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Feb 18, 2024 8:20 pm

No. 8 Tennessee out to continue Missouri’s 12-game skid

tennessee zeigler

No. 8 Tennessee has been in peak offensive and defensive form heading into the stretch run of the Southeastern Conference season.

The Volunteers (19-6, 9-3 SEC) rolled over Arkansas 92-63 and Vanderbilt 88-53 in their last two games.

Now they will try to do the same to undermanned Missouri (8-17, 0-12) Tuesday in Knoxville, Tenn. The Tigers have lost 12 straight games.

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes was able to spread playing time during the two lopsided victories, giving his starters some rest ahead of “March Madness” while giving some of his younger players more experience.

Guard Dalton Knecht, the Volunteers’ leading scorer with 20.1 points per game, scored 14 points in 22 minutes against Vanderbilt. Guard Zakai Zeigler, who averages 11.0 per game, scored 14 in 24 minutes.

“Both of those guys, hopefully they can benefit from it because we do have a quick turnaround Tuesday,” Barnes said. “(Sunday) we’ll just scrub the game out and have a prep day to get ready and go play.

“I guess we’ll find out after the (Missouri) game because I’m a big rhythm person. I think that when a team gets in a rhythm, you want to try to ride that wave, but with that thought in mind, I hope that because they have played so many minutes this year, that it’ll benefit them not playing as many tonight.”

Against Vanderbilt, 11 Volunteers got double-digit minutes and nobody played more than 25.

“Really pleased with the young guys trying to play the game the right way at the end,” Barnes said. “I thought that was really important and I thought those minutes were really good for them. But they respected the game in terms of trying to play it the right way.”

With the losses mounting for his injury-depleted team, Missouri coach Dennis Gates keeps searching for positives to stress. Freshman center Jordan Butler and sophomore forward Aidan Shaw had strong games at Mississippi on Saturday as the Tigers fell 79-76.

Butler and Shaw could be key players for Missouri next season as the program tries to rebound.

“What a great game by Jordan Butler,” Gates said. “I thought we saw him grow up today, he did a tremendous job. He played (28) minutes, he came away with 10 points and four rebounds and I thought he physically had Ole Miss changed their game plan by playing without two former all-defensive centers and shot blockers. And when you’re able to do that as a freshman and make a team go small, that’s a tremendous, tremendous deal.

“Aidan Shaw had 10 points, five rebounds. Those two guys did an unbelievable job tonight. And instead of focusing on other negative things, I would like to focus on those two guys, their performances. Because for us to be able to be in his game — we wouldn’t be in this game without those two.”

Sean East II, Missouri’s leading scorer at 16.0 per game, scored a season-high 25 points against the Rebels after missing the previous two games with a knee contusion.

–Field Level Media

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