Wednesday night was as rough of an offensive night as the Vols have had all season, as No. 21 Tennessee (12-5, 3-3 SEC) lost to Missouri – and former head coach Cuonzo Martin – 59-55.
It was Martin’s first win against Tennessee, but to the first-year Mizzou coach, it was no different than beating another opponent.
“Not at all,” Martin said following the game when asked if the win against Tennessee was any different. “I’ve got a lot of great memories and great relationships from my time at Tennessee. It’s a great place.”
The second half of play in Mizzou arena was a tale of runs. Tennessee and Missouri (13-5, 3-2 SEC) were tied at halftime 27-all, but the Tigers jumped out of the gates quickly, going on a 7-0 run to take a 34-27 lead.
Tennessee would respond though, going on a 9-2 run to tie the game at 36-36. The run somewhat sparked the Vols offense after struggling for most of the first half. In the opening 20 minutes, Tennessee shot just 34 percent from the field.
After tying the game midway through the second half, Martin’s Tigers began knocking down three’s after struggling from distance in the first half. After back-to-back three’s, Missouri held a 10-point lead with 6:43 remaining.
Yet again, Tennessee fought back. The Vols would cut it to a one-point game with under two minutes to play, but after an errant Grant Williams pass that resulted in a turnover, Missouri junior guard Jordan Geist knocked down a pair of free throws. On the following possession, Mizzou fouled James Daniel with 4.4 seconds to send him to the charity stripe.
Down three, Daniel was only able to connect on one of his free throws and Tennessee couldn’t reel Missouri back in after Kevin Puryear knocked down a pair of free throws to snap the Vols three-game winning streak.
Puryear led Mizzou with a team-high 12 points while Jontay Porter chipped in 10.
After a slow start to begin the game, Williams led Tennessee with 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting. The sophomore forward added five rebounds, two steals, a block and an assist.
Junior forward Kyle Alexander was the lone bright spot for Tennessee on Wednesday night. Alexander was 6-for-6 from the field for 12 points despite early foul trouble. The native of Canada also blocked three shots and picked up four rebounds, three of which were on the offensive glass.
While the Vols struggled from the floor in the first half, Missouri shot 45 percent from the field as it knocked down 10-of-its-22 shots. Admiral Schofield led Tennessee in the first half with seven points, two rebounds and two steals.
Schofield knows though, that if Tennessee had showed up, things would have gone a different way.
“No disrespect to Missouri or Coach Martin, who’s a great coach, but we beat ourselves tonight,” Schofield said. “It’s frustrating.”
Tennessee may have struggled on offense in the first half, but it never trailed thanks to solid play on the defensive end as the Vols picked up six steals in the opening frame.
On the horizon, the Vols have yet another tough opponent in their next time out. Tennessee will travel to Columbia, South Carolina on Saturday evening to take on Frank Martin’s Gamecocks at 6 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.
Edited by Seth Raborn
Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics