Mizzou struggles in loss at Tennessee

File photo

File photo

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Antonio Barton scored 16 points and Jarnell Stokes had a double-double Saturday as Tennessee trounced Missouri 72-45 to win its fourth straight game and boost its NCAA tournament hopes.

Tennessee (20-11, 11-7 SEC) hasn’t trailed at any point during its winning streak. Its last three games have been decided by an average margin of 31 points.

Barton shot four of 7 from three-point range against Missouri and has now gone 13 of 22 from behind the arc over his last three games. Stokes had 15 points and 10 rebounds. Jordan McRae added 11 points.

Jordan Clarkson had 13 points for Missouri (21-10, 9-9).

Both Tennessee and Missouri are perceived to be on the NCAA tournament bubble, raising the stakes in this regular-season finale for both teams. Missouri had beaten Tennessee 75-70 on Feb. 15 in Columbia, but Saturday’s rematch bore no resemblance to that game.

The Tigers shot 56.5 percent in their victory over Tennessee last month. Missouri shot 32 percent (15 of 47) overall and was two of 17 from three-point range Saturday while recording its lowest point total of the season.

Missouri’s Jabari Brown, who entered the day leading the SEC with 20.1 points per game, shot one of 10 and was held to eight points. His only basket came with 1:19 left in the game. Brown scored 24 points against Tennessee last month.

Tennessee grabbed a 37-19 halftime lead by crushing Missouri on the boards and from 3-point range.

At the start of the day, Tennessee was second in the SEC and Missouri third in rebound margin. But their matchup Saturday turned into a mismatch. In the first half, Stokes nearly outrebounded Missouri by himself. Stokes had 10 boards in the first half to give Tennessee a 23-12 rebounding edge. Tennessee ended up outrebounding Missouri 45-28.

Tennessee also shot six of 16 from three-point range in the first half while Missouri was just one of six. Tennessee got some long-range contributions from unlikely sources. Armani Moore, who entered the day eight of 32 from three-point range in his college career, made both his first-half attempts from behind the arc. The Vols cooled off from long range in the second half, going one of eight, but the game already was pretty much out of reach by then.

While Tennessee was on fire early, Missouri had nearly had as many first-half turnovers (six) as baskets (seven).

Missouri briefly threatened to make a game of it early in the second half.

McRae picked up his third foul on a Ryan Rosburg three-point play that cut Tennessee’s lead to 39-25 with 17:25 left. With McRae on the bench in foul trouble and plenty of time remaining, Missouri had a chance to rally.

Tennessee instead responded with a 10-0 run to put the game away. The Vols’ lead never dipped below 22 points the rest of the way as they delighted the partisan crowd with five second-half dunks, including a reverse jam from McRae that resulted in a three-point play with 3:58 remaining.

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