When Zakai Ziegler went down, Vol fans knew deep down just how much of an impact his absence was gonna make for the rest of Tennessee’s season.
It showed today, as Missouri’s on-ball pressure forced the Vols into numerous turnovers, and then while on offense, UT was forced into several, poor late-clock shots. The Vols had no answer for Mizzou’s Kobe Brown inside — he went for 24 and nine rebounds — and the Tigers sent Tennessee home from the SEC Tournament with a 79-71 win.
Tennessee kicked things off with Santiago Vescovi 3s on back-to-back possessions, but the lazy and lackadaisical turnovers from this box-of-chocolates, never-know-what-you’re-gonna-get team showed up early and often against Missouri, with the Vols turning the ball over 10 times in the first half.
At the 13:47 mark, Mizzou’s Kobe Brown hit a 3 to put the Tigers up 10-9, but Olivier Nkamhoua got an offensive board and dunk, then Tyreke Key and Jahmai Mashack both got fast-break layups off Key steals.
The Vols’ shooting kept them with a 16-9, seven-point lead at the 10-minute mark, as they’d made 54 percent from the field. Mizzou, on the other end, was just 1-10 from deep through the first 12-ish minutes of the game. But almost immediately after the halfway point of the first half, the Tigers put together a run of their own, with two-straight layups — one that came off a Uros Plavsic foul/ turnover. Plavsic got into it a little bit with Missouri’s Brown, when the Vols got the ball into the post and Brown immediately came over with a double-team to get the tie up. After that is when Plavsic got the foul/turnover for a clear-out foul, as the refs tried to get control of the emotion of the game before things got ugly.
Josiah-Jordan James picked up a technical foul — Mizzou made the free throw and got a bucket on the extra possession thanks to the tech.
Two made Mashack jumpers kept Tennessee’s offense afloat and UT in the lead 20-18, until Missouri hit a 3 on the subsequent possession.
A Key dunk combined with an offensive foul on the Tigers gave the Vols the lead and the ball back 22-21 with 5:35 left.
Santiago Vescovi drilled his third 3 of the game, and then went down on defense and fouled a 3-point shooter. *facepalm*
The Tigers made just two of three at the line, but the offense turned it over for the seventh time of the half on its next trip down the floor.
Key took a charge at the 4:25 mark, and Tennessee had the ball under the hoop and still managed to not score.
By the 2:50 mark, Missouri had tied the game up, fouled Tobe Awaka on a rebound attempt just for Awaka to miss the front end of a one-and-one chance. Shocker there.
Brown took Awaka to school in the post with under two minutes until half to give the Tigers a 27-25 lead, but Olivier Nkamhoua hit a 3 on the Vols’ subsequent possession to put UT back up 28-25 with just fewer than 40 seconds left. Tennessee’s fought through most of the final 10 minutes of the first half with both James and Vescovi sitting due to each having two fouls. With 31 seconds let, Nkamhoua missed a 3, but Phillips got the board and managed to draw a shooting foul and hit two free throws.
The final 10 seconds were wild: Mizzou’s Brown hit a 3 to tie the game at 30, and then Mashack drained a shot from two or three steps past the half-court line as the first-half clock expired to put UT back up 33-30 at the break.
OMG SHACK.— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) March 10, 2023
Mashack was a perfect 4-4 from the field in the first half, while Santi scored nine on three 3s in just eight minutes of game time. Key, who’s usually shooting 3s, added six points with three buckets at the rim.
In the second half, Jonas Aidoo caused an empty Mizzou with his presence around the rim, and Olivier hit a post jumper for the Vols’ first points of the second half.
Vescovi hit his fourth 3 on the next possession, but the Tigers came back with a 3 of their own on the next offensive trip.
Back-to-back 3s from the Tigers cut UT’s lead to 39-36 with 17:45 left. Then, Kobe Brown tied the game after a couple empty possessions from Tennessee’s offense on a drive-and-kick made 3.
Early in the second half, the Vols perimeter defenders struggled to stay in front of the Tiger guards and wings, and with 16:16 left, after an and-1 layup from Missouri’s Noah Carter put Mizzou ahead 42-41. Dribble-drive penetration led to that Brown 3 prior and Carter’s go-ahead bucket at the 16:20 mark.
Julian Phillips hit his first 3 of the game to give the Vols a 44-42 lead at the 15:24 mark, and again, Tennessee’s defense gave up a layup which the offense compounded by turning it over again on the next trip down.
Key turned it over at the half court line thanks to Missouri’s on-ball pressure — that turned into run-out layup. but Phillips converted an and-1 layup chance at 12:27 to make it 50-49, Tigers in front.
Noah Carter hit first 3 of the game, but Key returned the favor with a 3s on UT’s next two possession. This spurt put the Vols back up front, 55-53, with just fewer than 11 minutes remaining in the game.
Santi hit his fifth 3 just under the 10-minute mark, as the Vols’ offense stagnated into a last-second heave, but it gave UT a 58-55 lead.
After the under-eight media break, Kobe Brown converted an and-1 layup against an overmatched Mashack.
The teams exchanged a few baskets, with Mizzou hitting a 3 in the midst of duration, and at the 6:14 mark, Santi crossed Noah Carter out of his shoes, got fouled hard, but managed to hit both free throws to make it 64-61 Vols.
Kobe Brown roasted somebody in the post, Tennessee missed a shot that led to a run-out dunk, and Missouri was ahead again 65-64 with just fewer than five minutes left.
Tennessee missed two open looks from 3 with around 3:30 left, but Missouri missed a bunny at the other end giving the Vols a much-needed gift. The broadcast went to break with 2:49 left and two Mashack free throws coming up after the break with the Tigers still holding that one-point lead.
Shack hit 1-2 after the break, and then gave up another layup to Missouri right after. Mashack answered with a reverse layup of his own to tie the game, but the Tigers put what feels like a nail in a coffin — though, I don’t much about nails and have never been in a coffin — when Missouri’s Nick Honor made five-straight points, including the nail-in-coffin 3 with 1:45 left.
The Tigers hit another 3 at some point and led 75-71 with about a minute left, and Tennessee’s regular season is officially over.
- Santi led Tennessee in scoring with 17 points from five 3s, and, a bit surprisingly, Tyreke Key finished second with 16 points on 7-12 shooting and five boards
- Missouri’s Kobe Brown was too big for Josiah-Jordan, Jahmai Mashack and Tobe Awaka, too quick for Uros Plavsic and too strong for Jonas Aidoo. He absolutely dominated any defender the Vols threw at him
- James, coming off a 20-point performance against Ole Miss, had just three points on 1-7 shooting and zero made 3s. He had three turnovers and three assists but just one rebound, three turnovers and three fouls
- Nkamhoua had a decent overall game, with 11 points and 10 rebounds (four offensive), but the Vols needed more than his 4-11 effort from the field
- The Vols hit 10 3s at a 38-percent clip, and made 11 of their 14 free throws. You’d expect the Vols to win a game like that, but UT gave up 49 second-half points and lost after taking a three-point lead into halftime
- Missouri’s offense shot 53 percent from the field, matched Tennessee with 10 3s and scored 38 points in the paint to UT’s 26
- Five players scored in double figures for the Vols: Santi (17), Key (16), Mashack (14), Nkamhoua (11) and Phillips (10). Phillips also finished second on the team with eight rebounds, hit a 3 and made all three of his free-throw attempts
- Tennessee led for 21:07 of the game, while Mizzou led for 9:52
- The Vols are in trouble come tournament time, trying the Santi/Josiah/Mashack/Key point guard combination. None of those guys are athletic enough or have a tight enough handle to get consistent penetration. Why BJ Edwards finally started to get some playing time, Zakai went down, Edwards playing time just disappeared. He played two minutes against Ole Miss, but hadn’t played before that since his season-high ten minutes against South Carolina on 2/25
- The broadcast noted this often, but it seemed like every ATO play the Tigers ran, worked. One can’t say the same for Tennessee