Courtesy / UT Athletics


Courtesy / UT Athletics

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Facing a seven-point deficit with under 16 minutes to play Tuesday night at Missouri, the University of Tennessee men’s basketball team answered the call and stormed back to claim a 72-67 road victory.

Sophomore forward Tobe Awaka posted a career-high 18 points and a co-game-best 10 rebounds for fifth-ranked Tennessee (20-6, 10-3 SEC).

Neither team made a field goal until the 15:31 mark, when junior guard Jordan Gainey’s fast-break dunk put the Volunteers ahead, 2-1, after the two sides combined to miss their first 10 shots and commit seven giveaways in the opening four-and-a-half minutes. Tennessee held Missouri (8-18, 0-13 SEC) without a field goal for the first nine minutes, as the home team missed its first 11 attempts and notched six giveaways.

Neither offense found its groove in the first half, but the Tigers went 3-of-10 (30.0 percent) from beyond the arc and 10-of-13 (76.9 percent) at the line, while Tennessee missed all nine of its 3-point attempts and shot 8-of-13 at the stripe (61.5 percent). Those differentials helped Missouri, despite logging 10 turnovers, take a 29-26 edge into the locker room after leading by as many as five points.

The Volunteers scored the opening four points of the second session, including junior guard Zakai Zeigler drilling a go-ahead 3-pointer with 19:15 on the clock for the team’s first long-range make. The Tigers, though, hit three 3-pointers in 99 seconds to spark a 13-5 run in 3:26, giving them a game-high seven-point edge, 42-35, with 15:23 left.

Tennessee responded with a dominant 32-12 surge over the course of 11 minutes, featuring a trio of 7-0 runs and seven straight made field goals, to go from down seven to up by a game-best 13, 67-54, with 4:03 left. Fifteen of the first 23 points came from fifth-year guard Dalton Knecht, who shot 6-of-8 during a five-minute stretch after not previously making a shot from the floor.

The Volunteers’ lead remained in double digits with under 100 seconds left and at nine with 60 ticks left, but the Tigers scored the final four points, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, to make it a five-point final margin in their 20th win of the season.

Awaka’s team-best point total came on a 6-of-8 clip from the field and a 6-of-7 ledger at the line, as he set career highs in both makes categories, as well as in free-throw attempts. His 10 rebounds, half of which came on the offensive end, gave him his second collegiate double-double.

Knecht finished with 17 points and grabbed a season-best 10 rebounds to notch his first double-double in a Tennessee uniform. Junior forward Jonas Aidoo, who eclipsed 100 blocked shots in his career, totaled 14 points and a game-best four blocks. Junior guard Zakai Zeigler added 10 points in the victory.

Graduate student guard Sean East II led all players in both points (24) and assists (six), as he went 7-of-15 from the floor, 3-of-6 on 3-pointers and 7-of-11 at the line. Graduate student forward Noah Carter scored 20 points, shooting 3-of-4 beyond the arc and 7-of-8 at the line, while adding a team-best seven rebounds.

Graduate student guard Nick Honor scored 10 points for the Tigers, although Tennessee held him to 2-of-9 3-point shooting. The Volunteers also limited Missouri’s top scorer in SEC play, junior guard Tamar Bates, to seven points on a 3-of-15 field-goal clip.

Despite having half as many made 3-pointers—the Volunteers went 5-of-17 (29.4 percent) and Missouri shot 10-of-27 (37.0 percent)—Tennessee used its strong interior play to claim the result, as it had a 32-22 advantage in paint points. The victors also had a commanding 26-6 cushion in bench points, good for its third-highest margin (plus-20) of the season.

The Volunteers now head home to Knoxville, Tenn., where they face Texas A&M at Food City Center, live on ESPN, Saturday at 8 p.m.

To keep up with the University of Tennessee men’s basketball team on social media, follow @Vol_Hoops on Instagram and X/Twitter, as well as /tennesseebasketball on Facebook.  

• Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes now owns 799 victories in his career, six behind Rick Byrd for No. 14 on the all-time wins list (min. 10 years at a Division I school).
• Barnes has now defeated every other SEC head coach at least once, as Missouri’s Dennis Gates—who joined the league last season—was the lone outlier entering Tuesday.
• Barnes now has 24 total 20-win seasons in his 37-year Division I head coaching career, tying Jim Calhoun and Kelvin Sampson for No. 13 all-time, as well as matching the latter for fifth-most among active coaches.
• Tennessee has now reached 20 victories in five of the last seven seasons, including each of the past three.
• The Volunteers extended their road winning streak against Missouri to five in a row, stretching back to Jan. 17, 2018.
• Tuesday marked the ninth time in their last 10 meetings with Missouri the Volunteers were ranked after never holding a ranking in the first 12 matchups.
• The Volunteers are now 72-22 (.766) as an AP top-10 team and 31-9 (.775) as an AP top-five team in Barnes’ nine-year tenure, all in the past seven seasons.
• Tennessee snapped a nine-game losing skid when recording fewer assists than its opponent.
• The last time Tennessee had two players log double-doubles in the same game was 17 days ago, Feb. 3, when Aidoo and Zeigler did so.
• The Volunteers last had two double-digit rebounders on Nov. 20, 2023, against Syracuse when Aidoo and fifth-year guard Josiah-Jordan James both hit that mark in double-double showings.
• Tennessee’s plus-margin in bench points, 26-6, trailed only its plus-33 ledger, 36-3, on Nov. 6, 2023, against Tennessee Tech and its plus-23 mark, 26-3, on Nov. 21, 2023, against Purdue in Honolulu.
• The Volunteers’ five-point margin of victory was their smallest of the year, one below their six-point decision, 85-79, at Georgia on Jan. 13.
• Saturday’s affair marked just the fifth time in 26 games both the Volunteers and their opponent led for double-digit minutes.
• Over the last three games, Tennessee has recorded 17 dunks and allowed just one on the other end.
• Through the opening eight minutes, the two teams combined for 10 turnovers (six by Missouri) and a 1-of-17 field-goal clip (0-of-8 for Missouri).
• Missouri, after missing its opening 11 attempts, did not make its first field goal until 10:56 remained in the first half, when Bates hit his lone 3-pointer of the evening.
• The Tigers committed their seventh foul of the second half with 15:01 left, putting Tennessee in the bonus for the final 15 minutes.
• Fifth-year guard Santiago Vescovi recorded two steals to give him 198 in his career, tying C.J. Watson (2002-06) for second place on the Tennessee’s all-time leaderboard.
• With his first point of the night, James became the 40th player in Tennessee history to amass 1,200 points and he ended the night at No. 38 on the program’s all-time scoring list with 1,203 after passing both Howard Wood (1977-81) and Len Kosmalski (1971-74).
• With his first of four blocks on the evening, Aidoo became the 18th individual to record 100 as a Volunteer.
• Awaka’s prior career-best point total was 11 on Dec. 5, 2023, versus George Mason, while his previous top mark in made field goals was four, recorded on four occasions.
• The prior single-game high for Awaka in free-throw makes was five, registered thrice, while the lone other time he attempted seven shots at the line was on Nov. 14, 2023, against Wofford.
• Awaka registered his fifth double-digit scoring performance and fifth double-digit rebounding total as a collegian, including his third of each in 2023-24.
• Awaka’s lone previous double-double came on Jan. 2, 2024, when he amassed 11 points and 10 rebounds versus Norfolk State.
• Saturday marked the first time in Awaka’s 59 outings that he has led the Volunteers in scoring.
• Awaka doubled his season total in dunks, as he posted two on the night, his first time logging multiple slams in a game in 2023-24.
• Knecht is the 10th SEC player in the last 12 years (2012-24) to record 14-plus points in 12 straight league games in a single season and the only Volunteer to do so in at least the last 19 campaigns (2005-24).
• Over the last 13 seasons (2011-24), Knecht is one of just two SEC players to score 16-plus points in nine straight road games in a single campaign, alongside South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell (2016-17).
• Knecht is the seventh Division I player with 16-plus points in nine consecutive road outings this season, including the only one in a Power Six conference.
• Knecht, who surpassed his prior season high of eight rebounds on Jan. 16 versus Florida, recorded his seventh-career double-double and his first as a Volunteer.

Courtesy / UT Athletics

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