NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)Josiah-Jordan James had game-highs of 20 points and seven rebounds, leading No. 17 Tennessee past Mississippi 70-55 Thursday in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament.
The fifth-seeded Vols (23-9) will play No. 4 seed Missouri in the semifinals Friday.
“The start of this game they were relaxed and really making some shots,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “We got a little bit slow getting going. But I thought the second half we were able to pick our intensity.”
James made four 3-pointers, including a shot on the Vols’ first possession of the game. His 3 from the corner with 5 seconds left in the first half gave Tennessee a 39-33 lead at the break.
“Tennessee had the momentum going into the second half,” interim Mississippi coach Win Case said. “That last 3-point shot by Jordan James was very tough for us to end the first half. I felt like they had the momentum going into the second half because of that 3-point shot.”
The Vols led 52-48 with 11 1/2 minutes left before increasing the margin to 64-50 on Julian Phillips’ two free throws with 7 1/2 minutes to go.
Santiago Vescovi added 15 points for the Vols.
Myles Burns scored 14 points and also had three steals for Mississippi (12-21). Jae Brakefield and Murrell each had 12 points.
Mississippi: Case was serving in an interim capacity since Kermit Davis was fired as head coach Feb. 24. He was 2-3. Mississippi returns three starters next season.
Tennessee: The Vols committed 14 turnovers, a major concern for Barnes. He was frustrated by the Vols’ lack of discipline.
“It’s all fixable,” Barnes said. “Some of the ones we had were ridiculous, to be quite frank. I am baffled by some of them.”
“You look at them, I mean, sometimes you got to give the other team credit for turning you over. But when you’re throwing the ball in a passing lane when you know someone’s being denied, those are all fixable if you understand the value of the ball,” he said.
Tennessee moves one game closer to repeating as SEC Tournament champion. Missouri is ranked No. 25 in the AP poll. The Tigers beat Tennessee 86-85 in their only meeting during the regular season.
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