KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee has suffered just two home losses in almost three years. One of those came against Arkansas.
The fourth-ranked Volunteers look to avoid being upset again by the surging Razorbacks when the teams meet Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Tennessee (21-2, 8-1 SEC) held on for a 47-45 win at LSU on Saturday for its fifth straight victory as it sits atop the conference’s East Division standings.
The Vols are now looking to extend the second-longest home winning streak in school history to 29 games when they face Arkansas (17-5, 6-2), which has won four in a row and is second to Mississippi State in the SEC West.
Tennessee won a school-record 33 straight at home from Jan. 2, 1966-Feb. 24, 1968.
Though Tennessee won 83-72 on Feb. 24 at Arkansas in the most recent meeting between these teams, the Razorbacks posted a 73-69 victory over then-No. 10 Tennessee on Feb. 25, 2006 in their last visit to Knoxville.
With that victory, Arkansas joined Kentucky as the only schools to win at Thompson-Boling since Bruce Pearl took over as Vols coach prior to the 2005-06 season.
Arkansas snapped Tennessee’s 15-game home winning streak in 2006, but could have a tougher time Wednesday against the Vols, who are finding ways to win when they are not at their best.
"We need to play our best game of the year," Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said. "The environment will be a factor in the game, but the game will be decided by the five guys we have on the court and the five they have.
"Tennessee has been outstanding this season and very deserving of everything they’ve been getting."
On Saturday, though, the Vols had trouble shaking a pesky LSU team playing its first game since coach John Brady was fired Friday.
Playing with a 101-degree temperature, Tennessee’s JaJuan Smith made a steal then a layup with 11 seconds left for the game-winning basket and his only points of the contest.
The Vols overcame a season-low 31.7-percent shooting effort while scoring their fewest points of 2007-08 – well below their 83.7 average.
"We got the win, but we didn’t play our best, and it wasn’t good for us," said Tennessee’s Tyler Smith, who had 12 points and seven rebounds. "We weren’t executing, and we had some guys under the weather, but at the same time, we can’t use that as an excuse. We’ve got to fight through that stuff."
Tennessee did force 22 turnovers and held the Tigers to 40.0 percent shooting.
Chris Lofton had 15 points on 6-for-12 shooting – including 3-for-5 from 3-point range. Though Lofton, who averages 15.7 points, failed to reach the 20-point mark for the first time in six contests, he continued his solid shooting over that span, making 53.1 percent (43-for-81) of his shots – 52.6 percent (30-for-57) from beyond the arc.
Lofton had 31 points in the most recent meeting with Arkansas, and is averaging 20.3 in four career games versus the Razorbacks.
Arkansas won 75-69 over Mississippi on Saturday to sweep a stretch of three straight home games that included wins over Mississippi State and then-No. 20 Florida.
"I’m pleased with the last four games," Pelphrey said. "We have a tough challenge the rest of the way with five of eight on the road."
On Saturday, Sonny Weems had 22 points with 10 rebounds, while Patrick Beverley added 17 points and 13 boards for the Razorbacks, who shot 39.1 percent after a 54.2-percent effort against Florida on Feb. 2.
Weems, Arkansas’ leader with 14.9 points per game, is averaging 20.5 in his last four contests. He had 18 points against Tennessee last February.