FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -Chris Lofton scored 31 points and Tennessee held on for its first Southeastern Conference road win of the season, 83-72, over Arkansas on Saturday.
The Volunteers (20-9, 8-6 SEC) have built a solid NCAA tournament resume, but they felt they had work to do when they headed to Arkansas with a 1-7 mark on opponents’ courts. They used a 22-7 run in the second half to take a 72-60 lead, then held on during a furious rally by the Razorbacks.
Arkansas (16-12, 5-9) pulled within three at 73-70, and Tennessee called time out with 2:19 to play. The Razorbacks defended well on the ensuing possession but gave up an offensive rebound, and Wayne Chism dunked to put the Vols up by five. Arkansas would not get closer again.
Sonny Weems led the Razorbacks with 18 points. JaJuan Smith scored 16 for the Vols, and Chism added 14.
Arkansas might need an SEC tournament title now to avoid missing the NCAA tournament for the fifth time in six seasons.
Arkansas led 36-33 after a first half full of runs. The Razorbacks opened the scoring with a dunk by Weems, then Tennessee scored 11 straight points. The Vols went on a 13-2 run later in the half to take a 28-17 lead, but Arkansas scored the next 13 points after that.
Tennessee took control in the second half with a tenacious defense that included a full-court press. The Razorbacks had trouble just inbounding the ball – no matter where they were on the court. They finished with 24 turnovers, 17 in the second half.
Arkansas also allowed 17 offensive rebounds. Tennessee attempted 72 field goals to the Razorbacks’ 49, negating Arkansas’ shooting advantage. The Razorbacks shot 51 percent from the field to the Vols’ 42 percent.
Tennessee went 10-of-35 from 3-point range. Arkansas was 1-of-8.
The Vols have won 20 games for the second straight season. Tennessee has won five of six since Lofton returned to lineup after an ankle injury caused him to miss four games.
The first half ended in wild fashion, with both teams wasting chances to hold for a good shot. As the teams left the court, Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl stopped two of his players – Jordan Howell and Ryan Childress – and chewed both out for several seconds.
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