No. 7 Tennessee defeated No. 12 Missouri 73-53 in a top-15 showdown to begin conference play on Wednesday night in Columbia.
The Vols (7-0) were led by four players in double-figures. Santiago Vescovi scored a team-high 15 points behind 3-of-4 shooting from behind the 3-point line, while Yves Pons and Jaden Springer each scored 13 points apiece, respectively. John Fulkerson added 11 points and six rebounds. Victor Bailey Jr. nearly had double-figures, as he finished with nine points on 4-of-6 shooting.
Tennessee led wire-to-wire in the first half. Vescovi got things going with a three just moments into the game. Following a Bailey three and buckets from Pons, Springer and Keon Johnson, the Vols started a perfect 5-for-5 to lead 12-4 with 15:25 to go in the first half.
Vescovi hit a second three midway through the first half to cap an 18-2 run and extend the Vols’ lead to 21-4 with 11:49 to go. Missouri (6-1) went 6:11 without scoring in the midst of Tennessee’s run. UT scored 13 points while the Tigers couldn’t score.
Back-to-back buckets from Mizzou’s Kobe Brown sparked an 8-1 run after UT’s run to begin the game. The Vols didn’t score over 4:23 as the Tigers cut the Tennessee lead to 24-12.
Springer then killed Missouri’s momentum with a great play on the defensive end that resulted in a steal. He then raced down to the other end of the floor and converted an and-one to give Tennessee the momentum back.
Both teams swapped buckets for the remainder of the first half. Tennessee led by 17 after the Springer and-one and led by 13 at the half, 38-25. The Vols shot 54% from the field over the first 20 minutes and held the Tigers to 32% shooting.
It was much of the same for the Vols in the second half, leading wire-to-wire once again to not trail Missouri over the course of 40 minutes.
A Vescovi mid-range jumper and three got things going, just like his three in the first half to begin the game did. After a John Fulkerson slam leads to a 7-2 run for the Vols to begin the second half, Missouri wanted a timeout a minute and a half into the second half to try and calm his team down.
The timeout didn’t do much for the Tigers. After a Springer three several minutes later, the Vols were on a 16-2 run courtesy of seven Mizzou turnovers over the span of five minutes. Tennessee led 61-33 with 11:24 to go as a result. The Tigers could only cut the Vols’ lead to !! points before the final buzzer.
Missouri finished the game shooting 36% from the field. The Vols forced Missouri into 21 turnovers that led to 24 points for Barnes’ squad. The Tigers were just 3-of-16 (19%) from behind the 3-point line.
Mizzou entered Wednesday night’s game with three players averaging double-figures. Only one — Xavier Pinson — finished in double-digits against the Vols. Pinson scored a team-high 11 points.
Tennessee now turns its attention to Alabama. The Vols return home for back-to-back home games against the Crimson Tide (Jan. 2) and Arkansas (Wed, Jan. 6) Saturday’s contest against Alabama will tip at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN2.