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Tennessee Volunteers vs. Missouri Tigers Opponent Preview

Tennessee looks to go 2-0 in conference play

NCAA Basketball: Georgia at Tennessee
Tennessee made a statement against Georgia on Saturday
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The Tennessee Volunteers put the SEC on alert with a 96-50 beatdown of the Georgia Bulldogs this past Saturday.

But per the usual phrase, “it’s on to the next one.”

Instead of playing in the comfortable confines of Thompson Boling-Arena, the Vols will hit the road to take on the Missouri Tigers in Mizzou Arena on Tuesday night.

The Tigers are on a six-game winning streak, but have never beaten a top-three team at home in program history. A win on Tuesday night would go a long way toward helping grab a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Conference Record and Standings

  • Southeastern Conference
  • 9-3 (0-0) t-6th place
  • Won last six

Impact Players

  • G Jordan Geist: 13.9 PPG, 40.8 FG%, 4.5 REB, 70.4 FT%, 38.5% 3PT, 2.8 AST, 1.8 TO, 1.4 STL, 31.5 MIN

The former JUCO transfer has nearly doubled his scoring output his senior season after averaging around 7.0 points per game his first two years in Missouri.

He’s very good in distributing the ball via the pick-and-roll and is an absolute grinder. You won’t find many plays where he isn’t giving his all.

  • G Mark Smith: 12.0 PPG, 45.7 FG%, 72.0 FT%, 46.2% 3PT, 5.4 REB, 1.6 AST, 1.2 TO, 0.8 STL, 29.5 MIN

Another transfer, Smith has quickly found a place for himself on this team. He is deadly from the outside, but can also take the ball inside when needed.

What has defined his 2018 season so far has been his defensive play. He wasn’t known very much for defense at Illinois, but head coach Cuonzo Martin has found put the youngster in a position to succeed.

  • F Jeremiah Tilmon: 10.8 PPG, 45.7 FG%, 72.0 FT%, 46.2% 3PT, 6.7 REB, 0.9 BLK, 2.8 TO, 0.8 STL, 24.2 MIN

Even though Tilmon may not be the best player on the team, he may be the key if the Tigers want to win. He’ll need to stay out of foul trouble though.

A true post presence, Tilmon has become the go-to-guy after Jontay Porter went down with an injury earlier in the year. He struggled early on, but has come on down the stretch.

But he’s still capable of duds, none more recently than the most recent game against the Moorehead State Eagles. Tilmon posted just four points and fouled out with over 8:00 to play.

Most Recent

A 14-point victory over the Moorehead State Eagles was how Missouri concluded their non-conference schedule. The 75-61 win gave the program its first December sweep since the 2011-2012 season.

Missouri went on a 32-3 run in the first half, but the Eagles were able to make it a competitive second half. The first half deficit was too much to overcome, however, and the Tigers were able to pull away at the end.

Mark Smith led the team with 22 points while Jordan Geist finished second on the team with 20 points. Nine Tigers were able to get on the board and the six-game winning streak is the longest of the Cuonzo Martin era.

Game Outlook

A few days removed from playing a team with no guard presence in the Georgia Bulldogs, the Vols now find themselves playing a team with at least two legitimate point guards.

But the Tigers are young and that youth showed up in the second half against Moorehead State. The Vols, on the other hand, are the exact opposite of young.

If Tennessee can get Jeremiah Tilmon into foul trouble, then Missouri will have trouble scoring. Geist and Smith are the Tigers’ best scoring options, but they can’t carry the team themselves. Tilmon is Missouri’s best shot at establishing a true post presence, a quality that is required to beat Tennessee.

Tennessee’s physical play and Missouri’s tendency to foul should play right into the Vols’ hands. Missouri’s best chance stands on offense, which is dicey at best.