KNOXVILLE — Jordan McRae scored 15 points and Jarnell Stokes recorded a double-double Saturday as Tennessee rallied from an eight-point, second-half deficit to beat Missouri 64-62 and boost its NCAA tournament hopes.
McRae, who had averaged 25.8 points in the six games leading up to this one, went scoreless in the first 18 1/2 minutes and didn’t make his first basket until 14:33 remained. But he heated up from there and scored seven points in an 11-0 run that put Tennessee ahead for good.
Stokes added 13 points and 13 rebounds as Tennessee (19-11, 11-7 Southeastern Conference) won for the eighth time in its last nine games. Trae Golden had 12 points and Josh Richardson added 11 points.
Laurence Bowers scored 20 points for Missouri (22-9, 11-7). Phil Pressey had 10 points and nine assists, but he was well off the mark on a 3-point attempt that would have tied the game with 12.6 seconds left.
After Pressey’s shot landed out of bounds, Golden made a pair of free throws to put Tennessee ahead 64-59 with 11 seconds remaining. Missouri’s Earnest Ross made a 3-pointer at the buzzer to account for the final score.
This game continued Missouri’s recent road frustration. Missouri is 2-8 in true road games this season, but its last five road losses were decided by a total of 16 points, including a 90-83 overtime loss at Kentucky.
Missouri led this game 50-42 midway through the second half before Tennessee rallied. Tennessee pulled ahead for good 54-53 on McRae’s putback of a Stokes miss with 5:36 remaining.
It was only fitting that an offensive rebound produced the decisive basket. Missouri entered the day ranked second in the nation with 41.4 rebounds per game and leading the SEC in rebound margin (plus-10.1), but Tennessee outrebounded the Tigers 45-32.
That wasn’t the only surprise Saturday in the regular-season finale for both teams. Tennessee forward Quinton Chievous, a bit player for most of the season, picked an appropriate time to play the best game of his young career.
Chievous’ father, former NBA first-round draft pick Derrick Chievous, racked up 2,580 points for Missouri from 1985-88 and remains the school’s all-time leading scorer. But the redshirt freshman had struggled to earn playing time and make an impact this season.
That all changed Saturday against his dad’s former team.
Chievous established career highs in points (seven), rebounds (five) and assists (two). He had seven points and four rebounds in the first half alone as Tennessee overcame Missouri’s sizzling start to forge a halftime tie.
Missouri grabbed an early 17-10 lead by making eight of its first 11 shots, but the Tigers cooled off after senior forwards Alex Oriakhi and Laurence Bowers got in foul trouble.
Bowers scored nine points in the first 6 1/2 minutes of the game before picking up his second foul and sitting out the rest of the first half. Missouri led 19-14 when Oriakhi joined Bowers on the bench after getting called for his second foul with 7:52 left until halftime.
Tennessee proceeded to go on a 12-2 run to grab a 26-21 lead. Missouri responded late in the first half and tied the game on Tony Criswell’s putback at the halftime buzzer.
The game would be tied four more times in the first 5 1/2 minutes of the second half before Bowers sank a 3-pointer to put Missouri ahead 40-37 with 14:21 remaining. Bowers added a layup and a pair of free throws to spark a 6-0 run that gave Missouri a 50-42 advantage with 10:07 left.
That’s when McRae finally came to the rescue.
McRae stopped Missouri’s 6-0 run by sinking his first 3-pointer of the night. He made another 3-pointer to cut Missouri’s lead to 53-52 with 6:35 remaining. He converted an offensive rebound a minute later to put Tennessee back in front. And he capped an 11-0 spurt by making two free throws with 3:06 left.