It's not quite as encouraging as it probably should be when it comes on the heels of a home loss to Texas A&M, but Tennessee gave themselves a chance to win in Bud Walton Arena tonight, falling 69-64 when a Robert Hubbs three that would've tied it rimmed out with three seconds left. If you're like me, your Twitter feed is full of praise for Donnie Tyndall's play design to get Hubbs - 15 points on the night - a wide open three in that situation. Sometimes they just don't go in.
There wasn't much of that on this night for either team. Tennessee shot 43.6% on the road, while Arkansas countered with 47.1%. The Hogs overturned an early rebounding disadvantage to end the night even with the Vols, led to no surprise by Bobby Portis with 17 points and 8 rebounds. The Vols countered with four double figure scorers: Josh Richardson (17), Robert Hubbs (15), Armani Moore (12), and Kevin Punter (10).
This was an exceptionally entertaining basketball game. Arkansas started the game on a 7-0 run, but by the time your television switched from Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh in overtime the Vols had tied the game. From there neither team led by more than five.
We had two sequences of nonsense in the game's final ten minutes. Tied 56-56 at the under 12 timeout with 9:18 to play, neither team scored for another two-plus minutes, combining for three turnovers along the way. After Anthlon Bell made a jumper to put Arkansas up 65-62 with 3:40 to go, the two teams would spend the rest of the game going 1 for 8. In that sequence Kevin Punter missed two free throws, and Armani Moore threw the ball out of bounds. Meanwhile Arkansas went 4 for 4 at the line, enough to stay in front and earn the victory.
It's frustrating to be so close and lose, especially with so many good opportunities lost in the final minutes, but the fact that Tennessee went on the road at Arkansas and gave themselves a chance after already beating the Hogs in Knoxville was very encouraging. The Vols drop to 12-7 (4-3), and now have two games they need to get in Knoxville: Auburn and Bruce Pearl on Saturday, Mississippi State on Wednesday. Win those two, and the Vols will be in position to make a meaningful statement in their final nine games against some of the best teams in the SEC.
But the Vols gave themselves a chance to win against one of the best teams in the league on the road tonight. Once again, and this time even in defeat, you have to be impressed with what Donnie Tyndall and this team is doing.
On to the next one. Go Vols.