Arkansas (12-5, 1-3 SEC) at Tennessee (11-6, 2-2)
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 8:05 p.m. ET
Thompson-Boling Arena (21,678) • Knoxville, Tenn.
TV: SEC TV
Radio: Vol Network (WGOW-FM 102.3, Chattanooga)
Series Record: Tennessee leads 17-14
Probable Arkansas Starters
G-Rashad Madden, 6-5, 180, JR (11.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg, .473 3FG%)
G-Fred Gulley III, 6-2, 182, SR (4.4 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 1.7 apg)
G-Michael Qualls 6-6, 210, SO, (12.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.4 apg)
F-Coty Clarke, 6-7, 232, SR, (8.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.4 spg)
C-Bobby Portis, 6-10, 245, FR (12.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg)
Key Reserves: Alandise Harris (6-6, 240, JR); Anthlon Bell (6-3, 190, SO); Moses Kingsley (6-10, 230, FR)
Probable Tennessee Starters
G-Antonio Barton, 6-2, 180, SR, (8.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg, .400 3FG%)
G-Jordan McRae, 6-6, 185, SR, (18.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.8 apg)
G-Josh Richardson, 6-6, 190, JR, (8.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, .429 3FG%)
F-Jeronne Maymon, 6-8, 260, SR (10.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 3.6 orpg)
F-Jarnell Stokes, 6-8, 260, JR, (13.8 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 4.2 orpg)
Key Reserves: Darius Thompson (6-5, 180, FR); Derek Reese (6-8, 220, SO); D’Montre Edwards (6-6, 205, SR)
The opening tip
There have been some wild games early in this SEC season and many of them have centered around Arkansas.
The Razorbacks have played three consecutive overtime games, pulling out a thrilling 87-85 win over Kentucky last week and dropping heartbreakers to Georgia and Florida as well.
Tennessee will be glad to see Arkansas make the trip to Knoxville instead of vice versa this year. The Razorbacks have struggled mightily on the road recently. They are 2-17 in SEC road games since the 2011-12 season. And if you take Auburn – traditionally one of the worst teams in the conference – out of the equation, Arkansas hasn’t won a conference road game since knocking off Vanderbilt during the 2010-11 season.
The Vols have proven they can’t take anybody lightly this season, however. The fact alone that Arkansas knocked off Kentucky and took Florida to OT this season should have UT focused in this one.
B.J. Young, Arkansas’ star from last season has moved on, but the Hogs added five-star recruit power forward Bobby Portis this year and the freshman has helped fill the scoring void (12.1 ppg). He is also the team’s leading rebounder (6.6 rpg).
Guards Rashad Madden and Michael Qualls each have a double-digit scoring average and senior forward Coty Clarke gives Arkansas a veteran presence who can score and hit the boards.
Tennessee is coming off a respectable loss at Kentucky, a game where the Vols led for over half the contest before fading late against the hot-shooting Wildcats. The Vols needed a few more shots to fall in that one, but they proved they can rebound against anybody in the nation as they controlled the boards by a total of 39-24 against a Kentucky team that entered the game as the best rebounding squad in the SEC.
If UT can continue to win on the glass at that level, the Vols will find a lot of success in SEC play. That’s especially true if Jarnell Stokes can stay out of foul trouble and perform at the level he did in Lexington (20 points, 15 rebounds).
The Vols have been defending at a high level – boasting the best scoring defense in the conference (62 ppg) so far in league play. The offense has been up-and-down. Jordan McRae generally gets his 15-20 points, but getting him help is important.
Antonio Barton and Josh Richardson, who combined for just six points at Kentucky, need to help shoulder the scoring load if UT wants to get back on the winning track Wednesday.
"It is very disappointing, we just have to get back in the gym and tweak a few minor things. I think we will keep the ball rolling.
– Tennessee forward Jeronne Maymon on bouncing back from a tough loss at Kentucky
Cuonzo Martin’s first game as a head coach at Missouri State came against Arkansas. The Bears knocked off the Razorbacks 62-57 in what was the first ever game in MSU’s newly-constructed arena. … If this game comes down to free throws, the Vols will look to get the ball to McRae or Barton. Those two are an impressive 33 of 37 from the line combined in the final four minutes of games this year. … Tennessee leads this series 9-2 in games played in Knoxville and has won the last three at home in this series. … Martin and Arkansas coach Mike Anderson have met four times and have split two wins and two losses. Anderson is just 1-6 in his coaching career at Thompson-Boling Arena. … Stokes ranks sixth nationally in offensive rebounding at 4.24 per contest. … The Vols slipped just two spots down to No. 57 in the RPI this week after knocking off Auburn last week and falling at Kentucky.
Tennessee 64, Arkansas 60
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga