Vols thump Razorbacks, advance to SEC Championship

No. 2 seed and 13th-ranked Tennessee beat sixth-seeded Arkansas in the semifinal round of the SEC Tournament by a score of 84-66 on Saturday. The Vols lost the first meeting of the season 95-93 on Dec. 30th in Fayetteville. With a chance to play for an SEC Tournament Championship, Tennessee looked locked and loaded from the start.

The Volunteers got off to a strong start behind sophomore guard Jordan Bone. In the first half, Bone went 7-of-7 shooting, while hitting three 3-pointers. His strong first half performance helped the Tennessee take a 19-point lead in to the half. Bone finished the game with a team-high 19 points and four assists in the win.

I just think starting off the game we were really aggressive. It’s really just playing within the offense,” said Bone about his performance. “Shots were falling, and we were playing against a really good defensive team.”

Four other Vols ended the day in double- digit scoring along with Bone. Admiral Schofield scored 16 points while Grant Williams, James Daniel III and Kyle Alexander had 12 points apiece. Alexander also had seven rebounds and two blocks to lead the team, while Williams finished with five rebounds, four assists and a blocked shot.

Tennessee is currently on a six-game win streak and have won 13 out of its last 15 games. It seems that head coach Rick Barnes has his team clicking on all cylinders at the right time. The Volunteers have one final game before they find out their fate for the NCAA Tournament, and it comes against their rival to the North, Kentucky.

The Wildcats beat Alabama on Saturday 86-63 prior to Tennessee’s game against the Razorbacks. Tennessee beat Kentucky in the two previous meetings this season. With a championship on the line, the Vols can expect to get the best out of the young Wildcats team.

“They’re a totally different team than they were then. I’ve been watching them,” said Barnes on Kentucky. “His (John Calipari’s) teams always get better late in the year. It looks like they’ve really made a commitment to really play big, strong basketball inside.”

Tennessee has a chance to win their first SEC Tournament Championship since 1979 on Sunday. The Vols beat the Wildcats in their 1979 championship game, as they look to repeat history. Sunday’s game will be the first appearance for Tennessee in the tournament championship game since 2009.

“It’s championship season, fatigue does play a factor,” said Schofield. “But everyone is tired this time of year. The biggest thing is who wants it most.”

With their win over the Razorbacks, the Volunteers continued their perfect record in rematch games on the season. Tip off for the championship game is set for 1 p.m. ET and will be aired on ESPN.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Lady Vols score 20th season victory over Arkansas

Tennessee held the lead for over 35 minutes and came out with a 90-85 victory in Fayetteville. The Volunteers nailed 9-of-10 free throws in the last minute of play to put away the Razorbacks (12-12, 3-8 SEC).

“I’m obviously proud of these kids, and proud to win,” Holly Warlick said about the Lady Vols effort in tonight’s game.

The Lady Vols came off a road win on Sunday against Vanderbilt, while Arkansas has only won twice in its last nine games. Tennessee had a strong presence in the first half, holding the Razorbacks to just 16 points in the second quarter and giving them a 43-36 lead at the half.

In the second half, the Vols started out in the same direction by shooting 66 percent in the third quarter alone. Arkansas fought its way back in the fourth quarter, outscoring Tennessee 28-23, but the team’s efforts were not enough to give the Razorbacks the win.

Freshman Rennia Davis, led the team with a career-high 33 points and 14 rebounds with an additional four assists. Davis now has the third highest point total by a freshman behind former Lady Vols legends Tamika Catchings and Candace Parker.

Tennessee out-rebounded Arkansas by an impressive 45-26 margin in the win. However, the Vols turnover problems re-emerged as they committed 19 turnovers in Arkansas.

“We know that every team in the SEC is going to be a difficult game,” Rennia Davis said. “It’s especially difficult to win on the road so they gave us their best in the end.”

Junior Meme Jackson followed right behind with 21 points and helped with five rebounds and four assists, as senior Jaime Nared tallied 16 points, six rebounds and one assist.

Mercedes Russell contributed seven points and 10 rebounds, while Kortney Dunbar notched five points. Evina Westbrook and Anastasia Hayes combined for eight points. Russell is now just 13 points and eight rebounds way from logging 1500 points and 1000 rebounds in her career, which would make her the sixth Lady Vol to do so.

“We had some good opportunities for our kids to step up. Meme Jackson and our freshman Rennia Davis, they just had good games for us. They had to in order for us to get the win,” Warlick said.

Arkansas’ Devin Cosper led the team with 29 points, followed by Malicia Mink (25) and Jailyn Mason (11). Kiara Williams contributed nine points for the Razorbacks, and Bailey Zimmerman contributed six points.

Tennessee is now 8-3 in conference play, putting them in third place and three games back from Mississippi State, who is atop the SEC standings.

The Lady Vols are back in Knoxville on Sunday to take on No. 18 Georgia for the annual “Live Pink, Bleed Orange” game. Tip-off is slated for 3 p.m. ET and will be televised on the SEC Network.

Edited by Ben McKee

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics 

No. 19 Tennessee falls to Arkansas in overtime

No. 19 Tennessee (9-3, 0-1 SEC) was taken down by Arkansas (11-2, 1-0 SEC) in overtime on Saturday afternoon, 95-93. Senior guards Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford guided the Razorbacks past the Vols with a combined 61 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

Arkansas tabbed its sixth straight win, and will now likely be ranked for the first time since 2014 after knocking off Tennessee. The Vols never lost the lead going into the half, but the script quickly flipped in the second half. The Razorbacks trailed the majority of the game before cutting it to 73-72 with a minute left to play in regulation.

Jordan Bone made a free throw to tie the game at 73 with just over 18 seconds remaining, and Macon missed a 3-pointer, sending the game into overtime. Arkansas finished the second half on an 11-3 run.

