STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Kevin Punter scored 15 points, Josh Richardson added 11 and Tennessee beat Mississippi State 61-47 on Wednesday night.
First-year Volunteers coach Donnie Tyndall earned a win in his Southeastern Conference debut. Tennessee (9-4, 1-0 SEC) won using a suffocating defense, forcing Mississippi State (7-7, 0-1) into just 30.6 percent shooting (11 of 36) from the field.
Tennessee wasn't great on offense either -- going more than 12 minutes at one point during the first half without a field goal -- but used a 22-5 run early in the second half to put the game away. The Volunteers never trailed in the second half and led by as many as 18.
Mississippi State has lost seven of nine games dating back to Nov. 29. The Bulldogs shot just 24 of 44 (54.5 percent) on free throws.
Gavin Ware led Mississippi State with 12 points.
Tennessee won despite constant foul trouble. The Volunteers committed 32 fouls and three players fouled out, but it didn't matter much because the Bulldogs couldn't convert on their free throws.
The Volunteers broke the game open when Detrick Mostella made back-to-back 3-pointers in a span of 8 seconds in the second half.
He sank the first one from the corner, immediately stole the inbounds pass and then hit another one from the same spot to push Tennessee ahead 38-27 with about 13 minutes remaining. It was the only six points Mostella scored the entire game.
The quick burst of offense was a rarity.
It was a strange, sloppy first half that featured more combined turnovers (20) than made field goals (14).
Tennessee jumped out to a 12-0 lead in the first five minutes, but Mississippi State responded with its own 12-point run to tie the game.
The Volunteers led 26-23 at halftime. Devon Baulkman led Tennessee with 10 points and three rebounds in the first half.
Mississippi State has struggled badly over the last month, with embarrassing non-conference losses to Arkansas State, USC Upstate and McNeese State.
And an ugly game against the Volunteers didn't do anything to stop the slide. The Bulldogs' starting five combined for just 17 points and the bench couldn't make up the difference.
Mississippi State came into conference play last in 3-point shooting percentage, making just 49 of 185 (26.5 percent) from long range. The Bulldogs made just 1 of 9 from 3-point range on Wednesday ... Tennessee has won 10 out of the last 13 in the series, including four straight.
Tennessee hosts Alabama on Saturday.
Mississippi State travels to face Florida on Saturday.