Tennessee went on the road for the first time this season, as conference play started on Wednesday night in Columbia. It didn’t take long for the Vols to assert their dominance on the #12 team in the country.
It was the same starting lineup for this Rick Barnes squad, though it wasn’t long before the freshman entered the game and continued to prove how talented this group of players are. The Vols have been subbing in Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer around the 17:00 mark of each game this season, as Barnes has found himself a nice rotation.
Tennessee started the game shooting 5-5 from FG range, taking a 12-4 lead into the first television timeout. Santiago Vescovi and Victor Bailey Jr. had both drained three pointers early on. This was a sign for what was coming the rest of the evening.
A 15-2 run over the first six minutes of the game, which was ramped up by a combined eight points from Johnson and Springer.
The defense of Tennessee continued to force horrible shots from Missouri, which led to the Vols in transition. The Vols were shooting 82% and had an 18-2 run to show for it.
Yves Pons continued to show his athleticism, racking up his 100th career block midway through the first half.
If there was anything wrong about the first half for Tennessee, it would’ve been the 4:26 scoring drought they went on before the under eight break. But, the Vols still led 24-12, with the defense leading the way during this stretch.
This Tennessee defense is scary good, I would imagine Cuonzo Martin thought he could figure out a way to make things interesting from behind the arc, but the Vols weren’t budging.
Tennessee led 38-25 at halftime, shooting 54% from the field and 75% from behind the arc. Jaden Springer, Santiago Vescovi and Yves Pons had 8 points each. The Vols held Missouri to 32% shooting from the field. In other words, this defense suffocated the Tigers.
This team didn’t let off the gas in the 2nd half, getting a huge spark to set the tone early on. Santiago Vescovi drained a three pointer from the top of the key, which was followed by a steal from E.J. Anosike and a slam dunk finish by John Fulkerson. If you wanted a clear example of the chaos this squad brings each night, that one sequence was the proof.
Santiago Vescovi had 5 points in the first four minutes, which led to his team high 15 on the night.
Tennessee kept the pressure on Missouri, as the Tigers were having to settle for horrible looks outside the paint. The Vols weren’t giving them many open looks, and it paid off. A 13-2 run over a four minute stretch for Tennessee kept things at a distance, as they led 58-33 at the under twelve break.
The Vols already had nine different players in the scoring column tonight. Again, Rick Barnes using his deep bench to his advantage and causing headaches for Cuonzo Martin.
Yves Pons had 13 points, 4 blocks and 6 rebounds on the night, taking advantage of the Tigers in the paint, on both ends of the court.
The defense that Rick Barnes is getting out of his players will cause problems for opposing teams all season, especially if they play at the pace they’ve shown over the first seven games. The Vols forced 21 turnovers tonight and scored 24 points off of them in the process.
The freshman continue to show their talents, on both ends of the court. Jaden Springer had 13 points and 4 rebounds tonight. Keon Johnson played 19 minutes and had 6 points, with 3 rebounds. These two will continue to get their minutes, as they bring the intensity to the court.
The Vols finished off the Tigers in convincing fashion, winning 73-53, as all eyes were on this game in Columbia. If you’re an opposing coach breaking down Tennessee, you’ve got work to do. This group has so many different options when it comes to scoring, that it’s hard to prepare for just one or two. When you factor in how hard these guys play on the defensive end, Rick Barnes has himself a squad.
Another fun fact about this team, courtesy of ESPN stats. Tennessee has now won 5 straight games by 20 or more points for the first time since the 1974-1975 season.
Now, the test for Tennessee will be how they respond after a dominating performance like the one tonight, over the #12 ranked team in the country. I have a feeling you won’t see much of a letdown, this team is full of energy and nastiness.
If folks weren’t paying attention before tonight, they definitely just got a glimpse of what this Tennessee team is made of. I don’t think we’ve seen a complete game yet from the group either, which should scare the rest of the SEC.
Next up, Alabama.
All Images Courtesy Of Missouri Athletics