Last Sunday morning, an ugly loss to Alabama fresh in my brain, I sat on the sports Source TV set and predicted Tennessee’s basketball men would go 0-2 this week. I elaborated that the Vols could probably beat Missouri if the game were in Knoxville, but not in Columbia. And that they wouldn’t beat Arkansas anywhere.
Wrong and wrong.
The Vols did beat No. 19 Arkansas in Thompson-Boling and I just watched them beat Mizzou 59-51 here in Columbia.
Vols 2-0. Me 0-2.
Both wins were impressive. But in my book road wins are especially impressive. Tennessee has won at Mississippi State and Missouri to get off to a surprising 3-1 SEC start. Now, Starkville and Mizzou might turn out to be the two least difficult venues to knock off a road win but that doesn’t mean they’re easy. A road win is a road win.
It was appropriate that Kevin Punter knocked down the big shot tonight, a 3-pointer with 4:48 to play to end a 17-6 Missouri rally and knot the score at 46-46. Punter, a junior from The Bronx, was briefly a Missouri commitment while playing last year at State Fair Community College down I-70 in Sedalia, Mo. Punter had committed to the Tigers when Frank Haith was the coach. When Haith bolted for Tulsa, new UT coach Donnie Tyndall swooped in and stole Punter. Mizzou’s “The Antlers” student section is next level at heckling. They were on Punter from the moment he came on the court to warm up for before tipoff. I asked him about it later. No big deal, he said. Just another game. Approach them all the same. Punter also made four free throws in the final 42 seconds. There wasn’t much heckling going on at that point.
One last note: Tennessee had never won in Columbia in three previous tries. Two of them were pre-SEC and the third was last year.