Tennessee's Kennedy Chandler, right, drives past Missouri's Ronnie DeGray III during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022, in Columbia, Mo. Tennessee won 80-61. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

No. 17 Tennessee Cruises Against Missouri

After falling to Arkansas on Saturday, the 17th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers got back into the win column after an 80-61 win over the Mizzou Tigers.

SEC Tournament Implications

Heading into the game, both teams found themselves with something to play for as the regular season begins to wind down. For Tennessee, they still chase Auburn and Kentucky for the top two seeds in the SEC. The Volunteers currently sit in fourth place. They hold the last of the four seeds to receive two byes in the SEC tournament. With just a two weeks remaining in the regular season, keeping space between themselves and fifth place Alabama is vital.

For Missouri, it still fights for chances of making the SEC tournament. Prior to the game, the Tigers were tied with Ole Miss for the 12th and last tournament seed. After the loss, the fall to 13th, means Mizzou would miss the SEC tournament. However, Ole Miss has a tough slate of games to end the regular season. The Rebels are on the road against both Auburn and Kentucky. The door is open for Missouri to sneak back into the bracket, but it needs to get the necessary wins. A now fourth-straight loss for Mizzou has not helped the cause.

Tennessee Thrives on Both Sides of the Ball

The Volunteers dominated the game on both offense and defense. They had one of their best shooting games all season. Tennessee shot 45.2% from the field, including shooting nine for 18 on three-pointers. This vastly overshadows Missouri’s five for 20 three-point shooting on the night.  The Vols also out-rebounded the Tigers 40 to 34.

Defensively, Tennessee was also solid. The obvious is holding Missouri to just 61 points. Tennessee was also able to force 13 turnovers, eight of them being steals. During the first half, Tennessee also had a stretch where it held Mizzou scoreless for nearly six minutes. This is where the game really turned in Tennessee’s favor. It was neck and neck for the first nine minutes, with Missouri even holding the lead briefly. Tennessee took the lead with 10 minutes to go in the first half and never looked back.

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Key Players

Tennessee was led in scoring by Kennedy Chandler, scoring 23 on the night by shooting nine for 12. Chandler also had eight rebounds, six assists and a pair of steals. Another contributor was Santiago Vescovi, who scored 14 as well as shot four for six on three-pointers. Victor Bailey Jr. also made a noteworthy contribution of 11 points off the bench.

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Despite losing by 19, Missouri did have some standout players. Javon Pickett was the leading scorer for the Tigers with 16, followed by Kobe Brown and Dajuan Gordon with 12 each. Brown also made nine rebounds and a pair of assists and steals. The Missouri bench only scored 11 points, as opposed to the 24 scored by Tennessee. The support just was not there and helped Tennessee further run away with the game.

Aftermath

Tennessee has now won six of their last seven and are putting themselves in a great spot ahead of tournament season. The Volunteers still have a mathematical chance at taking the regular season championship, but for now a top four SEC finish is looking likely and a trip to the NCAA Tournament is all but a lock. Tennessee’s final games are a home game against No. 3 Auburn on Saturday, followed by a road game against Georgia and then ending the season with a rematch against No. 18 Arkansas.

The loss for Missouri makes four in a row as they fall cold at the wrong time of year. Now sitting outside the SEC Tournament bracket, the Tigers need a quick turnaround if they wish to enter. Mizzou has road games against LSU and South Carolina, then ends the season at home against Georgia. It would need to pull off an upset on the road, as well as hope Ole Miss loses, but a trip the the SEC Tournament is still in the cards.

About Jack Shivertaker

Jack Shivertaker is a senior at the University of Florida pursuing a degree in Journalism with a focus on sports media.

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