By Garrett Jones
Missouri men’s basketball lost its second Southeastern Conference game of 2020 on Tuesday night at Mizzou Arena- but a larger storyline emerged before tip-off.
An hour prior to the game’s start, the team announced center Jeremiah Tilmon is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his foot.
“We got a second opinion yesterday,” Martin said on the injury. “So, we’ll see.”
Missouri’s junior center leads the team in field goal percentage, while ranking second in points and rebounds per game. He played just eight minutes in Saturday’s loss at Kentucky, despite being cleared after suffering the injury in the team’s Dec. 21 win over Illinois.
Senior Reed Nikko made his second straight as a replacement. Tennessee took advantage early- dominating Missouri inside with three early blocks. Martin said he was also playing with a thigh bruise.
Nikko scored only two points, while fellow post reserve Park Braun was held scoreless in the first frame. Even so, the Tigers outscored the Volunteers 10-8 in first-half paint points. A normally hard-nosed Missouri defense also allowed Tennessee to shoot over 45 percent from outside and 30 percent from three.
Tennessee assistant coach Kim English also made his return to Mizzou for the first time since graduating from the school in 2013. He also played a prominent role in breaking up a skirmish between Tiger and Volunteer players after a hard foul.
After Tennessee used a 9-0 run to build a double digit lead, Missouri roared back with a 12-2 run of its own, culminating with a stifling defensive possession to stick in the game. Freshman Tray Jackson ignited the run with a career-best 11 points, seven of them coming in the mid-second half run.
“I was happy with the way Tray (Jackson) played,” Martin said. “He has an agressive mentality.”
Missouri grabbed a 53-50 lead thanks to Jackson’s play, but the Volunteers roared back with an 11-0 run with 4:30 left. It was more than enough, as Tennessee weathered the foul game for a 69-59 win.
“Give them credit for coming back,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said postgame. “We’ve had some meltdowns in the past, but tonight we were able to do enough to get a win.”
Tennessee is in action next at South Carolina on Saturday. Missouri hosts Florida that night at 7:30- you can hear the game starting with Tiger Tip-Off presented by El Rancho at 7:15 on KCOU 88.1 FM and kcou.fm in the blue box.