Knoxville, (TN.) — With major NCAA Tournament implications on the line, Arkansas needed to play competitively against Tennessee to help gain momentum going into the postseason. With only Tennessee and Kentucky left to play, Arkansas is running out of time to impress the selection committee to give it a decent seed placement.
Alas, tonight, the Hogs did not play competitively. In truth, arguably, it was their worst game of the year. In one game, all the problems Arkansas has struggled with this year reared their ugly heads like a Hydra that even Hercules couldn’t slay.
The game was just bad from the start. The Vols started with a 7-0 run and held Arkansas scoreless for nearly 4 minutes. A 3-point basket by Nick Smith Jr. finally got the Hogs started. Arkansas kept Tennessee’s lead from growing by more than 4 for the next 10 minutes, but the Vols started to dominate in the post. Arkansas gave up 9 offensive boards, 12 second-chance points, and 24 points in the paint compared to Arkansas’s 8, in the first half.
After all that, Arkansas still found itself only down by 9 at thehalf. Arkansas’s 3-point shooting kept them afloat. The Hogs hit four 3s in the half, including two in the final 3 minutes. Arkansas went into halftime down 34-25 with some hope of a second-half comeback.
Unfortunately, the second half was just a continuation of the first. In the first 10 seconds, Anthony Black turns the ball over with a double dribble. Seconds later Black had an opportunity to redeem himself with a steal but immediately makes an errant pass straight to Tennessee’s Jahmai Mashack that led to a dunk in transition by Jonas Aidoo.
Throughout the half, Arkansas continued its success from deep, hitting four more for a total of 8 in the game. The problem was that Tennessee‘s defense became a brick when the Hogs tried to drive. Arkansas finished with just 18 points in the paint.
Tennessee grew its lead to 20 with 5 minutes left in the game, and it was all but over. To make matters worse, Arkansas only made 3 field goals in the last 8 minutes, and all were in the last minute and 56 seconds. Arkansas loses an ugly one, 75-57.
Zakai Zeigler, Tennessee’s only true point guard, suffered an injury in the opening minutes of the game, but the Vols’ offense worked very well without him, especially in the second half. Arkansas allowed Tennessee to shoot 50% (27/54) from the fieldbut held them to 25% (4/16) from 3-point range. The Hogs forced 10 turnovers and stole 7. The Hogs were out-rebounded for the second game in a row, recording 32 boards to Tennessee’s 35.
Offensively, it was one of the worst games Arkansas has played. The Razorbacks shot just 36% (18-49) and 36% (8-22) from deep. Another Achilles Heel for the Hogs—the free throw line—was also unkind to them. Arkansas shot just 59% from the charity stripe. The Hogs almost had as many turnovers (16) as they did field goals made (18), and only recorded 8 assists, making it a 1:2 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Devo Davis and Anthony Black recorded team-highs in scoring with 13 points each. Nick Smith Jr. followed close behind with 12. Davis and Black also led the team in rebounding with 6 and 5, respectively.
Arkansas will play its final game of the season against Kentucky at Bud Walton Arena on Saturday, March 4th. The Wildcats are much improved since losing to the Hogs less than a month ago and will be looking for revenge. After dropping the ball tonight against the Vols, Arkansas will be looking to garner some momentum before heading into the postseason. Tipoff is scheduled for 1:00 pm CST.