History repeats, Vol lose late

Marvin Westwestwords

Too bad, so sad … history repeats … devastating three in the closing second … home game to double the hurt … this time it was Missouri 86, Tennessee 85.

A flood of three-pointers (14) humbled Tennessee’s once-famous defense. The Vols trailed by 17 early in the second half. A terrific comeback, led by Tyreke Key, erased the deficit. Unbelievably, the Vols went up by six.

Missouri looked disoriented but did not quit. A victory was lost when Tennessee failed to execute. As happened at Vanderbilt, Santiago Vescovi missed a clutch free throw with 4.1 seconds remaining. Fierce competitor Tobe Awaka committed a lane violation. Missouri got the ball but Tennessee still had a two-point lead.

Nobody stopped or even slowed DeAndre Gholston. He beat the buzzer and the Vols with a really long shot. It was at least a heart-breaker.

Vescovi was crushed.

“We all hurt for Santi,” Rick Barnes said. “He’s hurting. I hurt for him because he knows he had a chance, two games in a row, to put a game on ice. But he’s won a lot of games for us.”

Barnes said he was really proud of the fight his team put up.

“No one is pushing a panic button or losing confidence. I am not concerned about that. I believe in these guys. I do. We love our team. We know these guys care.”

The coach said the Vols will be OK when they get out of this funk and they can get out as quickly as they got in.

“We will get going in the right direction … I’m proud of them. The fact they fought the way they did. We’re all disappointed that we lost but there’s a lot of basketball left to play.”

This crucial segment of Tennessee’s season has started two games prematurely. Vols are now looking at a possible five-game losing streak. Alabama, 12-0 league leaders, will be at UT on Wednesday. After that, Tennessee goes to Kentucky and Texas A&M.

Missouri was a bad matchup for the struggling Tennessee team that was awful at Florida and barely survived against Auburn. These Tigers can shoot. They were 53 percent overall and a fraction better beyond the arc – 14 of 26.

Missouri changed defenses from time to time. It did not shut down the Vols. They hit 45.3 percent. They made 12 of 28 threes. They hit 25 of 33 free throws. Awaka missed five.

Key scored two points in the first half and 21after intermission. He did what Barnes told him to do.

“Be more aggressive,” Key said. “I’ve been trying to find my role. I think I’ve found it.”

He hit five of nine threes, one two-pointer and six of six free throws.

Vescovi contributed 16 points, Zakai Zeigler had 11 and 10 assists. He also fouled out when he was really needed. The fifth foul was 87 feet from the Missouri goal.

Ziggy sat out the closing minutes of the first half with two fouls. He picked up his third with 4:15 to go in the game, fourth a few seconds later and his fifth a few seconds after that.

“We need Zakai in the game,” Barnes said. “He’s got to stop fouling the way he does.”

Jahmai Mashack was an influence on defense. He changed the game from easy to tough for Kobe Brown, Missouri star.

“I’m proud of Shack,” said Barnes. “Kobe Brown is a player of the year candidate.”

Brown scored 21, Gholston 18, Sean East 17 and D’Moi Hodge 14.

The coach was pleased with other Volunteers.

“Tobe went in and got some things done.”

He mentioned Jonas Aidoo’s first start. He said B.J. Edwards is improving.

“We have watched him grow tremendously. We told him Friday he better be ready. He looked calm, cool and collected. We have always thought he is going to be a good guard and a good player. We still think that.”

Edwards scored four.

Josiah-Jordan James did not play due to the ankle injury suffered at Vanderbilt. Julian Phillips retired at halftime because his injured hip flexor flared up.

Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com

One Comment on “History repeats, Vol lose late”

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