After losing three of its past four games, Tennessee (15-12, 7-7 SEC) got back on track when Missouri (7-9, 2-12 SEC) came to town on Saturday.
The Vols were in control for pretty much the entirety of the 40 minutes and won soundly, 90-70.
Although Tennessee held a double digit lead throughout the majority of the game, Missouri managed to cut the lead down to as little as seven late in the first half. K.J. Walton’s three-point play brought the Tigers’ run to 11-0, as they trailed the Vols 33-26 with 2:20 remaining in the first half.
Only seconds later, a quick five-point swing for Tennessee due to a 3-pointer from Lamonte Turner and a pair of free throws from Grant Williams gave the orange and white a 38-26 lead. For the remainder of the game, The Vols led by double digits.
The trio of Robert Hubbs III, Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield totaled 63 of Tennessee’s 90 points. The three shot a combined 19-of-35 from the floor and 21-of-27 from the charity stripe. Williams led all scorers with 25 points, while Hubbs scored 21 points and Schofield added 17.
With Hubbs putting on a clinic with his mid-range jumper throughout the game, Williams and Schofield took turns taking over in the second half. With the Vols up 49-36, Schofield scored Tennessee’s next nine points.
With ten minutes left in the game, Williams scored 11 of Tennessee’s next 13 points, giving the Vols a commanding 76-52 lead.
“Tennessee plays really hard, they impressed me. We failed to match their intensity level,” Missouri head coach Kim Anderson said.
Holding second-half leads has been an area of concern for the Vols all season, but it was not the case on Saturday.
“Guys did a much better job focusing on the game plan compared to at Lexington,” head coach Rick Barnes said.
It was evident Tennessee did, as it never came close to squandering its 41-28 halftime lead. With Jordan Bowden dealing with flu-like symptoms, sophomore guard Shembari Phillips stepped in and contributed 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting to go along with two rebounds, three assists and a block.
“He (Phillips) has the chance to be the best two-way guard in the league,” Hubbs said about his sophomore teammate.
Regarded as Tennessee’s best perimeter defender, lack of aggression has held back Phillips on the offensive end. Phillips’ performance came at the right time for the orange and white — entering Thursday’s game, the Vols were on the fringe of the NCAA Tournament’s bubble-team status.
“We need (Phillips) more like he was today … Usually I have to beg him to shoot,” Barnes said.
Thursday’s game was the first time Phillips recorded double figures in scoring since the new year began.
“I felt like today’s performance was promising, but coach still felt like I left a few shots out there,” Phillips said after the game. “I just have to stay being more aggressive. It’s a mindset thing.”
For the Tigers, guard Terrence Phillips led the team in scoring with 18 points. Junior transfer Jordan Barnett, who once played under Barnes, finished with 11 points. Missouri next plays Kentucky at home on Tuesday.
The win is No. 15 on the season for Tennessee, matching a the number of wins from Barnes’ first season in Knoxville.. Up next, Tennessee hosts Vanderbilt on Wednesday at 6:30 PM ET. The Vols beat Vandy 87-75 on Jan. 14 in Nashville.
Edited by David Bradford
Featured image by Bradley Blackwelder