COLUMBIA, Mo. — Tennessee coach Rick Barnes told Kyle Alexander to stop thinking about scoring and concentrate only on defense and rebounding.
Since the talk last week, the points and rebounds have come in bunches for the 6-foot-11 senior forward.
Alexander scored 14 points and grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds as third-ranked Tennessee routed Missouri 87-63 Tuesday at Mizzou Arena. It was Alexander’s second straight double-double in Southeastern Conference play.
“He’s telling you everything you don’t want to hear, but you need to hear,” Alexander said of his talk with Barnes. “Those are kind of like the father-son meetings, the talks with your dad. They’re beneficial, but you don’t always want to hear what he has to say.”
The Volunteers (13-1, 2-0 SEC) displayed their depth against the Tigers (9-4, 0-1 SEC). Grant Williams entered as the conference’s leading scorer at 19.9 points per game, but he scored just four before fouling out.
No matter. Jordan Bowden came off the bench and scored 20 points for the second straight game, Jordan Bone added 17 points and Admiral Schofield finished with 16 points and nine rebounds.
Freshman guard Xavier Pinson scored 14 points and Jordan Geist had 12 first-half points for Missouri. The Tigers were playing for just the second time since Dec. 22, and they began with a flurry. Led by the scoring and passing of Geist, they took a 27-18 lead when Geist made a nifty feed to Kevin Puryear for a dunk with 7:04 left in the first half.
But Jeremiah Tilmon and Mark Smith — two of Missouri’s top three scorers — sat most of the first half with foul trouble, and the Tigers couldn’t sustain their early surge.
“We had good momentum, good energy, but you have guys out there playing extended minutes that aren’t used to playing that many minutes in those situations,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said.
The Volunteers finished the half on a 24-4 spurt to take a 42-31 lead. The advantage grew quickly in the second half as Alexander helped Tennessee hold a 38-29 rebounding edge.
Alexander, who has packed on 30 pounds since arriving at Tennessee as a wispy 195-pound freshman, controlled the paint.
“I used to struggle to get a point up on the board my first two years,” Alexander said. “The fact I scored 14 and I didn’t really even make a post move, that’s crazy.”
Alexander’s defense — he blocked three shots — and rebounding pleased Barnes most.
“He’s making the extra effort to use his length and tip the ball to himself and go get it,” Barnes said. “That’s what he’s doing, and you’ve got to give him all the credit.”
Missouri: The Tigers like to run their offense through Jeremiah Tilmon in the post, but his inability to stay on the floor because of foul trouble makes that a dicey proposition. The 6-foot-10 sophomore forward committed an offensive foul trying to bull through a double team with 17:45 left in the first half and compounded the mistake with an angry reaction that drew a technical foul. He sat the rest of the first half. He committed his third foul 46 seconds into the second half and finished with three points in nine minutes before fouling out.
Tennessee: Junior guard Lamonte Turner missed nine of Tennessee’s first 12 games with a shoulder injury. In his second game back, he scored nine points on 3-of-5 shooting from 3-point range against Missouri. He played 29 minutes before fouling out.
“With the addition of Lamonte, that changed the game for them,” Martin said. “He’s just as fast as Bone, and he can shoot the ball and is an aggressive shooter from 3. They were already good, but he takes them to another level.”
Missouri: Visit South Carolina on Saturday.
Tennessee: Tries to stay perfect in the SEC on Saturday at Florida.
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