Tuesday night’s matchup with No. 3 Tennessee was by far Missouri’s biggest test of the season to date, and the differences between the Tigers and a Championship-contender was very present in a 87-63 loss.
Going into this one, it was evident stopping the Volunteers’ stars, Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams, would be key to having any sort of shot in pulling off a monumental upset. Well, Missouri did just that, limiting Schofield and Williams to 16 and four points, respectively on 7-for-19 shooting (36.8%).
The Tennessee duo average just over 28 points per game — about 33 percent of the team’s scoring load. One would think slowing those two down drastically spells for a good chance at an upset.
And early on, it looked like Missouri had a shot of doing so. But a quick 13-0 run put the Volunteers up 31-27 in the first half and they never looked back.
Championship teams by the likes of what Tennessee could be this year typically have elite depth. Teams on the fringe of making an NCAA Tournament appearance like this year’s Missouri team, don’t. That seemed to be the theme in this one, as four players not named Schofield or Williams scored in double-digits.
Backup guard Jordan Bowden led the Volunteers in scoring with 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting, while a combination of Jordan Bone and Kyle Alexander combined for 31 points to add to Schofield’s 16.
What may have hurt more than facing a complete team performance from Tennessee is the amount the Tigers’ stars, Jordan Geist and Jeremiah Tilmon, struggled offensively. The two accounted for just 15 of Missouri’s 63 points on the night, shooting just 28.6 percent (4-14) from the field.
With how young Cuonzo Martin’s team is, they need the scoring and leadership Geist and Tilmon bring in order to compete. Strong double-teams led to the big-man’s demise, while the senior captain in Geist just couldn’t buy a bucket all night long.
One bright spot, however, was freshman point guard Xavier Pinson. He dropped a career-high 14 points, doing the majority of his work at the charity-stripe (7-8).
Missouri is going to have to bounce back from this one in the next week, as they take on South Carolina this Saturday and are back at home for Alabama Wednesday. The Crimson Tide upset No. 18 Kentucky to open up SEC play earlier this week, and the Tigers will have to show drastic improvement from Tuesday’s loss to compete.