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Three Quick Takeaways: Tennessee Comes Back, Let’s Another One Get Away

Photo via Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee basketball completed a 17-point second half comeback but couldn’t finish. The Vols choked in the final four seconds and lost at the buzzer for the second consecutive game, 86-85.

Here’s three quick takeaways on another heartbreaking defeat.

Missouri Takes Control With Dominant First Half Stretch

Tennessee was playing well for the first eight minutes but was struggling to create any significant separation as Missouri hit a handful of three-pointers and challenging shots.

Then the Tigers took complete control of the game with an extended 29-10 run. Tennessee’s offense, which played well in the game’s opening minutes, completely fell apart scoring half of the points it scored in the game’s first 12 minutes as it did in the next eight.

Rick Barnes’ management of lineups did his team no favors. The eighth-year Tennessee coach benched Zakai Zeigler when he picked up his second foul and didn’t put him back in for the remainder of the half. Zeigler was Tennessee’s best offensive player early in the half, adding nine quick points to go along with two assists and two turnovers.

After Tobe Awaka played well in 22 minutes at Vanderbilt, the freshman played just three first half minutes as Uros Plavsic and Jonas Aidoo far outpaced him in first half minutes. The Vols played an abundance of lineups that included two or less shooters as Missouri leaned on its zone defense.

On the other end, Tennessee’s issues were largely relayed to Missouri’s red-hot shooting. The Tigers made an abundance of challenging shots from the perimeter and finished the half eight-of-16 from deep.

Tennessee got a little sloppy with the basketball at times as well, leading to some easy Missouri baskets in transition.

The final results were a 44-32 Missouri halftime lead and Tennessee having a major hole to dig out of.

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Key Stays Aggressive, Sparks Vols

Tyreke Key started one-of-six from the field. Most of the season, Key would have shut down and become passive even before he missed his fifth shot.

Against Missouri, Key kept his aggression and provided a major second half spark for Tennessee. The Vols looked lifeless with Missouri leading by 14 in the second half. Then Key scored seven of Tennessee’s points in an 8-0 run that pulled them back in the game.

The success largely came at the free throw line where he made all four free throws in two trips to shoot the bonus. The free throws cost Key’s confidence going and the Indiana State transfer soon caught fire.

Key hit four of his next five three-point attempts and was single handedly Tennessee’s offense during the stretch run that saw the Vols take control.

The Celina, Tennessee native was brilliant in the second half, scoring 23 points on a fantastic five-of-nine shooting from three-point range. Tennessee’s season was hanging in the tilt and Key delivered in a massive way.

Deja Vu

Tennessee was in fantastic position to win with four seconds remaining. And then they choked. Again.

Santiago Vescovi went to the foul line with Tennessee leading by two and a chance to ice the game. Vescovi missed the first, Tobe Awaka committed a lane violation on the second.

There was no defensive breakdown this time but Deandre Gholston threw in a 30-footer, nothing but net, as time expired to knock off Tennessee.

Final Stats

Up Next

Tennessee stays at Thompson-Boling Arena Wednesday night as they prepare to face No. 3 Alabama. The Crimson Tide are unbeaten in SEC play and playing as well as any team in the country. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. ET with ESPN2 broadcasting the game.

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