KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP)D’Andre Gholston hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Missouri a stunning 86-85 victory over No. 6 Tennessee on Saturday night.
With 4.2 seconds left in the game and the Volunteers (19-6, 8-4 Southeastern Conference) leading 85-83, Santiago Vescovi missed a free throw. His second attempt was waived off when Tobe Awaka committed a lane violation, setting up a final chance for the Tigers (19-6, 7-5).
Gholston took the inbounds and dribbled up the court before taking an off-balance contested 3-pointer from about 30 feet that swished through the net at the buzzer for the win. He was mobbed by his teammates after hitting the shot.
”I knew Dre wasn’t going to pass,” said Missouri coach Dennis Gates. Gholston hit a game-winning shot earlier in the season against Central Florida.
The end was similar to Tennessee’s Wednesday night loss to Vanderbilt. Vescovi missed a free throw then and a 3-pointer at the buzzer ended the game. The Vols have now lost three of the last four.
”This had a different feel than the other night,” said Tennessee coach Rick Barnes. ”We all hurt for (Vescovi). He’s hurting. He’s won a lot of games for us.”
Tennessee came back from a 17-point deficit early in the second half and led the last 7:11 of the game. Tyreke Key came off the bench to score 21 of his 23 points after intermission.
Key connected on five 3-pointers to help the Volunteers recover from the huge hole that happened early in the second half. Vescovi, who scored 16 points, hit back-to-back 3-pointers that finally pulled Tennessee ahead with 7:15 to go in the game.
Zakai Zeigler had 11 points and 10 assists for the Vols.
”We almost panicked,” said Gates. ”Our guys stayed with the game plan. We were able to move the ball and challenged ourselves on the 3-point line (the Tigers shot 54%, 14 of 26). That’s our identity.”
Kobe Brown scored 21 to lead the Tigers. Gholston finished with 18 points, Sean East had 17 points, and D’Moi Hodge added 14.
”I’m proud we were able to execute under adverse situations,” Gates said.
Barnes is normally liberal with his substitutions. He kept one lineup in for nearly eight minutes while the Vols recovered from the deficit. Two starters – Julian Phillips (hip flexor) and Josiah-Jordan James – were missing. Phillips tried to play, but couldn’t do much. James didn’t dress.
Missouri, which shoots 34% from 3-point on the season, hit 50% (8 of 16) of its long range shots in the first half en route to a 44-32 lead. It was the fifth time Tennessee has trailed at halftime.
”(Missouri) shot the ball extremely well (in the first half),” said Barnes. ”We gave a good effort. We needed to change the game.”
After losing to Vanderbilt Wednesday and now Missouri, Tennessee is destined to fall from No. 6, likely out of the Top 10. Missouri is receiving votes.
Missouri: Last season, the Tigers were 13th out of 14 in steals in the SEC. This year, they lead the nation with 255, heading into Saturday’s game. . Transfers D’Moi Hodge and Tre Gomillion, both former Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year, are the primary reasons for the turnaround along with Nick Honor. . Gomillion (groin) and Ronnie Gray III (knee) have been hobbled by injuries.
Tennessee: Saturday’s sellout crowd of over 20,000 gives the Vols an average attendance of 18,212, good enough for No. 4 in the country. . Josiah-Jordan James went down with an ankle injury against Vanderbilt. He didn’t dress Saturday and his availability for the Alabama game is in doubt. Jonas Aidoo started in his place. With about 6 minutes left in the first half, freshman guard B.J. Edwards reported in for his first playing time other than mop-up duty.
Missouri: The Tigers will be on the road again Tuesday when they play at Auburn. This is the first meeting between the teams.
Tennessee: The Vols will have an opportunity at home to take a swing at SEC leader Alabama Wednesday night.