COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) Tennessee coach Rick Barnes asked the young guys on his bench at halftime, when the fifth-ranked Volunteers were losing to struggling Missouri, what they needed to turn things around over the final 20 minutes.

“They said, ‘I think we need more effort,’” Barnes recalled.

Dalton Knecht provided that, scoring 15 of his 17 points after the break, and a bigger lineup Barnes used out of the locker room paid off as Tennessee rallied from a seven-point deficit to beat the Tigers 72-67 on Tuesday night.

Tobe Awaka had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Jonas Aidoo added 14 points and Zakai Zeigler 10 for the Vols (20-6, 10-3), whose fifth straight win at Mizzou Arena allowed them to close within a half game of No. 13 Alabama in the SEC race.

“We knew they were going to come in and fight and it's hard to do that when you've had the kind of conference season they've had,” Barnes said, “but they came in and fought. I thought in the first half they played with a greater sense of urgency.”

Sean East II scored 24 points and Noah Carter had 20 for the Tigers (8-18, 0-13), who have lost 15 of their last 16 overall.

“They're well-balanced. They have everything you need that's a characteristic of a national championship team," Missouri coach Dennis Gates said. "They have inside play, they have depth, they have shooting."

The Vols also drew a lot of fouls, which Gates said his own team was “terrible” at doing - while dropping a four-letter word that begins with “F” and he pointedly asked reporters not to “bleep out" while transcribing his comments.

The Vols and Tigers combined for a single point - Carter's free throw for Missouri - over the first four-plus minutes, missing the first 10 field-goal attempts and turning the ball over seven times in a sloppy and disjointed start to the game.

The Tigers didn't make a field goal until Tamar Bates hit a 3-pointer with 10:55 left in the first half.

Tennessee was unable to take advantage, though, because a team that has struggled to get off to good starts the past six weeks had an even tougher time scoring. Knecht missed his first eight shots, the Vols started 0 for 9 from the 3-point arc and they had nearly as many turnovers (eight) as field goals (nine) over the first 20 minutes.

“If we weren't going to make shots,” Carter said, “we weren't going to let them make shots.”

Missouri led 29-26 at the half, the fourth time in the last 12 games that Tennessee was held to 28 points or fewer.

But while the Vols lost the other three games, they were able to overcome their slow start against the Tigers, wiping away a 42-35 deficit in just a couple of minutes midway through the second half Tuesday night.

Knecht's runner in the lane gave Tennessee a 50-49 lead, he buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key on his next drip down the floor, and the SEC's leading scorer wound up scoring 10 points over four consecutive trips to extend the Vols' lead.

Tennessee was never seriously threatened down the stretch.


Tennessee simply looked out of sorts for much of Tuesday night. That included Knecht, who committed only 17 turnovers over his last 16 games but coughed the ball up five times against the Tigers.

Missouri got into foul trouble in the second half, losing big man Jordan Butler to fouls with 10 minutes to go. That not only forced the Tigers to dial back their physical defense but also gave Tennessee too many free points at the line.


Tennessee begins a two-game homestand against Texas A&M on Saturday night.

Missouri plays the first of two games on the road at Arkansas on Saturday.


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