No. 19 Tennessee opens up conference play with a trip to Arkansas

Tennessee is set to take on its first SEC opponent of the year in Arkansas, as the Vols look to continue their impressive play as they begin their conference schedule.

Arkansas (10-2) will host the No. 19 Tennessee (9-2) at Bud Walton Arena in Fayateville on Saturday afternoon. Head coach Rick Barnes and the Vols have worked their way up the polls with big power five wins over No. 14 Purdue, NC State, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. The Volunteers only two losses came against No. 1 Villanova and No. 13 North Carolina, the past two national champions.

Sophomore forward Grant Williams leads Tennessee as he is averaging 15 points and nearly seven rebounds per game. However, sophomore guard Jordan Bowman has been a huge spark for the Volunteers in recent games. Bowden has tallied 28 points, nine rebounds and four assists in his past two games against Furman and Wake Forest.

After a close 66-61 win over Furman last week, the Vols exploded in the second half to snap Wake Forest’s six game win streak 79-60. Bowden shot a perfect 5-of-5 from beyond-the-arc and hit a dagger 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to put Tennessee up 75-60 with two minutes remaining.

“He plays off his teammates,” Barnes said of Bowden. “We try to tell him to be more aggressive. But I think a lot of it is he knows himself, he knows when he needs to go.”

The Volunteers foul trouble nearly proved costly against Wake Forest as they logged 13 first-half fouls. However, Tennessee was able to keep it close with Admiral Schofield and Williams on the bench going into halftime. This allowed the Vols to outscore Wake Forest 43-25 in the second half to take home a win.

The Razorbacks have won their last five games and rank No. 9 in the country in scoring offense as they average 90 points per game. Arkansas has five players that average over double-digit points per game. Senior guard Jaylen Barford leads the way for the Razorbacks with nearly 19 points per game so far this season. Barford has registered 37 points, seven assists and six steals in the last two games against Oral Roberts and CSU Bakersfield.

The senior guard duo of Daryl Macon and Anton Beard have combined for nearly 30 points in each of the Razorbacks last two games. Macon became the first Arkansas player in history to score 15-plus points and 8-plus assists with no turnovers against CSU Bakersfield on Thursday. The Razorbacks outscored Bakersfield 53-30 in the second half to finish with an impressive 95-68 win at home. Arkansas now averages beating teams by over 25 points in home games.

“(Barford’s) confidence is sky high right now,” Macon said. “He feels like when he’s on the floor, he’s the best guard on the floor and nobody can guard him, in his head.”

Arkansas will host Tennessee at 1 p.m. ET on the SEC Network in search of its sixth straight win.

Prediction

Although the Razorbacks come into this game as one of the most lethal offenses in the country, the Volunteers stout defense will prove to be a good matchup for them. The key for Tennessee to play the game they want to is to stay out of early foul trouble. Having key players like Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield on the bench for too long could mean disaster against a strong Arkansas team. The Volunteers will struggle to contain Barford and the Razorbacks veterans, as Arkansas will beat Tennessee 81-77 to win its first SEC game of the season.

Edited by Ben McKee

Featured image courtesy of UT Sports