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Takeaways from Mizzou basketball’s 13th straight SEC loss, this one to Tennessee

The Missouri basketball team’s winless conference season continued Tuesday night, as the Tigers fell to No. 5 Tennessee at home, 72-67.

Missouri (8-18, 0-13 SEC) frustrated Tennessee (20-6, 10-3 SEC) early on as the Volunteers shot just 30% from the floor and failed to make a 3-pointer in the first half. The Tigers held a three-point lead at halftime thanks to some nice early shooting from Sean East II, but Tennessee’s offense warmed up in the second half and allowed the Volunteers to pull away.

Missouri struggled against Tennessee’s elite defense, particularly in the second half. The Tigers shot 37.5% from the field, turned the ball over 15 times and had five shots blocked.

The Tigers will travel to Fayetteville to take on Arkansas in Bud Walton Arena on Saturday, Feb. 24, at 11 a.m. Central (ESPN2).

Until then, here are three takeaways from the Tigers’ 13th straight SEC loss:

Defense starts strong for Missouri basketball

Both teams got off to sluggish starts, leading to a (very) low-scoring first half. The Volunteers were held scoreless for the first four-and-a-half minutes and only managed seven points in the first 10. They also struggled with turnovers, committing eight in the first half, and failed to make a 3-pointer, going 0-for-9 beyond the arc.

The Tigers’ start on offense was just as cold. They started 0-for-11 from the field and only managed to score two free throws on four attempts for the first 10 minutes. Their first made field goal came on a Tamar Bates 3-pointer that was followed by a Nick Honor layup on the next possession. Missouri suffered 10 turnovers but managed to convert three shots from long range to keep the score close.

The Tigers held a 29-26 lead at halftime.

Sean East II continues to make a difference for Missouri

In last week’s loss to Ole Miss, the Tigers welcomed back leading scorer Sean East II after he had missed two games with a knee contusion. East finished that game with 25 points, six assists and two rebounds.

His impact continued to be felt Tuesday. East again led the team in points with 24 and added a team-high six assists.

In two games without East, the Tigers lost by a combined 43 points. In the two games since he returned, Missouri has been more competitive against top SEC opponents — albeit in losing efforts.

Missouri holds Tennessee star in check, but not long enough

Tennessee’s Dalton Knecht has been one of the biggest breakout stars in the SEC this season. A transfer from Northern Colorado, Knecht entered averaging 20.1 points per game, good for second-best in the SEC.

The Tigers effectively shut down Knecht in the first half. He finished the half with two points, both of which came from the free-throw line. He started 0-for-10 from the field and did not make a field goal until seven minutes into the second half.

Once he started scoring, though, Missouri could not stop him. Knecht made his next five baskets, including three from long range, as the Volunteers pulled away.

Knecht finished with 17 points.

The Star has partnered with the Columbia Daily Tribune for coverage of Missouri Tigers athletics.