It was an ugly start to the game, and Tennessee looked like they would be in for a long, knock out and drag ’em out fight against Missouri on the road.
Then the Vols took control, and they proved why they’re the No. 3 team in the country.
No. 3 Tennessee (13-1, 2-0 SEC) showed determination and grit in a 87-63 win over Missouri (9-4, 0-1 SEC) in Columbia on Tuesday night. The Vols started out sloppy and trailed the Tigers 27-18 with 7:04 left in the first half.
But after that point, the Vols assumed control.
Tennessee closed the first half on a 24-4 run and grabbed a 42-31 halftime lead. And they went on that run without Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield scoring a single point during it.
Jordan Bone, Jordan Bowden, and Kyle Alexander shouldered the load in the first half and the start of the second half for the Vols, and UT’s depth was able to overcome Missouri’s initial punch.
After Missouri jumped out to that 27-18 lead after the first 13 minutes of the game, they only scored 36 points in the final 27 minutes of the match-up.
The Vols’ win over Missouri marked only their second win in seven games in Columbia, and it was their first win on the road against the Tigers since January of 2015.
Here are our five biggest takeaways from Tennessee’s 87-63 win over Missouri.
Vols Show Resolve
Missouri gave Tennessee their best shot to start the game, and they were giving the Vols all they wanted. The Tigers were shooting over 50 percent from the floor and were hitting a lot of threes. They were bottling up Tennessee’s two best players, holding Grant Williams scoreless and keeping Admiral Schofield in check too.
Then, Tennessee’s support players stepped up. And they made the difference.
Williams went scoreless in the first half, and Schofield only had three points in the first half. But Jordan Bone dumped in 15 points, and Jordan Bowden had 10 points off the bench in the first half to spark the Vols. Kyle Alexander nearly had a double-double in the first half himself, and Lamonte Turner nailed a couple threes.
Tennessee trailed by as much as nine points in the first half, but they erased that deficit and owned an 11-point lead at the half. Missouri could never cut the lead back to single digits in the second half.
The Vols’ 24-4 run was as impressive of a way they could’ve ended the first half, and it gave them all the confidence and momentum they needed in the second half to seal the deal.
Bench Comes Through
The Vols needed their support players and bench to step up on Tuesday. And they did just that.
Schofield recovered from his rough start and finished with 16 points, nine rebounds, and four assists, but he and Grant Williams got a lot of help on Tuesday night. Tennessee got 33 points from their bench players, including another 20-point game from Jordan Bowden. He’s now scored 20 points in back-to-back games, and he did it tonight without hitting a single three.
Lamonte Turner dropped in nine points, and John Fulkerson contributed four points, including an impressive slam dunk.
Grant Williams had his worst game of the season thus far, totaling just four points, a rebound, and an assist in 22 minutes. He was just 1-of-8 from the field.
But Tennessee got plenty of help from everyone else, and they overcame Williams’ rough night.
Jordan Bone is Elite
Tennessee might have their best point guard in over a decade in Jordan Bone.
Bone had 15 points in the first half and took control of UT’s offense. His quickness up and down the court was a difference-maker, as he had a couple coast-to-coast plays that gave Tennessee some momentum against Missouri’s stingy defense in the first half. He finished with 17 points, five assists, and five rebounds and didn’t have a single turnover. He was 5-of-10 from the field and hit two of his five threes. He was also 5-of-6 from the free throw line.
Over his last six games, Bone is now averaging 17.2 points and 6.5 assists.
Alexander Continues to Impress
Senior center Kyle Alexanders’ progression as a player continues. And it was on full display on Tuesday night against Missouri.
As impressive as Bone and Bowden were on Tuesday, Alexander might’ve been the most impressive. The 6-foot-10 center finished with 14 points and 17 rebounds in the game, notching his second-straight game with a double-double. He totaled 12 points and 14 rebounds against Georgia on Saturday. Tuesday marked his third double-double of the season.
Alexander was almost perfect from the floor, hitting six of his eight field goals and making both of his free throws. He also had three blocks, the same amount Missouri’s entire team had for the game.
In his last five games, Alexander has made 28 of his 36 field goals. That’s a ridiculous 77.8 percent field goal percentage over his last five contests.
Turner’s Rust is Gone
Redshirt junior guard Lamonte Turner returned to action on Saturday against Georgia, marking his first game in over a month. He was a little rusty in that contest, missing all three of his three-pointers but still contributing six points and two assists in 15 minutes.
On Tuesday night, he knocked off more of his rust.
Turner totaled nine points, two rebounds, and an assist in 29 minutes of play, and he stepped up on defense as well and helped slow down Missouri’s perimeter offense after their strong start. Turner also nailed two clutch threes for the Vols, one ending Missouri’s 11-0 run to cut their lead to 27-21 and another that extended UT’s lead to 31-27 with 3:41 to go in the first half.
The Vols will need Turner to play well down the stretch, and it looks like he’s starting to get his groove back after missing a lot of time with his shoulder issues.