The Missouri basketball team lost its conference home opener to Tennessee just after news broke that starting forward Jeremiah Tilmon will miss time with a stress fracture.
A four-game win streak has turned into a two-game losing streak to start the conference year for Missouri basketball. The Tigers fell to the Tennessee Volunteers 69-59 on Tuesday at Mizzou Arena. The loss drops Mizzou to 8-6 on the year, while Tennessee improves to 9-5.
That’s just the start of the bad news for the Tigers.
Before the game started, Mizzou announced that junior forward Jeremiah Tilmon will be out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his foot. That is horrible news as it costs Mizzou its top big man and one of its best players on the team. Without Tilmon, the Volunteers were able to out-rebound the Tigers by four boards, but Mizzou still had opportunities to score with 11 offensive rebounds.
Tennessee built a four-point lead at the half and grew its advantage to double digits early in the second half. But the Tigers came roaring back to take a 42-40 lead with a 14-2 run, highlighted by a pair of Mitchell Smith 3-pointers.
Halfway through the half, Tennessee led 48-46, but Mizzou took the lead minutes later and stretched it out to three points two different times. From there, the Volunteers closed the game out, starting with three treys in a row. The first came from freshman Josiah-Jordan James with 6:03 to play, and that was followed by a pair from fellow freshman Santiago Vescovi that gave Tennessee a 61-53 lead less than two minutes later.
The final four minutes was all Tennessee as the Volunteers left the building with a 10-point win.
Mizzou got a strong effort from Tray Jackson off the bench, which is great to see. The Tigers’ top recruit this season hasn’t seen the floor as much as expected so far, but in nine short minutes he picked up a team-high 11 points. That’s good news, but without Tilmon, Mizzou will need better efforts from its starting five.
Mitchell Smith scored 10 points while Dru Smith (6) and Mark Smith (7) weren’t as effective. Reed Nikko will pick up more minutes, but remember, Tilmon’s foul trouble has hurt him during his time with the Tigers. Nikko and others have seen the floor plenty with the absence of the star big man in the past.
Tilmon is averaging nine points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 12 games so far this season. He is fifth on the team in average minutes per contest.
The Tigers next have Florida on Saturday. The Gators come to Mizzou Arena for a 7:30 p.m tip-off time. Florida is 10-4 and 2-0 in the SEC after an 81-68 win over South Carolina on Tuesday.