Because of the way the game ended, everybody's going to be talking about how this game was just a repeat of the same chorus of the same never ending song.
And in a lot of ways everybody would be right.
The Razorbacks had an eight-point lead with 11 minutes to go but only scored two points in the next six minutes. They still led by two with four minutes to go, then everything collapsed. Arkansas only made two field goals between the 11-minute mark and the 1-minute mark. And that was that.
Despite playing a very up-tempo game and playing three more players than the Vols, Arkansas was the team that faded down the stretch. The Fastest 40 once again failed in one of it's most fundamental goals: wearing down the opponent. You may remember this was the point of my recent column.
But the added shame of this game compared to the previous SEC games, was that for the first 29 minutes, Arkansas played extremely well. Here's a rundown of the box score:
- The Hogs shot 43.1% from the field overall, even with the drought at the end of the game, 41.2% from three (but only 64.7% from the free throw line).
- Arkansas stayed about even with Tennessee in rebounds - something that was thought to be a stat the Vols would dominate.
- The Hogs were up 19-7 in second chance points.
- Arkansas' bench outscored the Vols 25-6
- The Razorbacks scored more points in the paint 30-26
- Arkansas attempted 11 more field goals and shot a higher percentage (Vols shot 40.7%)
- Jarnell Stokes, who made the infamous comments this week that Tennessee should dominate Arkansas because the Hogs like size, was held to just seven points and six rebounds
So, how did Arkansas lose?
Reason #1: Jordan McRae destroyed the Hogs. He scored 34 points on 9-of-18 shooting and 12-of-14 from the stripe, seven rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and two steals in 36 minutes. Arkansas just couldn't stop him.
#2: Free throws. It's pretty normal for Arkansas' opponents to shoot more free throws than the Hogs due to Arkansas' (largely unnecessary) tendancy to shoot too many threes. However, the Vols actually shot more threes than Arkansas (and shot a lower percentage), but still got to the free throw line more than twice as often as the Hogs, 38 attempts to 17. I don't normally like to complain about officiating but that seems egregious. Tennessee shot 12 free throws before Arkansas got to the line at all. They called 29 fouls on Arkansas but only 15 on Tennessee. And this cannot be emphasized enough, Arkansas was not just settling for threes like usual.
#3: Dumb plays. Arkansas made them. The unnecessary intentional foul by Kikko Haydar, who otherwise was fantastic, with 2:52 left was a big swing. The Hogs were up two, then Jeronne Maymon made both the free throws and McRae hit a three to give the Vols the lead. It was a killer.
That wasn't the only play though. Rashad Madden tried to answer McRae with an ill-advised three of his own but missed badly.
Bobby Portis committed a really bad foul on Stokes when Stokes was deep in the backcourt catching a pass after Tennessee was already in the bonus.
There were several others.
I'll say this, I don't have any big issues with Mike Anderson's in-game moves this game. He put the hot hands on the floor in crunch time, but they couldn't get anything going. Fred Gulley and Haydar were a combined 8-for-8 on the night. Coty Clarke nearly had a double-double with 16 points and nine rebounds. Madden had 15 and eight. He was right to let those guys try to win the game.
You can quibble if you want. Anthlon Bell played 19 minutes and only scored three points out of six three-point attempts, while Alandise Harris only played six minutes. Moses Kingsley only played four minutes in the second half after eight in the first. But Anderson did wisely take Michael Qualls out of the game in crunch time as he's been struggling badly in SEC play.
But still, Arkansas had a chance to win, and they lost. Now they're sitting at 1-4 in SEC play. It's hard to have any positive thoughts right now. It feels like everything is over but there's still 13 conference games to go and the SEC Tournament. All we can hope for right now is that they can get some positive momentum going.