The Razorbacks momentum continued in overtime, as they built a 12 point lead. However, the Volunteers stormed back late by cutting it to a 2-point game with under two seconds remaining in overtime. Tennessee was unable to register a foul as time expired in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

A concerning theme for the 2017 Vols has been coming out of the gates slow in the second half and the inability to close out games.

“We started off the way we wanted to, we led for the first 36 or 37 minutes,” said Bone. “Just like North Carolina, we lost in the last two or three minutes.”

Bone led the Volunteers with 21 points, six rebounds and five assists. Four other Tennessee players logged double-digit points, including James Daniel, who scored 17 points off the bench. The Vols were unable to finish off Arkansas despite outscoring their bench 33-5. The Razorbacks averaged 32 points per game from the bench coming into Saturday’s matchup.

Barford (28) and Macon (31) both had career-highs in points for Arkansas and both had the first 13 points for the Razorbacks in overtime. Arkansas scored 22 points in overtime, which is the most in school history.

“I was really impressed with the Arkansas crowd, it’s like our crowd back home,” said Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes. “We played well enough and hard enough, but we weren’t poised enough.”

Both Tennessee and the Razorbacks will return to action on Tuesday. The Volunteers will be back in Thompson-Boling Arena to face Bruce Pearl and the Auburn Tigers, while Arkansas will take on Mississippi State.

Edited by Ben McKee

Featured image courtesy of Arkansas Athletics 

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

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 

Around the SEC: Men’s basketball weekly recap

Photo by Brad Blackwelder.

Week of Feb. 12-19

Florida continues to roll

The No. 15 Florida Gators tallied their eighth straight win this past week after convincing wins over Auburn and Mississippi State. The Gators can throw up big offensive numbers occasionally, and their 114-95 road win over Auburn was an example of that. Florida’s leading scorer, Canyon Bailey, racked up 30 points and a couple of rebounds against the Tigers. The team also got help from guards KeVaughn Allen and Kasey Hill, who combined for 28 points and 13 assists. This marked 10 straight wins for the Gators against Auburn.

Next, head coach Mike White and Florida traveled to Starkville to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The script could not be more flipped offensively for the Gators, who struggled shooting the ball all game despite pulling out a 57-53 win. In this game, Florida shot just under 39 percent from the field. However, the Gators still got valuable contributions from Allen, guard Chris Chiozza and forward Kevvarius Hayes who combined for over half the team’s points. This, the eighth straight win for Florida, made it the longest win streak in White’s two years as head coach.

Arkansas gets their mojo back

After going 1-2 in the last three weeks with losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt, Arkansas won both of their games this week, including a big upset. In the first game of the week, the Razorbacks traveled to Columbia to take on No. 21 South Carolina. The visitors had a big offensive day with guard Jaylen Barford leading the way with 23 points and five rebounds. Barford also got help from the team’s scoring leader on the season, guard Dusty Hannah, who had 20 points in the upset. The Razorbacks shot 53 percent from the field and 50 percent on 3-pointers.

Next for Arkansas was a home game against the Ole Miss Rebels, where the Razorbacks once again had a big day on offense in the 98-80 win. Barford had another solid game with 15 points, but Arkansas was led in scoring this game by guard Derek Macon, who had a career-high 30 points on 10-13 shooting. The Razorbacks led by as much as 25 points against the Rebels, who had won four of their last five games.

Kentucky gets back on track

Coming into the month, the No. 13 Kentucky Wildcats had lost three of their last four games to Tennessee, Kansas and Florida. However, since then, the Wildcats are on a four-game winning streak. Kentucky began the week with a home game against a Tennessee team that upset them 82-80 at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville. This time, the script was flipped in Rupp Arena as the Wildcats throttled the Vols 83-58. In the win, guard Malik Monk once again put on a show as he tallied 20 points and eight rebounds. Monk also got help from Derek Willis and De’Aaron Fox, who combined for 29 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

Kentucky then took their show on the road to Athens and won a close 82-77 game against the Georgia Bulldogs. This time, Monk and Fox lead the Wildcats with 16 points each, and the team got 22 combined points from guard Isiah Briscoe and forward “Bam” Adebayo. Kentucky got the win despite shooting worse from the field and turning the ball over more than the Bulldogs, in part thanks to out-rebounding Georgia 41 to 26. Fox made six free throws in the final 45 seconds of the game to help the Wildcats seal the win.

All Results

Alabama Crimson Tide – W 57-54 at Missouri, W 90-72 vs LSU

Arkansas Razorbacks – W 83-76 at South Carolina, W 98-80 vs Ole Miss

Auburn Tigers – L 114-95 vs Florida, L 81-62 at Texas A&M

Florida Gators – W 114-95 at Auburn, W 57-52 at Mississippi State

Georgia Bulldogs – W 79-72 vs Mississippi State, L 82-77 vs Kentucky

Kentucky Wildcats – W 83-59 vs Tennessee, W 82-77 at Georgia

LSU Tigers – L 96-76 at Ole Miss, L 90-72 at Alabama

Mississippi State Bulldogs – L 79-72 at Georgia, L 57-52 vs Florida

Missouri Tigers – L 57-54 vs Alabama, L 90-70 at Tennessee

Ole Miss Rebels – W 96-76 vs LSU, L 98-80 at Arkansas

South Carolina Gamecocks – L 83-76 vs Arkansas, L 71-62 at Vanderbilt

Tennessee Volunteers – L 83-59 at Kentucky, W 90-70 vs Missouri

Texas A&M Aggies – L 71-62 at Florida, L 72-67 at Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt Commodores – W 72-67 vs Texas A&M, W 71-62 vs South Carolina

Edited by Quinn Pilkey

Featured image by Brad Blackwelder