Hoops Preview: #6 Tennessee vs. #19 Missouri

Josiah-Jordan James / Credit: UT Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The No. 6 Tennessee basketball team returns to its home floor for a rematch with the 19th-ranked Missouri Tigers on Saturday night. Tipoff from Thompson-Boling Arena is slated for 8:30 p.m. ET on SEC Network.

Fans can catch Saturday’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. Paul Sunderland and Joe Kleine 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, Tennessee fell on the road to Florida, 75-49. The Vols were led in scoring by senior John Fulkerson who dropped in 15 points and dished out a career-high-tying five assists.

A victory would give the Vols a 6-2 series lead when the games are played in Knoxville and would be the Vols sixth consecutive win when taking on the Tigers on Rocky Top.

Up next, the Vols will play the middle of three consecutive home games when they welcome Mississippi State to Knoxville on Tuesday night. Tipoff from Thompson-Boling Arena is set for 7 p.m. ET on SEC Network.

THE SERIES
• Tennessee leads its all-time series with Missouri 10-7, dating to 1961. The Volunteers own a 5-2 advantage when the series is contested in Knoxville and have won five straight over the Tigers on Rocky Top.
• The Volunteers have won four straight games against Mizzou—the longest win streak of the series by either team.
• Vols head coach Rick Barnes is 5-1 in head-to-head meetings against teams coached by Cuonzo Martin.
• Tennessee’s 20-point win (73-53) at then-12th-ranked Missouri to open SEC play on Dec. 30 stands as UT’s largest margin of victory on the road against a top-25 opponent in program history.
• Saturday’s contest marks the second time in the series that both teams enter the game ranked.

LAYUP LINES
• Freshman Jaden Springer missed the Florida game with an ankle injury suffered against Vanderbilt last Saturday.
• Tennessee leading scorer Victor Bailey Jr. is the son of a Mizzou gridiron great. See Bailey note below.
• 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 English note below.
• Tennessee is No. 6 in the latest NCAA NET ratings, with wins over three teams in the top 40.
• The Vols are giving up a league-best 64.7 points per game in SEC play.
• Tennessee owns a +8.3 turnover margin during its home SEC games.
• During SEC play, only 6.3 points per game separate Tennessee’s top seven scorers.
• In their two losses, the Vols shot .569 (29-51) from the free-throw line.
• Vols senior John Fulkerson  has been named to the Wooden Award’s Midseason Top-25 List.

DEFENSE WINS
• Tennessee ranks sixth in the NCAA in scoring defense, allowing just 58.7 points per game.
• According to KenPom, the Vols rank second in the NCAA in adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing only 87.5 points per 100 possessions. College teams typically average close to 70 possessions per game.
• The Vols are forcing 17.1 turnovers per game while converting those turnovers into 18.8 points per game. Tennessee’s turnover margin stands at +6.5 (third nationally).
• Tennessee has forced 10 of 12 opponents to turn the ball over on 20 percent or more of their possessions.
• Tennessee has yet to allow an opposing player to score 20 points this season.
• Reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year Yves Pons has 17 blocks through UT’s first six SEC games. Pons has 97 blocks in his last 43 games.

ABOUT MISSOURI
• After beginning conference play with two tough losses to Tennessee and Mississippi State, Missouri experienced a team shutdown due to COVID-19 through the second week of January. When the Tigers returned, they responded with two conference victories over Texas A&M (68-52) and South Carolina (81-70). The Tigers currently sit at 9-2 overall and 3-2 in league action.
• The Tigers’ 9-2 record ties the best 11-game start for Mizzou since the arrival of fourth-year head coach Cuonzo Martin in the spring of 2017.
• Through 11 games, Xavier Pinson has continued to be the glue for the Tigers in the backcourt, leading the team in both scoring and assists, pouring in 12.9 points per game and dishing out 3.4 helpers per contest. His assists average ranks ninth in the SEC.
• In the paint, senior Jeremiah Tilmon has been a beast on both the score sheet and the glass. Tilmon is currently averaging 12.0 points and a team-leading 8.0 rebounds. His eight rebounds per contest rank fifth in the SEC. In conference play, he’s pulling in 8.2 rebounds per night, which ranks third in the league.
• On the defensive end, the Tigers continue to be led by senior guard Dru Smith, who ranks second in the SEC in steals with 1.9 takeaways per night. In league action, he’s creating turnovers at a similar rate, nabbing 2.0 per game through five SEC contests. He also ranks second on the team in scoring (12.1 ppg).
• The University of Missouri was established in 1839 when the state legislature passed the Geyer Act to establish funds for a state university. The citizens of Columbia and Boone County pledged more than  $100,000 in cash and land to win the location of the university, making UM the first public university west of the Mississippi River.

LAST MEETING WITH MISSOURI
•  A dominant defensive effort and an efficient shooting mark of .500 (27-54) from the field pushed the seventh-ranked Tennessee basketball team past 12th-ranked Missouri, 73-53, to open SEC play Dec. 30, 2020, at Mizzou Arena.
•  The Vols held Missouri to just .364 shooting from the field and forced 21 turnovers on the defensive end.
•  Sophomore Santiago Vescovi led UT in scoring, pouring in a game-high 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting and a 3-of-4 mark from 3-point range
•  National Defensive Player of the Year candidate Yves Pons was impressively versatile, totaling 13 points, six rebounds, four blocks and two steals.
•  Freshman Jaden Springer also scored 13 points while grabbing four rebounds and nabbing a season-high three steals off the bench for the Vols.
•  Senior John Fulkerson was the fourth Vol to reach double-figures, scoring 11 points and pulling down six rebounds.
•  Sophomore Josiah-Jordan James—despite scoring just two points—was all over the stat sheet, grabbing three offensive rebounds, dishing off a game-high four assists, tallying a career-high-tying three steals and recording a blocked shot. James posted a game-high-tying plus/minus rating of +25.
•  UT came roaring out of the gates, knocking down its first seven shot attempts en route to a commanding 21-4 lead at the under-12 media timeout.
•  Tennessee withstood each counter punch from the Tigers, extending its first-half lead to as many as 19, heading into the halftime break with a 38-25 advantage.
•  UT came out of the break with much of the same energy, continuing its stifling defensive effort and efficient night from the field on offense throughout the second half to walk away with the 20-point victory.

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

VJ BAILEY HAS TIGER BLOODLINES
• Tennessee’s second-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.

SECOND TIME’S A CHARM
• Since 2018, Rick Barnes and his staff have guided the Volunteers to a 12-3 record in regular-season rematch games (SEC Tournament games not included).

20 ELUSIVE FOR OPPOSING SCORERS
• Through 2,400 minutes of basketball this season, no Tennessee opponent has managed to score 20 points.
• Only five opposing scorers have scored more than 15 points. The high is 19, attained by both J.D. Notae (Arkansas) and Scotty Pippen Jr. (Vanderbilt).
• Tennessee’s opponents’ top scorer this season averages 14.5 ppg.

-UT Athletics

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