No. 6 Tennessee lost its second game in a row on Saturday night, falling to No. 19 Missouri 73-64 just three weeks after beating the Tigers by 20 in Colombia to begin conference play.
Only three Vols (10-3, 4-3 SEC) reached double-figures on the night. Senior forward Yves Pons had a team-high 20 points on 3-of-8 shooting from three, while Josiah-Jordan James and Victor Bailey Jr. each scored 12 points apiece, respectively.
Xavier Pinson led the way for Missouri, scoring a game-high 27 points on 3-of-3 shooting from the three-point line.
These were the three biggest observations from Tennessee’s loss to Missouri:
Horrific opening 10 minutes
Tennessee couldn’t have started off the game any poorly than it did. The Vols, who entered the contest averaging 10.6 turnovers per game, turned it over 10 times within the first 10 minutes of the game. At one point, they had more turnovers than field goal attempts. It allowed Missouri to jump out to a 25-13 lead midway through the opening half.
“You go back the last two games, we’ve turned the ball over, what, 36 times,” Vols head coach Rick Barnes said following the game. “You can’t do that.. When people are pressuring you that hard, you have to be able to drive the ball to get them off of you. We don’t have enough guys right now that are willing to go make that play.”
The Vols went on to finish with 18 turnovers, tying a season-high that they had previously set against Florida in Tuesday’s embarrassing loss in Gainesville. It led to 17 points off of turnovers for Missouri.
“To create confidence, you don’t want to just keep digging yourself out of a hole,” Barnes said. “Two games in a row we’ve done that.”
Springer misses his second straight game
Vols freshman guard Jaden Springer didn’t play for a second straight game. Springer didn’t play against Florida on Tuesday night after re-injuring an ankle injury against Vanderbilt last Saturday that he suffered earlier in the season.
“There’s no doubt he (Springer) helps you in games like this,” Barnes said. “It’s on his timeline. He’s got to be the guy that knows when he’s ready to go, when he feels like he can give everything he’s got. There’s no doubt where we felt we would get better with he and Keon (Johnson) on the perimeter in games like this, where they can do some of that. Jaden is missing it. Keon is still finding, both of them, they’re still learning while they’re on the job here.”
Fulkerson and Vescovi struggle
Springer being out was a big absence for the Vols, but it didn’t help that Fulkerson and Santiago Vescovi played poorly. Fulkerson finished with seven points on 3-of-7 shooting, while Vescovi finished with three points on three shots.
“With Fulky, we’re trying to move him around as much as we can to get him in space because he’s a good player who knows how to pass and knows how to play,” Barnes said. “He’s missed a few shots that a year ago he was making — all those little shots around the rim. I have to believe that he’ll get it back before we’re done, and we need him to obviously. He is having to learn to make some adjustments himself.”
As for Vescovi, he was playing through injury against Missouri. He suffered a hip injury against Florida and it was bothering him against the Tigers.
“It’s painful, obviously, when he tries to slide, do this or do that,” Barnes said. “He has not practiced since the Florida game. He came out today and it was the first time he’s been able (to practice), he did go through our shoot-around. He understood what was going on. It’s hard not to practice (and then play). We all admire him for just trying to play.”
Tennessee will remain in Knoxville for two home games next week. The Vols will welcome Mississippi State (9-7, 4-4 SEC) to town on Tuesday night for a 7 p.m. ET tip. They’ll then host No. 9 Kansas (10-5) on Saturday at 6 p.m.