GAME NOTES: The Arkansas Razorbacks hope to continue their outstanding run at home this season, as they entertain the Tennessee Volunteers at Bud Walton Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Tennessee opened the 2013 calendar year on a sour note with four consecutive losses, but things have been looking up of late with wins in three of its last four contests to move to 11-8 overall and 3-4 in the SEC. The Vols most recently hosted Vanderbilt on Tuesday night, and used a late rally to capture a thrilling 58-57 victory.
Arkansas has slipped to 12-8 overall and 3-4 in the SEC, thanks to a pair of road losses to South Carolina (75-54) and Alabama (59-24) in the last week. Even though the Razorbacks have yet to win in seven combined matchups on the road and in neutral-site affairs, they have won 12 of 13 contests played on their home floor, with their only loss in Fayetteville this season coming against nationally-ranked Syracuse back in November (91-82).
Tennessee won the lone matchup between these two squads in 2011-12, taking a 77-58 decision in Knoxville on Feb. 15, 2012. As a result, the Vols lead the all-time series, 17-13.
The Vols appeared to be out of luck when they found themselves down by 11 midway through the second half against Vanderbilt earlier this week, but they caught fire down the stretch, ending the game on a 17-5 run, with a Jarnell Stokes layup with 4:14 left proving to be the game-winner. Stokes was fantastic in the win, shooting 8-of-12 from the field for 19 points, while adding 11 rebounds and three blocks. Skylar McBee provided a spark off the bench, shooting 3-of-5 from 3-point range on his way to 10 points, and Josh Richardson ripped down 10 rebounds. Tennessee has not impressed at the offensive end of the floor this season, ranking 10th in the SEC with just 64.1 ppg, but it has played inspired ball at the defensive end by allowing just 61.5 ppg. Jordan McRae is the team's leading scorer with 14.3 ppg, and most of that damage has come in recent weeks as he has scored 21 points or more in five of the last eight games. Jarnell Stokes is as steady as they come in the frontcourt, recording 11.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg, and more than a block per contest, all while shooting 54.2 percent from the field. Trae Golden (10.0 ppg) makes fewer than 36 percent of his total shots, but he has more than twice as many assists (75) as turnovers (35).
Arkansas played outstanding defense against Alabama a couple of nights ago, holding the Tide to just 41.3 percent from the field while forcing 21 turnovers. The only problem was it couldn't keep up when it had the ball, shooting a mere 38.2 percent (including 3-of-19 from 3-point range) as it dropped the three-point decision. B.J. Young was the leading scorer for the Razorbacks, netting 14 points on 6-of-12 accuracy from the floor, while also dishing out four assists. Marshawn Powell finished with 11 points, five rebounds and two each in blocks and steals in the setback. Young (16.3 ppg) and Powell (15.5 ppg) have been the team's driving forces this season, making up one of the best inside-outside tandems in the conference. Young has dished out 78 assists against 39 turnovers, while Powell grabs 5.8 rpg and shoots a lofty 53.3 percent from the field. Although no other Razorback scores in double figures on a nightly basis, nine others net between 3.2 and 6.9 ppg in a strong rotation of reserves, all of whom contribute to the SEC's second- highest scoring offense (77.2 ppg).
Arkansas has had its share of struggles on the road this season, but its incredible home court advantage cannot be denied, meaning the dismissal of an inconsistent Tennessee squad should be expected.
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