Hoops Preview: Tennessee vs. Missouri in SEC Tournament

Hoops Preview: Tennessee vs. Missouri in SEC Tournament

Fifth-seeded Tennessee continues SEC Tournament play Friday in Nashville with a quarterfinal matchup, taking on No. 4 seed Missouri at approximately 3:30 p.m. ET. 

Fans can catch Friday’s game on ESPN and online or on any mobile device through WatchESPN. WatchESPN can be accessed through the ESPN App, or online at espn.com/watch. Karl Ravech (play-by-play), Jimmy Dykes (analyst) and Marty Smith (reporter) will have the call.
 
Fans can also listen live on their local Vol Network affiliate to hear Bob Kesling and Bert Bertelkamp describing the action.
 
Tennessee (23-9) enters Friday’s quarterfinal matchup coming off a 70-55 win over No. 13 seed Ole Miss in its SEC Tournament opener on Thursday. Josiah-Jordan James led the Vols with 20 points, while Santiago Vescovi added 15. The duo combined for seven made 3-pointers.
 
Friday marks the second meeting this season between Tennessee and Missouri. The Tigers defeated the Vols in Knoxville on Feb. 11, 86-85, hitting a deep 3-pointer as time expired. Tennessee and Missouri have never previously faced off in the SEC Tournament.
 
With a win Friday, Tennessee would advance to face the winner between No. 9 seed Mississippi State and No. 1 seed Alabama in Saturday’s semifinals at 1 p.m. ET.
 
THE SERIES
• Tennessee leads its all-time series with Missouri, 11-9, dating to 1961.
• The Vols and Tigers have never previously met in the SEC Tournament. Tennessee won the series’ lone neutral-site clash, posting a 99-77 victory at the 1974 Big Sun Invitational in St. Petersburg, Florida.
• Mizzou is the only program UT has never faced in SEC Tournament action.
• As a junior at Cal, current Mizzou head coach Dennis Gates lost to Rick Barnes‘ Texas squad in the Preseason NIT.
• Tennessee is 5-1 this season in neutral-site games. The lone loss came against Colorado at Bridgestone Arena in UT’s second game of the season.
• The Volunteers are 11-10 all-time at Bridgestone Arena.
• Since 2018, Tennessee is 9-3 in SEC Tournament games (.750), with three championship game appearances.
• Dating to November 2021, the Vols are riding a five-game win streak when they are coming off a game the previous day. That streak features wins over North Carolina, Kentucky, Texas A&M, Southern California and Kansas.
 
ABOUT MISSOURI
• Missouri (23-8, 11-7 SEC) finished fourth in the SEC, earning a double bye in the SEC Tournament. The Tigers finished with an identical record to Tennessee, but by way of the buzzer-beating head-to-head win over the Vols on Feb. 11, owned the tiebreaker.
• Senior Kobe Brown finished conference play as the SEC’s third-leading scorer with 16.7 ppg during league games. Brown ranked fourth in the conference in field-goal percentage (.511) and 12th in rebounding (6.2 rpg).
• Brown was named first-team All-SEC by the league’s coaches, as well as being selected as the SEC’s Scholar Athlete of the Year.
• Graduate guard D’Moi Hodge finished the season as the SEC’s steals leader with 2.7 steals per game during conference play. Hodge was also third in the league with 2.4 made 3-pointers per game.
 
LAST CLASH WITH MISSOURI
• For the second time in four days, a buzzer-beating 3-pointer defeated sixth-ranked Tennessee, as Missouri edged the Vols, 86-85, on Feb. 11 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
• Tennessee mounted a 17-point second-half comeback and had the lead for the final third of the second half, but off a late inbound, DeAndre Gholston chucked up a 3-point shot from just inside the halfcourt line that found the bottom of the net with 0.0 remaining on the clock, giving Missouri a one-point victory.
• Despite the loss, Tennessee graduate student Tyreke Key starred in the second half, scoring 21 of his season-high 23 points on 5-of-7 shooting from 3-point range. He also knocked down all six attempts from the free-throw line.
• Aiding Key with a big second half was Santiago Vescovi, who drained 13 points and a trio of 3-pointers in the final 20 minutes. Vescovi scored 16 points in total.
• The second-half scoring total of 53 marked the Vols’ largest scoring effort in any half this season. The Big Orange connected on half of its 3-pointers, hitting 9-of-18 after halftime.
• Missouri shot lights-out all game long, hitting 30-of-57 (52.6 percent) from the field and an impressive 14-of-26 (53.8 percent) from beyond the arc. In both the first and second halves, Mizzou made more than half of its threes, and four players combined to contribute 70 of the Tigers’ 86 points.
• Kobe Brown led MU in scoring, posting 21 points. He was complemented by Gholston’s 18 points, and 4-of-5 3-point shooting, Sean East II’s 17 points and D’Moi Hodge’s 14 points.
• Zakai Zeigler provided the offensive spark for Tennessee early and finished the game with 11 points and 10 assists.
 
NKAMHOUA ON VERGE OF UNIQUE (AND VERSATILE) ACHIEVEMENT
• Senior Olivier Nkamhoua is tantalizingly close to a multi-faceted statistical achievement only five Vols have ever accomplished: averaging 10.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists for a full season.
• Nkamhoua currently averages 10.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game.
• The five Vols who have pulled off the 10/5/2 combo are All-Americans Bernard King, Ernie Grunfeld and Grant Williams as well as Vincent Yarbrough and Tyler Smith.
 
WORKING ON THE RÉSUMÉ
• Tennessee’s postseason résumé thus far is highlighted by a decisive win over Kansas in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game and home triumphs over both Alabama and Texas.
• UT boasts seven total Quad 1 wins.
• Alabama was ranked No. 1 when the Vols beat the Tide by holding them to a season-low 17 field goals.
• And when the Vols beat then-No. 3 Kansas on a neutral floor, UT held the Jayhawks to just 50 points. That still stands as KU’s season-low.
• In a Dec. 17 true road game at Arizona, UT held what was then the nation’s highest-scoring offense 17 points below its average in a five-point loss without senior standout Josiah-Jordan James (knee injury).
• James also was inactive for three other UT losses.
 
TENNESSEE LEADS SEC IN TOTAL CONFERENCE WINS LAST SIX YEARS
• Through Thursday, Tennessee has captured 81 total wins over SEC opponents (regular season and SEC Tournament) over the last six seasons—more than any other program.
• Kentucky ranks second during that span with 79 total SEC wins, while Auburn ranks third with 72.
• During that same time frame, the Vols also are the most successful league school in the SEC Tournament, recording a conference-best nine SEC Tournament wins
• Tennessee and Auburn are tied for the most overall victories over the last six years (142).

-UT Athletics

Vols F Jonas Aidoo / Credit: UT Athletics

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