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Tennessee makes furious comeback, still loses to Missouri on a buzzer-beater, 86-85

Heartbreaking loss.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

A slumping Tennessee team welcomed Missouri to town on Saturday evening, and things didn’t get any easier for the Volunteers. An even game through the opening ten minutes was quickly blown open by the Tigers, who caught fire from the field.

Open, contested — it didn’t matter. It was falling for Missouri, who stretched out an even game to a big advantage before the halftime break. Kobe Brown put up nine first half points, along with D’Moi Hodge, who was 3-4 from three point range. Sean East added 12 points, connecting on both of his attempts from long range.

Overall, Missouri ended the half shooting 8-16 from three, along with 17-33 overall from the field. The Tennessee defense wasn’t particularly bad, but the Tigers were making some shots. As we’ve grown used to, Tennessee wasn’t.

The Volunteers were playing without Josiah-Jordan James, who is nursing an ankle injury. Unfortunately for Rick Barnes, nobody seemed interested in stepping up to fill those shoes. Zakai Zeigler scored nine early points, but Tennessee struggled to get production from anywhere else.

Barnes actually turned to BJ Edwards after Zeigler picked up his second foul. Edwards found four first half points, but it wasn’t enough to counter the avalanche of shots made from Missouri. Seven first half turnovers against just three from Missouri didn’t help matters.

Missouri led at halftime, 44-32. Bottomline — Missouri was making tough shot after tough shot — would that change in the second half?

It was announced that Julian Phillips was questionable to return with a hip flexor to open the second half. He did not return.

Tennessee opened the second half with a couple of three-pointers from Santiago Vescovi and Olivier Nkamhoua. The only problem? Kobe Brown had a couple of his own. Missouri kept hitting shots, and Tennessee had no counter.

Shot for shot, Missouri answered every single make of Tennessee’s to open the first half. The lead was pushed all the way out to 17 points, as the Tigers continued to roll.

Finally, Tennessee began to make some headway with 13 minutes left. Tyreke Key hit a three and two free throws, then Tobe Awaka earned an offensive rebound and hit a free throw to cut the lead back down to 11.

Tennessee entered the bonus with 12:30 left in the game. Key hit two more to cut it to single digits. He drilled a three on the next possession. Jahmai Mashack’s defense was playing a big part in this surge, shutting down Kobe Brown on multiple trips.

Brown picked up his fourth foul with 11:08 to play — a HUGE development in this one.

Tyreke Key continued to shoot the lights out, cutting this lead back down to four points after a quick Missouri run. Key scored his 20th point on the night to cut the lead to 64-62, giving us a game with under nine minutes to play.

Vescovi tied the game on the next possession. Missouri put Kobe Brown back in the game with four fouls with under eight minutes to play.

Vescovi put Tennessee ahead with a three on the next possession. The Tennessee avalanche was on, and Missouri didn’t know what hit them. Tobe Awaka kept the momentum rolling, collecting multiple offensive rebounds and getting to the free throw stripe.

A 15-2 run over the span of four minutes put Tennessee back in control of this one with six minutes left to play.

Key hit another three to make it a four point Tennessee lead with five minutes left. Missouri slashed it back down to two with four minutes left to play. Tobe Awaka answered, but Zakai Zeigler fouled out just seconds later.

So Tennessee, without their point guard, had to find a way to close this out. Vescovi answered the call initially, nailing a three during the next sequence. But Missouri answered with another of their own.

Awaka came up with a huge offensive rebound on the next possession, then Mashack went to the free throw line as D’Moi Hodge fouled out. Jahmai hit two, making it an 83-80 game.

Missouri’s Brown hit a layup to cut it to 83-82. Missouri fouled, and it was Vescovi hitting 2-2 from the line to take it to an 85-82 score. Tennessee fouled before a three could be attempted, and East made 1-2.

Vescovi was fouled again, and he missed the first — deja vu, engage. A lane violation nullified the second attempt. And Missouri suddenly had a shot to win, down two.

DeAndre Gholston drilled a prayer to beat the Volunteers.

Final Score: Missouri 86, Tennessee 85.

Not sure what to say here, honestly. Tennessee folded like a wet paper sack late for the second straight game, finding a way to lose in a shockingly similar situation. An ugly week is capped by back to back buzzer beaters, and Tennessee is suddenly going to be struggling to stay on the three-seed line.

Next up: Undefeated-in-SEC-play Alabama on Wednesday.