Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Tramaine Isabell giveth. Tramaine Isabell giveth away.
After sitting the first 26 minutes of Missouri’s game Saturday against Tennessee, Isabell made his first three shots from the floor, including two 3s. But Missouri turned the ball over on three straight possessions — twice by Isabell — to launch a 14-3 Volunteer run that buried the Tigers at the end of the second half.
The late Tennessee surge led to a 59-51 defeat of the Tigers, who dropped their third straight Southeastern Conference game.
“You can’t pick the ball up at half court,” Missouri coach Kim Anderson said. “They’re going to swarm you, and that’s what they did.”
Anderson sat Isabell until the second half because of his low level of effort in practice this week.
“I hope that he can learn from this and grow from this and know that when he comes to practice every day, it doesn’t matter if you win or you lose, you have to come to play hard,” Anderson said.
The Tigers lost by 49 points Tuesday to Kentucky and the next two days Isabell had a “below-average practice performance,” Anderson said. The Tigers were hoping to bounce back from the blowout with their second home conference win in two tries.
“Our effort was really good, coming off of Kentucky,” Anderson said. “Obviously, tough deal. You go down and play them and get beat like we did, but we did bounce back. I thought we were a little tentative early, but we just kept plugging away.”
Effort didn’t translate to points early — for either team.
The Tigers and Volunteers made just one of their first 11 combined shots. Missouri was held scoreless until Johnathan WIlliams III hit a shot in the lane 3:29 into the game to tie the score at 2.
Missouri missed its first six 3-point attempts of the game after making only 1-of-18 against Kentucky. Keith Shamburger ended the drought 10 minutes into the game with a 3-pointer that gave Missouri its first lead of the day at 13-12.
The Tigers shot just 29 percent from the field in the first half and were blocked six times but trailed by just a basket at the half, 26-24.
“I really felt like we got some good shots,” Anderson said. “We just didn’t make them.”
Tennessee played a zone defense the whole game, which forced Missouri to take 22 3-pointers. The Tigers struggled to get past the zone and into the paint. Johnathan Williams III scored eight points in the first half but was held scoreless on one shot in the second.
“We weren’t really hitting any shots early,” said Namon Wright, who finished with a team-high 13 points. “I think if we would’ve hit some shots, it would’ve loosened up the zone a little bit.”
Anderson added: “I don’t know if it was the zone or us. We didn’t make shots.”
The Volunteers held their lead in the second half, but Missouri remained within striking distance.
Isabell finally checked in with 13:53 to play. He drained a 3-pointer less than a minute later, and his mid-range jumper with 9:49 to play brought Missouri within four. His third and final shot was a 3-pointer that tied the game for the first time in the half at 41. Isabell also tallied a smooth assist when he spotted Jakeenan Gant underneath the bucket to cap a 13-4 Missouri run.
Then the trouble began. Tennessee junior Kevin Punter hit a 3 to tie the game at 46 all, and, after the teams traded empty possessions, Isabell began the Tigers’ string of turnovers. Armani Moore turned Isabell’s error into a layup, and a turnover by Williams on the ensuing possession led to a Derek Reese layup. Isabell then had the ball stolen by Moore, and Wes Clark fouled before Robert Hubbs III dunked the Volunteers to a six-point edge.
Wright hit a 3-pointer to end a 3:24 scoring drought, but Tennessee sank 7-of-8 free throws down the stretch to secure the win.
The Tigers made five of their first seven 3s in the second half and 6-of-11 overall after halftime.
“For a while, didn’t seem like they were ever going to miss,” Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall said.
Wes Clark had one of Missouri’s second-half treys but shot 1-of-10 before that point. The Tigers shot 36.4 percent from the field overall, despite an improved 10-of-21 performance in the second half.
The Tigers held Josh Richardson, the fourth-leading scorer in the Southeastern Conference, to eight points. Punter, however, scored 12, and Moore had a double double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Freshman Montaque Gill-Caesar returned for the game after missing Missouri’s first three conference games with a back injury. Gill-Caesar was held scoreless on 0-of-4 shooting. Anderson, who graded Gill-Caesar as doubtable Thursday, said the team’s second-leading scorer was not quite back to 100 percent. Deuce Bello, who had been suspended for undisclosed academic reasons, also returned Saturday but did not play because of a sprained ankle.
Missouri is now 7-10 overall and 1-3 in conference play. Missouri’s lone SEC win came in its conference-opener against LSU. The Tigers return to the court Wednesday at Texas A&M, which defeated LSU on Saturday.