NCAA Basketball

After bad loss, No. 6 Tennessee gets No. 19 Missouri

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes wants to see marked improvement when his No. 6 Volunteers host the 19th-ranked Missouri Tigers in a Southeastern Conference matchup on Saturday in Knoxville, Tenn.

The Volunteers (10-2, 4-2 SEC) lost 75-49 to the host Florida Gators on Tuesday, and Barnes promised to try a different look against the Tigers (9-2, 3-2).

"I can tell you this. I don't know what it's going to be, but I will change our lineup," Barnes said. "It will be changed, because I'm not going to let anybody take anything for granted, thinking, 'Hey, we're just going to walk out there and play and show up and think we're good enough.' That's what I felt tonight."

The Volunteers were missing elite freshman Jaden Springer against the Gators. Springer, who averages 10 points per game, was shelved by a nagging ankle injury. Assistant coach Kim English indicated Thursday that Springer was still getting treatment on the injury.

Santiago Vescovi went 1-for-6 from 3-point range at Florida and finished with just seven points. Victor Bailey Jr., who is averaging 11.6 points per game, came off the bench and missed 11 of 12 shots from the floor.

Barnes wants to see more leadership from forwards Yves Pons (five points, four rebounds in 27 minutes at Florida) and John Fulkerson.

"There gets to be a point, you have to get leadership from your seniors," Barnes said. "Fulky and Yves can't hide behind anybody. They can't."

Fulkerson is averaging 12.2 points per game and netted 15 on Tuesday, but Barnes is concerned that he has become stagnant with his post-up game.

"The scouting report is easy right now on John Fulkerson," Barnes continued. "Push him off the lane, go double him. And all we've asked him to do is not stand there and do that. Get moving, get active. We can roll him in there, we can run him in there. But he's got to do it."

The Volunteers won 73-53 earlier this season at Missouri. Tigers center Jeremiah Tilmon had nine points and four rebounds in that game. Since then, Tilmon has become a force in conference play, scoring 74 points and grabbing 37 rebounds in his last four games.

"Some guys, the opponent is the competition. Jeremiah's opponent is Jeremiah," Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said. "I say that will all due respect and grace. It's just a matter of him understanding who he is as a player, his talent level and physicality."

The Tigers are trying to get more consistency from their guards. Xavier Pinson has as many turnovers (nine) as points in his last two games. He scored a team-high 11 points against Tennessee earlier this season.

Dru Smith averaged 14.6 points in his first five games, then scored just six points in each of his next three games. Mark Smith averaged 17.3 points in his first four games before scoring just 6.8 points per game in his next six.

Those two players combined for 34 points, however, in Missouri's 81-70 victory over visiting South Carolina on Tuesday. Mark Smith shot 3-for-7 from 3-point range.

"There was nothing really different tonight," he said. "I put in a lot of work on my shot, so I knew eventually they'd start falling. I just didn't know what game it would be."

--Field Level Media

Updated January 21, 2021

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