The Tennessee Volunteers took down #19 Arkansas 74-69 in a battle that lasted all the way down to the final horn.
This was a much needed win after being blown out by Alabama on their home floor just days earlier. The victory also gave the Vols their second win this season over a ranked team.
Tennessee came out and scored on their first three possessions, as offense had to be one of the focal points in practice this week after a poor showing their last time out. The Vols shot 14-30 in the first half and also out-rebounded Arkansas’s stout frontcourt 17 to 16.
Josh Richardson went 4-5 from the field and 2-3 from beyond the arc to give him 10 first half points. He also chipped in with 3 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 first half assists, after he failed to record an assist last Saturday, the first time he had failed to do so all year. Robert Hubbs III also had a great first half. He went a perfect 4-4 from the field and scored 9 points. Derek Reese also contributed down low with 6 points and 3 rebounds.
Bobby Portis was kept in check by a tough Tennessee defense for most of the first half but finally broke loose towards the end of the half. He shot 4-6 from the field, scored 8 points and recorded 5 rebounds in the first half. Tennessee secured a 2-point halftime lead thanks to Arkansas’s ongoing struggle to take care of the ball. The Razorbacks allowed 9 turnovers which led to 16 points for the Volunteers.
The Vols started a 20-7 run right out of the locker room. Mostella ignited the crowd at Thompson-Boling by hitting two 3-pointers, all 6 of his points, in back to back possessions. Tennessee kept up their attack on the rim all half, but Arkansas mounted a comeback towards the very end of the game. The Razorbacks scored 11 points, including three 3’s in the last minute of regulation.
Facing a three-point deficit, Aton Beard took the ball up the court, and with five seconds left in the game, left his feet for either a shot or a pass, when Kevin Punter ran into him. The official said that Beard was in mid-shot, so he was headed to the line with a chance to tie the game. He couldn’t come through and missed all three of his shots, which gave Tennessee their 10th win of the year and second win in conference play.
Josh Richardson scored 20 points on 8-11 shooting. He is now only 15 points away from reaching the 1,000-career point milestone, which only 46 other Vols have accomplished. He also contributed with 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Robert Hubbs had a career-high 16 points on 6-7 shooting from the field. He also hit two important free throws that secured Tennessee’s lead. Armani Moore had another great game with 14 points on 6-8 shooting and chipped in with 8 rebounds and 2 assists. Derek Reese scored 7 points and grabbed 6 rebounds. Kevin Punter struggled. He finished with 8 points, thanks to his 6-9 free-throw shooting but went 1-8 from the field.
Arkansas’s Bobby Portis finished with 17 points on 8-14 shooting and also grabbed 11 rebounds. Michael Qualls made some athletic plays, scored 15 points on 5-11 shooting and grabbed 5 rebounds. Even though Anton Beard missed all three free throws which could have tied the game, he did score 12 points on 4-6 shooting.
Tennessee shot 51 percent from the field and 46 percent from three-point range, much better numbers than the 31 percent they shot from the field last Saturday. “It’s all about one game at a time,” said forward Armani Moore. “Last game wasn’t the best game, but we came out and executed tonight.”
Tennessee was able to take advantage of Arkansas’s 18 turnovers by scoring 27 points off them and also won the rebound battle 33-32. The Vols scored 40 points in the paint, but were lucky to escape with the win. Tennessee only shot 14-26 from the line and surrendered 14 turnovers.
“We beat a top 25 team before and we can do it again,” said Robert Hubbs III. “If we work hard, this team can win each and every game.” While Tennessee did get the job done tonight, their poor late-game strategy shows that they still are a team that needs to learn how to hold on to leads and how to win.
Tennessee takes the floor next at Missouri against a tough Tigers team this Saturday.
Edited by Maggie Jones