No. 6 Tennessee's huge second half comeback was soiled by a game-winning three and Missouri defeated the Vols 86-85 Saturday night.
After trailing by double digits for the first part of the second half, Tennessee used an 8-0 to crawl back into the game and cut the lead down to just six on a Tyreke Key three-pointer.
Then when Missouri regained a double-digit lead, Key hit a pair of back-to-back threes to cut the lead down to just four.
The Vols carried that momentum into a 15-0 run to give them the lead over Missouri.
“I’m really proud of that fight those guys put up in the second half,” head coach Rick Barnes said.
Tennessee led by three with 28 seconds to go, and Missouri's Kobe Brown hit a layup to cut the lead to one. Santiago Vescovi then hit a pair of free throws to make it a three-point game once again.
The Vols intentionally fouled with four seconds to go, and Missouri's Sean East hit just one shot at the line.
“We just felt like we needed to win it in regulation,” Barnes said. “We had our chances with free throws like we did the other night.”
Then Vescovi missed a free throw and Tennessee committed a lane violation and Missouri got the ball back with four seconds left.
DeAndre Gholston then hit a game-winning three at the buzzer from well-behind the three-point line.
On a night where Missouri was shooting the ball the way that it was, it seemed like the shot was bound to go in. The Tigers caught fire, shooting 14-for-26 from deep.
“That’s what they do. They shot the ball extremely well,” Barnes said. “We’re going to run into teams like that.”
Tennessee also got going from deep in the second half and finished with 12 threes. The offensive spark in the second half came largely from Key, who scored 21 of his 23 points in the final 20 minutes of the game.
“Coming out, I knew we needed kind of a spark,” Key said. “Just being more aggressive – I’ve been working on it the past couple of weeks in practice – just gaining more confidence.”
Tennessee ran a three-guard lineup for most of the second half with Josiah-Jordan James out with a sprained ankle and Julian Phillips leaving in the second half with a hip-flexor strain. The lineup seemed to give the offense a boost and ultimately led to the 17-point comeback.
“Hopefully we can grow from these situations and as hard as it is right now and the fact that we had a lineup that hasn’t practiced, played together – I’m proud of them,” Barnes said.
The loss is the first time this season that Tennessee has lost two games straight. The Vols have also lost three of the last four games since beating Texas at the end of January.
“I’ve been doing this long enough to know that you hit some spells like this. As quickly as we got in it, we can get out of it,” Barnes said. “I think once we do get out of it, which I know we will, we’re going to get trending in the way that we want to be when it’s all said and done.”
And things don’t get easier for Tennessee. The Vols will face No. 3 Alabama, Kentucky and Texas A&M in their next three games.
“I think we’re going to get it going. I certainly hope so,” Barnes said. “We need it now, to get going at the right time.”
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