Rick Barnes

Tennessee 87 Missouri 63: Each Surprise More Pleasant

Isn’t this the game Cuonzo would’ve wanted?

Grant Williams fouled out with four points on 1-of-8 shooting. The Vols lead the nation in assist percentage at 69%. Tonight: only 12 assists on 31 made shots, 38.7%. Missouri made Tennessee beat them with more one-on-one play, and do so without much of anything from its best player.

And…we did. Convincingly. Massively.

Cuonzo remains a Rorschach for Tennessee fans, but what is fact is the way his UT teams played at home against the best competition. His first team beat an Elite Eight Florida squad and lost to Kentucky’s National Championship team by three. His second team saw Marshall Henderson and Ole Miss pull away late for a 92-74 win, but the Vols were within single digits for most of the second half. They beat Wichita State and another Elite Eight Florida squad in Knoxville, plus Kentucky by 30. His final team battled the Gators, undefeated in the SEC, to the final minute in Knoxville.

I’ve never seen a Cuonzo Martin team take a beating like this at home.

If Tennessee can do this, with Grant Williams and effective ball movement handcuffed, to a bubble squad on the road? I’m not sure how many SEC teams on the bubble or below are going to beat the Vols this year. At this point, we get to question how many will even threaten.

When great individual efforts were required tonight, how about Kyle Alexander: 14 points, 17 rebounds, three blocks. Jordan Bowden came off the bench with 20, again. And best of all, Lamonte Turner looked off in his return against Georgia, but not tonight: 3-of-4 from the arc.

Tennessee was favored by seven and won by 24. The good news, in a sense, is the challenge continues to increase: we’re off to Gainesville on Saturday, where the Vols were only favored by one in KenPom before tonight. As was the case after Georgia, I keep trying to remind myself any win is a good win and to appreciate everything about this team. But this team, even outside of what we would consider its best basketball, is giving us far more to appreciate than we thought possible.

Onward and upward. Go Vols.

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Will SheltonPeteSam HensleyBrenna Williams Recent comment authors
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Brenna Williams
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Brenna Williams

Another fun game. I’ll be at the Florida game Saturday nite. Can’t wait! Go Vols!

Sam Hensley
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Sam Hensley

Before this season, I had prepared myself for a letdown. I did not think that it would be possible to like a team more than I liked last year’s team. I know that this team *is* mostly last year’s team, but this is the most fun I’ve ever had watching basketball, I think.

Pete
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Pete

I loved the flexibility in approach. Frankly, we didn’t get much from the Admiral/Grant big lineup in the first 8-10 minutes. When we went with 3 guards, Bowden/Bone/Turner lit up Missouri. They had no idea how to play with our pace. Cuonzo prefers combat-style pace and we imposed our will on them. We also played better defense than his team, which is quite a statement. Our 3FG defense was particularly impressive in the key 24-4 stretch during which we turned the game around. Florida will be a much better matchup than Missouri. The Gators are battle-tested. They lost several tough… Read more »

Pete
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Pete

Every starter can go for double digits. That balance carried us on an off night for Grant & first-half Admiral. Every one is clear on their roles. They all play hard. They play good defense, particularly on the outside. They really seem to love each other and Coach Barnes. I love this team.

Haven’t had this much fun since Dane Bradshaw and Chris Lofton. Sorry for the double comment but emotion carrying me away.