No. 6 Vols Fall to Missouri After Another Buzzer-Beating Gut Punch

Photo Credit: University of Tennessee Athletics

By Justin Clemmer

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – After clawing all the way back from being down 17, Missouri’s DeAndre Gholston silenced the entire city of Knoxville with a single shot on Saturday evening. Tennessee has now lost back to back games at the buzzer.

The Vols had this game in their hands, even with Zakai Ziegler fouling out in the last minute. Santiago Vescovi went to the free throw line for two shots with Tennessee up two with four seconds left. Vescovi would miss his first attempt but was unable to get the second attempt after a lane violation from freshman Tobe Awaka. 

The fans at Thompson-Boling Arena were rocking all game, they stuck with the team through their 17-point deficit, but DeAndre Gholston sucked the life out of the building in an instant after his prayer of a three found the bottom of the net as time expired, giving the Tigers the 86-85 win over the Vols.

On a night where they gave up a season-high 86 points, it’s tough to fault the defense on that last possession. It was simply an incredible shot by Gholston.

The sour ending is such a shame for Tyreke Key, who tallied a 23 points on the night, with 21 of them coming in the second half. He was the driving force for Tennessee’s comeback.

“Keep being aggressive… that’s the reason they brought me here, to shoot,” Key said.

Key has seen his role diminish ever since Josiah-Jordan James has returned from injury. With James being out, he showed off what the team has been missing. His no-hesitation confidence on catch and shoot threes paired very well with the Vescovi and Ziegler back court tonight. 

Tennessee was down another man after Julian Phillips didn’t play in the second half due to a hip-flexor. This led to a nine minute stretch in the middle of the 2nd half where Tennessee didn’t make a single sub. 

The lineup of Zakai Ziegler, Tyreke Key, Santiago Vescovi, Jahmai Mashack, and Tobe Awaka felt like a blue-collar lineup. For that nine-minute stretch, Tennessee was getting to loose balls, hitting big shots, and overall just out-hustling Missouri. This lineup fought all the way back from down 17.

Unfortunately Missouri was just able to knock down tough shots. Tennessee came into the game first in the country in opponent three-point percentage at 22.8 percent. Tonight, Missouri shot 14 for 26 from deep, good for 53.8 percent. 

Some nights, the other team is just hot. Good offense can beat good defense. Tonight was one of those nights.

Post-game, Tennessee coach Rick Barnes was a lot more upbeat than most would be after back-to-back heartbreaking losses.

The Vols have now lost three of their last four games, and many would argue it should be four had it not been for a nail-biting home win against Auburn in a low scoring affair.

Post-game, Tennessee coach Rick Barnes was a lot more upbeat than most would be after back-to-back heartbreaking losses.

“I am proud of the way our guys fought,” Coach Barnes said.

A lot of good can be taken from tonight’s 17-point comeback that was snatched away in improbable fashion. Barnes knows that there is no time to hang any heads.

It’s now Bama week. A chin-up mentality is mandatory. Tennessee fans will quickly forget these jaw-dropping finishes if the Volunteers can defeat the No. 3 Crimson Tide this Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 7:00 p.m. ET.