The No. 7 Vols (of 7-0) came into Wednesday night’s game looking to make a big statement over the No. 12 Missouri Tigers (6-0) and boy, did they make one.
A smothering defense and a very efficient offense led the way for the Vols during the rout. Tennessee got out to a quick 14-4 lead and never looked back. Santiago Vescovi led the Vols with 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including a 3-of-4 mark from downtown.
Vescovi was able to give the Vols their first lead of the night when he hit his first 3-point attempt of the game. The Vols were up 8-2 soon afterward. Tennessee’s lead grew to 12-4 thanks to 5-of-5 shooting from the floor during the first 4:30 of the game. Vescovi and Victor Bailey Jr. both led the Vols with three points apiece.
Tennessee continued to dominate. The Vols would go on a 15-0 run and the Tigers would suffer through a 6:09 scoring drought before Kobe Brown’s jumper ended Tennessee’s run and made it a 23-6 game with 11:07 left in the first half.
Missouri was able to make it a 24-12 game a little later on, but Tennessee eventually grew its lead back out to about 16 and even reached as much as 18 over the next several minutes. The Vols used good ball rotation in order to find the open basket and tough defense to prevent Missouri from getting the easy inside shots. Missouri was shooting just 26% from the floor compared to Tennessee’s 61% and the Vols led, 33-15, with a little under 5:00 left in the first half.
Five Xavier Pinson free throws and five combined points from Mark and Mitchell Smith helped cut Tennessee’s lead to 38-25, but the Tigers still had a lot of work to do if they wanted to win the game.
For starters, they’d have to find some offense. The Tigers were shooting a dismal 32% from the floor, including a 1-of-7 mark from downtown. Missouri isn’t really known for making 3s, but a 14% rate from beyond the arc isn’t good for anyone. The trio of Yves Pons, Jaden Springer, and Vescovi almost had as many combined points (24) than Missouri’s entire team (25).
The Vols were also (+4) on the boards and had four blocks, but they also allowed the Tigers to take 15 shots from the charity stripe. Tennessee had a great shot at putting the game away if it could clean things up in that area.
Vescovi and Fulkerson came out of the half on fire and immediately helped Tennessee go back up by 18 points. It was clear Tennessee wasn’t going to quit.
Tennessee’s defense would go on to smother the Tigers and the Vols would end up winning, 73-53. This win represents Tennessee’s largest margin of victory over an AP Top 25 team in program history.
The Vols will now take on the Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday, January 2. Tipoff is currently set for 6PM EST.