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Tennessee declaws previously unbeaten Missouri Tigers

The Tennessee Lady Volunteers declawed the previously undefeated Missouri Tigers, in a game that saw a disparity of nearly double in free throw attempts.

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Columbia, MO -- The Missouri Tigers, statistically speaking, are a better team than the Tennessee Lady Volunteers. They rank 45th in defense, giving up an average of 55.8 points per game; they rank 18th in defense, at 80 points per game. They are four spots better than Tennessee on defense, and a massive 133 spots better on offense. On paper, this is a matchup in favor of the undefeated Tigers.

The Lady Volunteers defied those traditional statistics and dropped the hammer on their rival Tigers, winning handily by a score of 71-55. The game wasn't as close as the final margin indicates; an even 18-18 split for both home and visitor in the fourth quarter was the only quarter that Missouri didn't lose. They were beaten in the first and third, scoring a combined 22 points and giving up 36.

Neither team shot well. The Lady Vols finished at 40% from the field and 33.3% from three point range, while the Tigers 32.8% from the field and 9.5% from three point range. But the volume of Missouri shots was higher, too, and they only finished with one less field goal made than the Lady Vols.

Where the real difference was in free throw attempts: Tennessee attempted 32 free throws, and made 22 of them, a make rate of 68.8%. The Tigers, on the other hand, shot only 17, and made 11, a make rate of 64.7%.

That free throw disparity masks the relative nearness these two teams share. For the Lady Vols to have 32 attempted free throws and for the Tigers to only have 17 could be reasonably characterized as flukey. Tennessee is a talented, top-15 team, but it isn't 16 points better than the previously undefeated Tigers.

The Tigers, in turn, were exposed in some ways by the Lady Vols tonight, and are probably not as good as their record and traditional statistics indicate. Missouri isn't likely to hit less than 10% of their three point shots, as they average 34% usually; the Lady Vols, as well, won't be a full six points higher on their scoring average.

The #12 10-3 Tennessee Lady Vols take on 12-2 Florida in the next game, while the (currently) #20 13-1 Missouri Tigers take on the 12-2 Georgia Lady Bulldogs.