Tennessee (11-8, 3-4 SEC) at Arkansas (12-8, 3-4 SEC)
Saturday, Feb. 2, 4:00 p.m. ET
Bud Walton Arena (19,200) . Fayetteville, Ark.
Radio: Vol Network (WGOW-FM 102.3, Chattanooga)
Series Record: Tennessee leads, 17-13
Probable Arkansas Starters
F-Marshawn Powell, 6-7, 240, JR, (15.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
F-Coty Clarke, 6-7, 225, JR, (6.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg)
G-Fred Gulley III, 6-2, 180, JR, (1.8 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 1.0 apg)
G-Rickey Scott, 6-3, 205, JR, (5.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg, .333 3FG%)
G-B.J. Young, 6-3, 180, SO, (16.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.1 apg)
Key Reserves: Hunter Mickelson (6-10, 245, SO); Mardracus Wade (6-2, 175, JR); Rashad Madden (6-5, 180, SO).
Probable Tennessee Starters
F-Kenny Hall, 6-9, 230, SR, (6.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg)
F-Jarnell Stokes, 6-8, 270, SO, (11.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg, .542 FG%)
G-Josh Richardson, 6-6, 188, SO, (8.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg)
G-Armani Moore, 6-3, 195, SR, (2.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg,)
G-Jordan McRae, 6-1, 205, JR, (14.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, .318 3PT%)
Key Reserves: Brandon Lopez (6-1, 180, SO); Skylar McBee (6-3, 195, SR); Yemi Makanjuola (6-9, 250, SO); Derek Reese (6-7, 218, FR).
The opening tip
After two consecutive dramatic wins for Tennessee over Alabama and Vanderbilt, the Vols have now made some progress in digging themselves out of their 1-4 start in SEC play.
There’s still a lot of work to be done before the Vols start thinking too much about the postseason, though.
The first task is getting a true road win, something the Vols haven’t done this season. They’ve been close. In their five road losses, Tennessee has only lost by an average of 5.6 point per game. That includes three road contests that came down to the final minute.
But close doesn’t do much for postseason chances. Tennessee has six roads games remaining and it will need to find a way to start winning some of them.
The Razorbacks have lost three of their last four, but also come into Saturday with a nine-game winning streak at Bud Walton arena, including a 3-0 mark in the SEC at home this year. They utilize a fast-paced, high-pressure system that feeds off of turnovers and fast-break opportunities. The Hogs lead the SEC in turnover margin (plus-6.5).
That’s of concern to a UT squad that will likely be without point guard Trae Golden, who is nursing a strained hamstring. Though Golden lost his starting job a few weeks ago, he’s still been logging around 25 minutes a game and is one of the team’s primary ball handlers.
That will likely mean more minutes for sophomore walk-on point guard Brandon Lopez, who played 10 solid minutes against Vanderbilt last week after Golden went down.
Lopez and the rest of Tennessee’s backcourt will have their hands full with Arkansas sophomore combo guard B.J. Young (16.3 ppg), who is a potential first-round pick whenever he decides to make the leap to the NBA.
In the frontcourt, it’ll be a battle between Jarnell Stokes (11.5 ppg) and Arkansas forward Marshawn Powell (15.5 ppg), two of the most physical players in the SEC. Stokes has been a monster playing in Thompson Boling-Arena, but has struggled recently on the road. In his last three home games, he’s averaged 17.3 ppg and 13.3 rpg. However, his last four road efforts have yielded an average of just 5.3 ppg and 5.3 rpg.
Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin on Lopez: “The one thing about him is that he’s always prepared to play, and that says a lot about a young man. He went five games without getting on the floor, but his preparation is always at a high level. There’s no hesitancy about putting him on the floor, because he’ll be ready to play.”
Stokes is tied with Ole Miss forward Reginald Buckner for the SEC lead in rebounds (9.6 rpg). . The last time UT came off of back-to-back one-point wins was in 1963. . Guard Jordan McRae is second in the SEC in scoring (18.9 ppg). . The Vols currently hold a two-game winning streak over Arkansas.
Daniel Lewis covers University of Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga