Hoops Preview: #7 Tennessee at #12 Missouri

Vols G Victor Bailey Jr. / Credit: UT Athletics

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The seventh-ranked Tennessee basketball team opens up conference play and leaves Knoxville for the first time this season when it travels to No. 12 Missouri for a Wednesday night bout. Tipoff from Mizzou Arena is slated for 9 p.m. ET on SEC Network.

Fans can catch Wednesday’s game on SEC Network and online or on any mobile device through WatchESPN. WatchESPN can be accessed through the ESPN App, or online at espn.com/watch. Tom Hart and Jon Sundvoid will have the call.

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

Last time out, UT dominated USC Upstate, 80-60. Tennessee was led by junior Victor Bailey Jr. who poured in a season-high-tying 18 points on a career-high-tying eight made field goals. Bailey currently leads the Vols in scoring and his .500 (30-60) field goal percentage ranks ninth in the SEC heading into conference play.

A victory on Wednesday would give the Vols their third consecutive victory at Mizzou Arena and make UT 3-3 in SEC openers during the Rick Barnes era.

A victory would also leave coach Barnes just three wins shy of tying Phog Allen and Don Haskins for 20th on the all-time Division I wins list.

Up next, the Vols will return home for a Saturday showdown with Alabama. The opening tap from Thompson-Boling Arena is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

THE SERIES
• Tennessee leads its all-time series with Missouri 9-7, dating to 1961. The Tigers own a 5-3 advantage when the series is contested in Columbia.
• The Volunteers have won three straight games against Mizzou—their longest win streak of the series.
• Vols head coach Rick Barnes is 4-1 in head-to-head meetings against teams coached by Cuonzo Martin.
• Tennessee has never opened SEC play against Missouri.

A WIN WOULD…
• Give the Vols three straight victories at Mizzou Arena.
• Make the Vols 3-3 in SEC openers during the Barnes era.
• Leave Rick Barnes three wins shy of tying Phog Allen and Don Haskins for 20th on the all-time Division I wins list.

LAYUP LINES
• Tennessee has won 78 percent of its games as a ranked team during the Rick Barnes era (61-17).
• Tennessee leading scorer Victor Bailey Jr. is the son of a Mizzou gridiron great.
• 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.
• Cuonzo Martin coached the Vols for three seasons from 2011-14.
• Tennessee’s starting lineup this season has featured five left-handers. A survey of all Division I SIDs yielded no other team that has started five southpaws this year.
• The Vols celebrated Christmas together on campus, as the athletics department assisted in bringing families to Knoxville.

DEFENSE WINS
• Tennessee is tied with Ole Miss for the NCAA lead in scoring defense, allowing just 52.7 points per game.
• According to KenPom, the Vols rank third nationally and first in the SEC in adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing only 87.0 points per 100 possessions so far this season. College teams average close to 70 possessions per game.
• The Vols are forcing 17.7 turnovers per game while converting those turnovers into 19.7 points per game. Tennessee’s turnover margin stands at +7.5 (ninth nationally).
• Reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year Yves Pons has 80 blocks in his last 37 games.
• Only once this season has a team made at least five consecutive field goal attempts against the Vols (Cincinnati made five).

ABOUT MISSOURI
• Missouri is off to a perfect 6-0 start this season and ranked No. 12 in both major polls. The Tigers have claimed early-season victories over then-21st-ranked Oregon, 83-75, and then-sixth-ranked Illinois, 81-78. Mizzou’s most recent win was a tight, one-point home affair, as the Tigers took down Bradley, 54-53.
• Fourth-year head coach Cuonzo Martin has Missouri off to its best six-game start since his arrival in Columbia in 2017. Martin’s squad returns four of its five regular starters and its top seven scorers from last season, as Mizzou hopes to capitalize on its experience to push forward following back-to-back 15-win seasons.
• Thus far, junior Xavier Pinson has led the way for Missouri in the scoring category, averaging 14.3 points per game, with his two largest scoring outputs coming in those victories over Oregon (22 points) and Illinois (17 points). Pinson has also dished out a team-high 3.7 assists through six games.
• In the frontcourt, Jeremiah Tilmon has shined. The senior from East St. Louis, Illinois, ranks fourth on the team in scoring with 8.2 points per game, and his 7.8 rebounds per game not only leads Mizzou, but ranks eighth in the SEC.
• On the defensive end, Dru Smith has been extremely active, ranking second on the team in blocks (0.7 bpg) and first in steals (1.8 spg). His 1.8 steals per game also ranks sixth in the SEC heading into conference play.
• The University of Missouri offers more than 300 degree programs in 13 academic major divisions, but may be best known for its Missouri School of Journalism. The program was founded in 1908 by Walter Williams as the world’s first journalism school.

LAST MEETING WITH MISSOURI
•  Six double-digit scorers, a career-high 11 points from junior Jalen Johnson and a gritty defensive effort led Tennessee past Missouri, 69-59, on Jan. 7, 2020, at Mizzou Arena.
•  Johnson enjoyed his best performance of the season, scoring 11 points and knocking down a career-high three attempts from 3-point range.
•  Jordan Bowden had a game-high 13 points and had four rebounds to cap several critical defensive stops.
•  Junior John Fulkerson and Josiah-Jordan James each turned in quality nights, with both players scoring 11 points. James added a game-high-tying seven rebounds, while Fulkerson hauled in six.
•  Freshman Santiago Vescovi, in his second appearance for the Vols, scored double-digit points for the second straight game, totaling 12 points, all in the second half, to help UT close out its first road victory of the season.
•  Out of the break, 3-pointers from freshman James and junior Yves Pons increased the Tennessee lead to 38-28 less than two minutes into the second half.
•  The Tigers responded with a 12-2 scoring run to knot the score at 40 apiece. During that five-minute stretch, Missouri forced two shot-clock violations to help hold UT scoreless for more than three minutes.
•  Following the Tigers’ run, James knocked down two buckets in three possessions to match Missouri and keep the score even at 45-45 with 11:32 remaining.
•  The back-and-forth action continued, with the teams trading baskets over the next five minutes. With the score tied at 53-53, Vescovi knocked down two clutch 3-pointers and made a layup on three straight possessions to give the Vols a 61-53 lead with just over four minutes remaining.
•  In the game’s final moments, Tennessee used solid shooting from the foul line and some timely baskets to secure the victory.

VJ BAILEY HAS TIGER BLOODLINES
• Tennessee’s leading scorer, Victor Bailey Jr., is the son of one of the greatest football wide receivers ever to play at Mizzou.
• Victor Bailey (Sr.) was a star receiver for the Tigers from 1990-92 and finished his career as the school’s all-time receptions leader (128). His three-year Mizzou totals also included 2,116 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns.
• Bailey Sr. was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round of the 1993 NFL Draft, and he played three seasons for the Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs.

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
• Fourth-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.

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 Volunteer Classic title game in Knoxville on Dec. 16, 1972.

ASTOUNDING OFFENSIVE BALANCE
• Only once this season has a Vol scored 20 or more points in a single game, as freshman Jaden Springer had 21 in the win over Tennessee Tech on Dec. 18.
• Tennessee has had six players score in double figures twice this season. And four different Vols have led the team in scoring.
• Four Vols are averaging 10+ points per game, with leading scorer Victor Bailey Jr. averaging 13.2 ppg.
• No Vol ranks among the top 20 scorers in the SEC.
• Tennessee ranks 39th nationally in assist percentage, assisting on 61.0 percent of their field goals.

-UT Atnletics

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