Missouri tops Tennessee Vols despite McRae's 31

Missouri tops Tennessee Vols despite McRae's 31

February 16th, 2014 by Patrick Brown in Sports - College

Missouri's Tony Criswell, right, shoots over Tennessee's Josh Richardson, left, during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday in Columbia, Mo. Missouri won 75-70.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Missouri's Earnest Ross, left, dribbles around Tennessee's Antonio Barton as he heads toward the basket during their NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, in Columbia, Mo.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Tennessee again came down the stretch of a basketball game with a key win up for grabs.

The Volunteers again came up short of boosting their NCAA tournament hopes.

Missouri created some breathing room with a late 5-0 spurt, survived a lengthy final minute and stole a Tennessee inbounds pass in the final seconds as the Tigers beat the visiting Vols 73-70 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo., on Saturday.

"It doesn't get any easier, so we've just got to pick our boots back up and go back to work," Tennessee guard Josh Richardson said on the Vol Network radio broadcast following the game.

Four days after third-ranked Florida outscored Tennessee 12-4 in the final 4:32 of a win in Knoxville, Missouri took control of a Southeastern Conference game that featured seven ties and 10 lead changes -- many of them in a back-and-forth second half -- with five straight points, turning a 66-65 lead with 3:53 left into a 71-65 advantage before a frantic final half-minute.

After Jordan McRae, who led Tennessee (15-10, 6-6) with 31 points, scored to pull the Vols within one, Missouri took control on Jabari Brown's reverse layup and Jordan Clarkson's floater on consecutive trips.

During that stretch, McRae threw away an outlet pass, Jeronne Maymon missed a contested layup, Jarnell Stokes was whistled for an illegal screen, Antonio Barton missed a 3-pointer and McRae was called for a charge after Maymon rebounded his miss of a 3.

McRae had tied the game at 62 on a 3 with 5:39 left, but Brown and Clarkson, the two guards who combine to average 40 points per game, scored Missouri's next eight points.

"They did a good job, and I thought we did a tremendous job in guarding Clarkson," Vols coach Cuonzo Martin said. "He made two big pull-ups to win the game [and] keep his team ahead. I thought Brown did a great job of really attacking and keeping the dribble alive and making plays getting to the rim."

With Tennessee trailing 71-65, Richardson hit three free throws, then two others after Missouri turned the ball over getting it inbounds.

Brown, the SEC's leading scorer who poured in 24 on Saturday, hit two free throws with 15.2 seconds left.

On Tennessee's final possession, McRae missed a decent look at a tying 3 from the top of the key, but Brown stole Maymon's pass from in front of the Vols' bench after Missouri (18-7, 6-6) knocked the rebound of McRae's shot out of bounds.

"That was the play we had to get it over the top, because in that corner position, Antonio's probably too small to get it over, so you have Jeronne take the ball out," Martin said.

"We've got a play where Jordan comes around two guys screening for him and Josh fades out to the opposite side."

While Tennessee was just 4-of-21 on 3-pointers -- McRae was 3-of-11 -- Missouri attacked with its guard trio of Brown, Clarkson and Earnest Ross, three transfers who score 71 percent of the Tigers' points.

Missouri outscored Tennessee 40-26 in the paint and made 20 of 26 free throws.

Stokes scored 11 points in the first half, but Tennessee's big man got just one shot in the second half and finished with seven for the game, even though most of Missouri's frontcourt was in serious foul trouble with more than 10 minutes to play.

"I don't know," he told reporters after the game. "I felt like I could score. I don't know.

"I was well aware of [Missouri's foul trouble]," he added. "I don't want to point any fingers. I did good in the first half and shot a good percentage and felt like I could have rebounded better, but why I didn't get it, I don't know."

Martin said Tennessee ran plays for Stokes "every time down" but credited Missouri's defense.

"They were hovering around him," he said. "I thought a couple times he didn't dive as hard as he normally dives because he probably felt like the double was coming. Then he started flashing a little bit -- he hit Josh on a dive [for a dunk] -- as opposed to really posting aggressively.

"I told him, 'Jarnell, you might not get a lot of points the way they'll guard you, especially when those big guys would get in foul trouble, so you've got to still post deep and find other guys.'"

Brown scored 11 early points as Missouri jumped to a 13-point lead. The Tigers hit eight of their first nine shots, with four of those baskets coming in transition, including three-point plays by Brown and Clarkson. Missouri finished the half with a 12-0 advantage in fastbreak points.

McRae pulled the Vols back into the game, scoring eight points in a 15-6 run to cut Missouri's lead to four, and the Tigers led just 41-37 at halftime despite shooting 61.5 percent and scoring 24 points in the paint.

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.