Tennessee came into last night’s game against Missouri with one of the SEC’s worst shooting percentages, turning the ball over 13.5 times per game, still breaking in a just-now-Coming-to-America point guard, and navigating the delicate issue of a Jordan Bowden shooting slump. Traveling to Columbia, Missouri to take on a Cuonzo Martin team 5th in the nation in KenPom’s defensive effective field goal percentage seemed like the makings of a bad night for the Vols.
Not only were the Vols unfazed by Missouri’s defense, they improved their averages rather dramatically. Coming into the game sporting season-long shooting percentages of 42.6% from the field and 31.8% from the arc, Tennessee hit 53.5% from the field and 45.8% from three.
Never mind that Bowden slump, either, as he went 5-12 (41.67%) from the field and 2-7 (28.57%) from three. He’s still better than that, but seeing the ball go through the hole for Bowden is a welcome sight.
Meanwhile, the Vols defense held Missouri to 35.2% from the field and 36% from the arc. Only two Missouri players — Mitchell Smith and Tray Jackson — hit double figures. Contrast that to Tennessee, who had six players in double figures on the night.
That flurry of turnovers we forecasted yesterday did in fact happen, but new point guard Santiago Vescovi didn’t have 64% of them this time like he did against LSU. He led the clubhouse with 5, but John Fulkerson also had 5, and Josiah Jordan-James had 4. Several others got into the action as well: Yves Pons had 3, Olivier Nkamhoua had 2, and Bowden and Jalen Johnson each had one.
Vescovi, by the way, not only improved his ball-protection, he basically took over in the second half, going on an 8-0 run by himself with six minutes remaining and the score tied at 53. This guy needs a nickname, stat.
I know that Jeremiah Tilmon didn’t play for Missouri and that that mattered last night. But two games in to the Great Reset of 2019-20, the Vols are miles away from whatever happened in that Wisconsin game. If they can continue to improve at anything close to that rate, there might be some magic in store for this season after all.