KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee played brilliantly in the first half, unleashing a 19-0 run to put Arkansas in the rear-view mirror, and the Vols continued their winnings ways Wednesday night with a convincing 77-58 rout of the Razorbacks before 16,048 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The Vols were shooting lights out most of the opening half, at one point having knocked down 12 of 15 shots – included were five 3-pointers – for 80 percent while building a 31-14 lead.
Even after cooling off and going the final 3:51 of the half without a point, Tennessee still had a 47-30 lead on 17-of-25 shooting (68 percent) at the break.
It was the Vols’ best first-half shooting performance of the season.
“I thought we shot it well,” Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said.
It was more like insane.
The Vols made 7-of-10 3-point attempts and that matched a team-high for the season. When the game ended, Tennessee hit 11 of 23 from 3-point distance, including four by Skylar McBee (12 points) and three by Trae Golden (13).
The Vols are 10-0 when McBee scores in double figures.
“If you make 11 3s, you’re going to beat a lot of people,” Razorbacks coach Mike Anderson said. “In the first half they were getting some easy opportunities, and it just seemed like we were out of kilter on defense.”
Tennessee (14-12, 6-5) had four other players in double figures. Jordan McRae came off the bench to score a team-high 14 points, Jeronne Maymon had 12, Cameron Tatum 11 – he played in his 130th career game, tying him with Rob Jones (1982-86) for second on the school’s all-time list topped by Wayne Chism’s 142– and Jarnell Stokes 10.
Tennessee hadn’t placed six players in double figures since Jan. 6, 2010, in an 88-71 win against Charlotte.
“The past three or four games we’ve done a good job running the motion offense,” Martin said. “That’s a credit to our guys moving and getting open against the zone defense.”
B.J. Young scored a game-high 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting to lead the Razorbacks (17-9, 5-6), who have lost three of four and fell to 0-8 on the road. They’re 17-1 at home.
With their fourth straight win, the Vols kept climbing up the Southeastern Conference standings, moving into a tie with Mississippi State for fourth place. Ole Miss can also grab a share of fourth place with a victory over Vanderbilt on Thursday night.
“I think we are just playing really good basketball right now,” Maymon said. “We’re all on top of our games and we’re all in sync, trusting one another. I really think that’s key for us.”
And, if the Vols can keep it up, Martin envisions good things ahead.
“If we continue to do the things we’re doing, we have a chance to be successful,” he said. “We’ll enjoy this one tonight, then (Thursday) we do everything in our power to get prepared for beat a talented Alabama team, and that’s easier said than done.”
The Vols will play the Crimson Tide (16-9, 5-6) on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Tipoff is at 1:30 p.m. and the game will be televised by the SEC Network.
Tennessee shocked the Razorbacks early in the game.
Arkansas opened the game with Julysses Nobles’ 3-pointer, marking the 766th straight game in which the Razorbacks made at least one 3, and had a 6-4 lead when the Vols lit the fuse on a 19-0 explosion that produced a 23-6 lead.
In that 4-minute onslaught, Tennessee hit three 3s, one each by Tatum, Golden and McRae.
“I didn’t even know we were on a run,” Maymon said. “I just thought we were playing defense and scoring points. We got a lot of transition buckets that really helped us.”
Anderson knew one thing for certain.
“We were fighting uphill,” he said. “They established throwing the first punch.”
Josh Richardson drained a 3 with 12:40 left in the half to push the Vols’ lead to 26-8. The advantage was 39-23 with 5:43 on the clock and Tennessee outscored the Razorbacks, 8-0, and led 47-23 – the Vols’ biggest lead in any SEC game this season. At that point, the Vols were shooting 70.8 percent from the field.
Arkansas closed the half with a 7-0 run and pulled within 47-30 at the break. Tennessee failed to score in the last 3:51 of the first half, but its 47 points were just two shy of a season-best 49 scored against UNC-Greensboro on Nov. 11.
Arkansas, after looking almost inept in the first half, showed a little spunk after halftime.
Trailing 59-44, the Razorbacks outscored the Vols, 6-1, and closed the deficit to 60-50 on Brandon Mitchell’s putback with 8:32 left in the game.
McBee hit a 3 at the 8:18 mark to start a 14-3 run that pushed the Vols’ lead out to 74-53 with just 3:28 left.
“With a young team that can take the wind out of your sails,” Anderson said of McBee’s clutch 3-pointer. “But it wasn’t because our guys weren’t trying.”
Tennessee outscored Arkansas, 14-3, and pushed the lead out to 74-53 on Golden’s 3 with 3:28 remaining.
Feeling secure with the 21-point lead, many Tennessee fans headed home. They had just seen the Vols put another notch on their belts and for sure the rest of the league is taking notice of the team’s surge.
“It’s a possibility,” Tatum said. “But we can’t worry about what other teams are doing or what they think about us. We can only worry about what we control and that’s our team and getting better.”
Note: Martin announced he had suspended indefinitely Kenny Hall for “conduct detrimental to the team.
"You've got to do the right thing on and off the court," Martin said.
Hall was averaging 6.2 points and 4.5 rebounds in 25 games.
Tennessee 77, Arkansas 58
Devonta Abron 3-6 1-2 7, Marvell Waithe 1-3 0-0 2, Mardracus Wade 1-6 0-0 3, B.J. Young 7-10 3-4 18, Julysses Nobles 3-9 0-0 7, Rashad Madden 0-2 2-2 2, Rickey Scott 1-6 0-0 2, Kikko Haydar 0-0 0-0 0, Hunter Mickelson 6-9 0-0 12, Brandon Mitchell 2-5 1-2 5. Total: 24-56 7-10 58.
Jarnell Stokes 3-6 4-6 10, Jeronne Maymon 5-5 2-4 12, Trae Golden 5-6 0-1 13, Skylar McBee 4-7 0-0 12, Cameron Tatum 5-12 0-0 11, Yemi Makanjuola 0-0 0-0 0, Josh Richardson 2-4 0-0 5, Galen Campbell 0-0 0-0 0, Tyler Summitt 0-0 0-0 0, Ryan Kilmartin 0-0 0-0 0, Brandon Lopez 0-0 0-0 0, Jordan McRae 4-10 4-6 14. Total: 28-50 10-17 77.
Arkansas 30 28 – 58
Tennessee 47 30 – 77
3-point goals: Arkansas 3-12 (Waithe 0-1, Wade 1-3, Young 1-2, Nobles 1-5, Scott 0-1); Tennessee 11-23 (Golden 3-4, McBee 4-7, Tatum 1-5, Richardson 1-1, McRae 2-6).
Fouled out: Arkansas – None; Tennessee – None.
Rebounds: Arkansas 31 (Waithe 5, Scott 5, Mickelson 5); Tennessee 30 (Tatum 9).
Assists: Arkansas 10 (Nobles 6); Tennessee 19 (Golden 7).
Total fouls: Arkansas 16; Tennessee 13.
Technical fouls: Georgia – None; Tennessee – None.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)