Hoops Central: Tennessee at Missouri

Credit: UT Athletics

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The Tennessee men’s basketball team will look to bounce back from its loss against LSU in its SEC opener when it takes on Missouri on Tuesday night inside Mizzou Arena. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. ET on SEC Network.

Tuesday’s game is available on SEC Network, online on WatchESPN at espn.com/watch and on any mobile device through the ESPN App. Tom Hart and Andy Kennedy will have the call.

Fans can also listen in on their local Vol Network affiliate to hear Bob Kesling and Bert Bertlekamp describing the action.

Last time out the Vols fell to LSU in their SEC opener, 78-64. Despite the loss, UT saw great production from midseason addition Santiago Vescovi. The freshman point guard, just one week after arriving in Knoxville poured in a game-high-tying 18 points, knocking down six of his nine attempts from 3-point range. The Vols also saw positive outings from junior Yves Pons and freshman Josiah-Jordan James. Pons matched Vescovi’s point total with 18 of his own, connecting on seven of his 12 attempts from the field, with three of those makes coming from behind the 3-point line. James added a season-high 15 points, with 11 coming in the first half to help spark UT’s early first half run.

The Vols and Tigers have split the last four matchups that have been contested in Columbia, with Tennessee holding a slim 8-7 edge in the overall series.

A win would leave coach Rick Barnes just three wins shy of his 100th victory as head coach of the Orange & White and would stand as UT’s first true road victory of the season.

Up next, Tennessee will return home on Saturday, Jan. 11, when it takes on South Carolina. Tipoff is slated for 1 p.m. ET on SEC Network.

THE SERIES
• Tennessee leads the all-time series with Missouri, 8-7, dating to 1961.
• The Tigers hold a 5-2 edge when the series is contested in Columbia, though the teams have split the last four meetings there.

A WIN WOULD…
• Leave Rick Barnes just three wins shy of recording his 100th victory as Tennessee’s head coach.
• Give the Vols back-to-back victories at Mizzou Arena.
• Stand as UT’s first true road win of the season.
• Prevent UT’s first three-game losing skid since Feb. 22 through March 1 of the 2016-17 season (Vanderbilt, South Carolina, LSU).

STORYLINES
• First-year Tennessee assistant coach Kim English was a 1,500-point scorer and an All-Big 12 performer during his collegiate playing career at Mizzou from 2008-12. The Tigers won 107 games during the NBA Draft pick’s career. See note on Page 4.
• Cuonzo Martin coached the Vols for three seasons from 2011-14.
• VFL and former All-SEC Tennessee forward Jeronne Maymon  (2010-14) is now a second-year graduate assistant on the Mizzou basketball staff.
• None of the projected starters for Tuesday’s game started the last time these teams met.
• Mid-year enrollee Santiago Vescovi started and scored 18 points on six 3-pointers in his Tennessee debut Saturday, just one week after arriving in the United States from his native Uruguay.

LAYUP LINES
• Tennessee ranks second in the SEC and 15th nationally in scoring defense, allowing only 59.6 ppg.
• The Vols have a 0.0 turnover margin through 13 games—UT and its opponents both have committed 175 turnovers.
• Junior John Fulkerson is shooting a team-best .663 from the field while averaging a career-best 11.2 points per game this season.
• Junior forward Yves Pons has blocked at least one shot in every game this season and ranks second in the SEC with 2.4 bpg.
• True freshman Josiah-Jordan James leads the Vols with 5.9 rebounds per game. He is the SEC’s second-leading rebounder among freshmen.
• Senior guard and preseason All-SEC selection Lamonté Turner announced on Dec. 21 that he will no longer suit up for the Vols due to thoracic outlet syndrome. The Vols are 0-2 without him.

ABOUT MISSOURI
• Missouri is coming off a loss in its SEC opener, dropping a 71-59 decision at 17th-ranked Kentucky Saturday.
• The Tigers closed non-conference action on a high note, winning four consecutive games before Saturday’s loss at Kentucky. Following a difficult loss at home against Charleston Southern to begin December, Mizzou bounced back, to post wins against Temple, Southern Illinois, Illinois and Chicago State.
• Missouri returns seven of its top-nine scorers from 2018-19 while managing the departure of graduating seniors Jordan Geist (14.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.0 apg) and Kevin Puryear (7.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg).
• Bright spots for the Tigers this season have been the production of Mark and Dru Smith. Mark is second on the Tigers in scoring (11.5 ppg) and leads Mizzou in rebounding (4.8 rpg), while Dru leads the Tigers in scoring (11.8 ppg), assists (4.4 apg) and steals (2.0 spg) while ranking second in rebounding (4.7 rpg).
• After making the NCAA Tournament in 2018, the Tigers look to avoid missing out on March for the second consecutive season under head coach Cuonzo Martin.
• Missouri’s official mascot, Truman the Tiger, was introduced on Sept. 16, 1986, and was named after Harry S. Truman, the only president from Missouri, following a campus-wide contest.
• Notable Missouri alumni include aspiring basketball official Kim English and Sam Walton, who is known for his founding of popular retail store chains Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart.

LAST TIME VS. MISSOURI
•  Holding Missouri to just 35 percent shooting from the field, No. 1 Tennessee topped the Tigers for a second time last season, 72-60, on Feb. 5, 2019, to extend its winning streak to a program-best 17 games.
•  The Vols remained the only undefeated team in SEC play (9-0) and pushed their conference regular-season winning streak to 13, which tied a program record set in 1979-80. The win also was the 21st consecutive victory inside of Thompson-Boling Arena, making it the fifth-longest home win streak in school history (a streak that would extend to 31).
•  Four Tennessee players finished in double figures with Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield leading the way with a game-high 13 points apiece. Jordan Bowden had 12 points, while Jordan Bone (11 points) and Lamonté Turner (nine points) helped close out the game in the second half.
•  Nine of Bone’s 11 points came in the second half as the SEC assists leader added a game-high seven assists and four boards.
•  Kyle Alexander led the Vols with eight rebounds and four blocks to go along with six points.
•  Trailing by six at halftime, the Tigers came out in the second half and cut the Tennessee lead to two possessions. It wouldn’t last for long, as the Vols went on an 11-0 burst to push their lead to 50-35 with 14:58 left in the game.
•  UT continued its staunch defensive effort in the second half, holding MU to just 32 percent shooting from the field and 27 percent from behind the arc. Despite their shooting woes, the Tigers trailed by only eight with less than seven minutes remaining.
•  It was the first game back on Rocky Top for former UT head coach Cuonzo Martin.

MEMORABLE VOL PERFORMANCES AGAINST MISSOURI
• Knoxville native Rob Jones totaled 14 points, 11 rebounds, one assist and a team-high three blocks against the Tigers Dec. 10, 1984, in Columbia, but it wasn’t enough, as Missouri posted a 70-61 victory. Five Tigers scored in double figures in the win.
• Mizzou had no answer for the great Bernard King, as the legendary Vols forward recorded a double-double with 32 points and 18 rebounds in a 99-77 Tennessee triumph at the Big Sun Invitational on Dec. 21, 1974 in St. Petersburg, Florida.
• Two-time first-team All-SEC honoree Mike Edwards tallied a team-high 19 points against Missouri during a 67-57 loss to the 12th-ranked Tigers in the 1972 Vol Classic title game in Knoxville on Dec. 16, 1972.
• In the first-ever meeting in this series, 6-10 Tennessee center Orb Bowling led the Vols in scoring (12) and rebounding (8), but Missouri managed an 86-61 win on Dec. 20, 1961, in Knoxville.

ENGLISH PART OF WINNINGEST CLASS IN MIZZOU PROGRAM HISTORY
• Vols assistant coach Kim English and two of his Missouri teammates were part of a program-record 107 collegiate wins during their careers as Tigers (2008-12).
• English was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2012 Big 12 Tournament after averaging 23.0 ppg.

MARTIN LED VOLS FOR THREE YEARS
• Third-year Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin was the head coach at Tennessee for three seasons from 2011-14.
• Martin led the Vols to a 63-41 (32-20 SEC) record and a memorable 2014 NCAA Tournament run that began in the First Four and ended in the Sweet Sixteen (one possession away from the program’s second all-time Elite Eight appearance).
• On April 15, 2014, it was announced that Martin had accepted the head coaching job at Cal, where he spent three seasons before transitioning to Mizzou.
• Tigers assistant coach Marco Harris was on Martin’s staff at Tennessee, serving in the role of Student-Athlete Welfare Coordinator and later Director of Basketball Operations.

VOLS VS. FORMER HEAD COACHES
• Tennessee is 9-7 all-time when facing a team led by a former UT head coach. This is the fourth time the Vols will oppose Cuonzo Martin since his tenure at UT ended.

ROAD WARRIORS
• Dating to the start of the 2017-18 season, Tennessee is 15-8 in true road games.
• That includes victories at Kentucky, Iowa State, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Memphis, Florida and Missouri.

VESCOVI’S ARRIVAL WELL-TIMED
• Given the status of senior guard Lamonté Turner, the arrival of mid-year enrollee point guard Santiago Vescovi was well timed.
• The 18-year-old, Uruguayan guard arrived in Knoxville Dec. 28. Vescovi came to Rocky Top from the NBA Global Academy in Canberra, Australia. After only four practices with his new teammates, he earned a starting nod in his debut Jan. 4 vs. LSU.
• Vescovi scored 18 points on six 3-pointers in that debut and also had a team-high six rebounds.
• Attendance for his debut vs. LSU was 18,653. After the game, Vescovi stated that he had never previously played in front of a crowd larger than 7,000 in his life.

 

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