The Maneater

Tennessee trounces Missouri 87-63

Missouri had its six-game winning streak snapped in its conference opener.

Tennessee forward Admiral Schofield and Missouri guard Jordan Geist dive for a loose ball early in the first half of the Tigers' 87-63 loss to the Volunteers on Tuesday, Jan. 8 2019 at Mizzou Arena.

It had the makings of an upset.

Missouri was shooting well early on in the first half. It started 10-for-19 from the field and senior Jordan Geist was a major contributor with 10 points.

Sophomore Jeremiah Tilmon was in foul trouble early with a charge and a technical, but Tennessee stars Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield were also strapped to the bench with two fouls apiece and only 3 combined points.

Nearly everything had gone right for the Tigers and then the cherry on top of it all: Geist fed senior Kevin Puryear for a dunk right in front of MU’s student section.

Missouri led No. 3 Tennessee 27-18 with 7:04 left in the first half. This had the makings of an upset until, of course, the wheels fell off.

The Tigers missed their next nine field goals and with Tennessee’s stars on the bench, the Volunteers outscored Missouri 24-4 to end the half before Tennessee (13-1, 2-0 SEC) gave Missouri (9-4, 0-1 SEC) an 87-63 loss in the Tigers’ conference opener.

The late first-half run was led by Tennessee guard Jordan Bone, who hit a 3 and made two late free throws to give Tennessee a 42-31 halftime lead that teetered around 10 early in the second half before the Volunteers ran away down the stretch.

With four starters with at least two fouls in the first half, Missouri’s best players hardly found the court for most of the Tennessee run, with Tilmon and sophomore Mark Smith both stuck on the bench.

“We had some guys that played some minutes and they get fatigued and it shows on both sides of the ball,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said. “We weren’t as aggressive defensively.”

Bone led Tennessee with 17 points, five rebounds and five assists while junior Jordan Bowden and forward Kyle Alexander added 20 and 14 points, respectively. Alexander also had a game-high 17 rebounds. The preseason All-SEC duo of Schofield and Williams finished with 20 combined points after a 13-point second half from the former.

The depth of the Volunteers was also on display, with Alexander and Bowden picking up slack for Williams, who was 1-for-8 on the night.

“It just shows you the level of team that they have,” Martin said.

Tennessee shot 53.4 percent from the field and Missouri gave up a season-high 87 points to the Volunteers.

“We just had some mental lapses defensively,” Puryear said. “Defensively we just didn’t play the way that we have been these past six games and we have to be better, especially against the No. 3 team in the country.”

After Missouri’s hot start from the field, the offense went cold as the Tigers finished 21-for-57 (36.8 percent) from the field.

Geist led Missouri with 12 points and five assists, but fizzled after a hot start and finished 3-for-10 from the field.

Guard Xavier Pinson provided good minutes off of the bench with a team-high 14 points. Pinson and Geist combined for only one turnover and were able to drive to the basket and draw fouls. The duo shot 11-for-12 from the free throw line and were the only two offensive facilitators for Missouri.

A lone bright spot for Missouri was Smith, who continued his hot shooting. The sophomore had 8 points and shot 2-for-3 from behind the arc. Smith is second in the SEC in 3-point percentage, but his lack of driving and cutting ability has made it hard for him to get open shots without help from Geist or Pinson. Tonight’s performance showed Missouri will need Smith to create more shots on his own to help an offense that doesn’t have many facilitators and struggles to create high-quality shots.

Tilmon saw limited time after picking up a technical with 17:45 left in the first half. He sat for the remainder of the half. The technical was called after Tilmon talked to a Tennessee player immediately after he picked up an offensive foul. The center finished with 3 points, three turnovers, one rebound and one block before he fouled out after nine minutes of play.

“He’s learning every single day,” Puryear said of Tilmon. “I’m not really worried about him. He’s still in my eyes the most dominant center in the league when he puts it all together. That was just something he needs to learn from. I do think he’s targeted and that’s just something he has to be ready for at all times.”

Transfer forward K.J. Santos showed flashes of athleticism in his most promising game yet with Missouri. He finished the night with 7 points, including a driving layup and a catch-and-shoot triple from the wing in the first half.

“He brings a lot to the table,” Puryear said. “His athletic ability, his ability to shoot the ball, pass. [He’s] really a physical presence down low and I’m looking forward to having more of him on the floor.”

Next, Missouri travels to South Carolina (6-7) on Jan. 12. Missouri will look to get back on track against the Gamecocks, who are fresh off a 71-69 win against Florida in Gainesville on Jan. 5.

Edited by Adam Cole | acole@themaneater.com

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