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Tennessee Basketball: Don’t worry about Vols’ sluggish win at Missouri

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Rick Barnes once again played his starters too many minutes, but we’ve beaten that to death, and honestly, he had to in this one. That’s the only negative to really draw, though, from Tennessee Basketball struggling with the Missouri Tigers Tuesday night.

The Vols beat the worst team in the SEC 72-67 after shockingly trailing 29-26 at halftime and 42-39 with 15 minutes to go. However, late in the game, Dalton Knecht showed why he’s their go-to player, as he took over with 17 points and 10 rebounds, going 3-of-6 from three.

Knecht had help from the front court, which is key to success for Tennessee Basketball. Jonas Aidoo had 14 points, and Tobe Awaka had 18 points and 10 rebounds. That was against a team with a seven-footer in the starting lineup. We should add Zakai Zeigler had 10 with two threes.

Anyway, although Mizzou fell to 8-18 on the year with the loss and still has yet to win a conference game, a bit of a struggle could be expected for the Vols. Dennis Gates’ team is getting better, having just lost by three to the Ole Miss Rebels, and this was a road game for UT on a Tuesday after a Saturday night game.

That could all explain why they were just 5-of-17 from outside, Zeigler and Knecht hitting the only threes, and why they had 15 turnovers. Mizzou going 10-of-27 from three didn’t help. Add in the fact that they were likely looking ahead to a gauntlet to close out the SEC season, and you could see this happen.

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There’s a reason Vegas favored Tennessee Basketball by 11.5 points. Now, that may make a five-point win seem like a disappointment. However, they had a 13-point lead with just over two and a half minutes to go before Mizzou cut it to look way closer than it really was.

With the win, the Vols, ranked No. 5 in both polls, improve to 20-6 and 10-3 in the SEC. They next host the Texas A&M Aggies in a revenge game. Then they close the year with four straight top 25 foes: the Auburn Tigers, Alabama Crimson Tide, South Carolina Gamecocks and Kentucky Wildcats.

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