SEC play this season.
"We all need wins," Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury said. "This is the last week of play and things are starting to shake out. It's going to be senior night at Tennessee and Buzz Peterson will have his team ready to play Wednesday night."
The Bulldogs failed in their first attempt to clinch a share of the division with a 53-51 loss at Arkansas on Saturday. Timmy Bowers scored 24 points but leading scorer Mario Austin was limited to five points and one rebound.
Austin is averaging 16.2 points and 7.9 rebounds and attempts to bounce back from his worst game of the season. Bowers is second on the team with a 14.8 scoring average.
Mississippi State pulled out a 92-91 overtime victory over Tennessee last season and has won eight of the last 13 meetings.