Is this the worst week in the history of Tennessee athletics? If not, it’s got to be up there. The Volunteers dropped another one tonight, this time losing to Cuonzo Martin and the Missouri Tigers, 73-64. It was the second straight loss for Tennessee, which moved up to No. 6 in the AP Poll just five days ago.
Once again from the opening tip, Tennessee just felt out of rhythm. Jaden Springer wasn’t able to go in this one, and we’ve seen what that does to this offensive attack. Without Springer, more responsibility fell on the shoulders of Santiago Vescovi, who scored just three points in 37 minutes. He added four assists, against four turnovers.
Yves Pons actually picked up the slack tonight offensively, scoring 20 points and going 3-8 from long range. Still, the lack of rhythm was apparent, despite the bailout three-balls from Pons and Victor Bailey. Nothing came easy for Tennessee, and that’s become a common theme on the offensive end.
On the other end, Tennessee flat didn’t have an answer for Missouri guard Xavier Pinson. He shot 10-14 from the field, totaling 27 points on the night. Whenever Tennessee put together a run, it seemed like Pinson was there to squash it.
The Volunteers started sloppy and it frankly never really improved from there. 18 turnovers and a minus five in the rebounding column pretty much tells the story tonight — that and some poor defense on Pinson.
Tennessee is now 10-3 with a little over a month to play before tournament time. Rick Barnes has quite a bit to figure out with this team, but most importantly needs to get Jaden Springer healthy. Springer brings a level of creativity to this offense, and he’s clearly been missed this week. It just so happens to be that each of Tennessee’s three losses have come without Springer on the floor.
The Volunteers will host Mississippi State on Tuesday night, then they’ll welcome Kansas to town on Saturday night as a part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge.