NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee had moved on to the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament to face a tough Missouri team that had beaten them earlier this season. This 4v5 matchup was going to be nothing short of a rock fight and Tennessee needed to be ready if they wanted to face Alabama to get to the championship game.
Tennessee started off 2-2 with both baskets coming from three courtesy of Santiago Vescovi, but the ball handling continued to be a problem with Zakai Zeigler out as Tennessee had quickly turned the ball over five times with some sloppy play. Coming out of the first media timeout, the Vols were going to have to lock in and avoid these unforced errors.
The Vols tightened their play but not as much as Rick Barnes would’ve liked. They were helped by Missouri committing a couple of errors of their own and went on a small run. The Tennessee defense started off the game very strong; forcing the Tigers to take deep, low-percentage shots. As we reached the 10:00 mark Tennessee had a 16-9 lead. By the 8:00 mark, Missouri had tied the game at 16-16 after a questionable technical foul was called on Josiah-Jordan James.
The rest of the half was as even as it could be. When one team struggled to score so did the other, but when one team found some offense the other followed and answered. The score was tied at 25 for two minutes of play before both teams managed to cross 30 before the half came to a close. Missouri hit exactly 30 on a deep three from Kobe Brown, who was having an excellent game, with just 15 seconds left. True to the way the first half had gone, Tennessee answered the bell with a Jahmai Mashack buzzer-beater from nearly halfcourt. It was halftime in Nashville with Tennessee up 33-30
The second half started with more of the same. Tennessee pushed forward with a lead and Missouri pulled back and took a lead of their own. It continued to be a battle with the Tigers and Vols trading punches. As we reached the under-12 timeout, Missouri held a 50-49 lead. Tennessee was struggling on offense and needed to find a rhythm. Tyreke Key did his part with two straight threes to give the Vols a 55-53 lead.
Neither team could pull away with the largest lead of the game being just eight for Tennessee and four for Mizzou. With 7:30 to play it was tied 58-58 with eight lead changes in the game. The final stretch was going to be a war.
heating up 🔥
📲 https://t.co/xqI11u8z7n pic.twitter.com/G3q9L6YadC
— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) March 10, 2023
The physicality of the game grew as we came closer to a finish. With 2:40 to play, we were all tied up at 67. Back-to-back threes sandwiching a turnover gave Missouri a 75-69 lead with 1:37 to play. A Tyreke Key layup would be the last points for Tennessee on the day as Mizzou managed to pull down key rebounds in the final minute and extend their lead to a point that was impossible for Tennessee to recover. The Tigers would win the game 79-71. The Tigers exploited Tennessee’s inability to handle the ball consistently and capitalized on Tennessee’s 14 total turnovers. They outworked the Vols late and hit huge shots to move on in the SEC Tournament.
D’Moi Hodge led all scorers with 26 points. Santiago Vescovi led Tennessee with 17. Olivier Nkamhoua led all players with 10 rebounds. Kobe Brown led Missouri with nine. Jahmai Mashack and Nick Honnor tied for the lead in assists with four each.
This is what Tennessee Head Coach, Rick Barnes, had to say post-game via Ben McKee of Govols247 on Twitter:
Rick Barnes: We’re still learning how to play without Zakai and it showed at times. Really proud of the effort. But Missouri made some big shots at the end.
“I really think these last three games are going to help us.”
— Ben McKee (@benmckee14) March 10, 2023
Tennessee – 71
Missouri – 79
Tennessee’s next opponent will be revealed when the official NCAA Tournament bracket comes out on selection Sunday