Jones was unstoppable from wire to wire as he led the Razorbacks with 37 points on 11-of-19 shooting. He made shot after shot, oftentimes using his size and athleticism to create opportunities from all areas of the floor.
Jordan Bowden led the Vols with 19 points, but it was another turnover-laden performance from Rick Barnes’ squad, which has become all too familiar this season.
Yves Pons hit 1-of-2 free throws to give the Vols the first lead of the game, but Jones was able to get the Razorbacks on the board with a quick bucket. Jimmy Whitt Jr. drilled one a few possessions later and Arkansas led, 4-1, with about 17:20 to go in the first half. The Vols were in the middle of a 2:20 scoring drought, which obviously wasn’t helping anything.
Arkansas’ lead grew to 9-1 over the next few possessions. The Vols continued to miss shots and turn the ball over. It was pretty easy to see why the Razorbacks were able to take over so quickly.
Jones hit a 3 to push Arkansas’ lead to 14-1. The Razorbacks had now made their last three shots and were on a 14-0 scoring run. Tennessee had three turnovers in the last two minutes and the scoring drought had now extended past four minutes.
Davonte Gaines finally ended the misery with a quick jumper to cut the lead to 14-3, but obviously, Tennessee had a lot more work to do if it wanted to get back in the game.
Turnovers and poor play continued to haunt Tennessee’s offense as Arkansas continued to keep the Vols at arm’s length. Tennessee had shot just 33% from the floor and had nine shots compared to 16 from Arkansas. The Razorbacks were shooting 50% from the floor and now led, 24-9, with 9:34 left in the first half.
It looked Tennessee had a bit of momentum at one point. The Vols were able to cut Arkansas’ lead down to seven points (24-17), but Arkansas roared right back with five straight points to push the lead back to double digits, 29-17, with 5:32 to go in the first half.
The Razorbacks carried a 40-27 lead into halftime. 18 points came thanks to 10 Volunteer turnovers, which is obviously absurd. Arkansas finished the first 20:00 12-of-26 from the floor (46.2%), while Tennessee was 10-of-27 (37.1%). Jones was crushing it with 15 points on 4-of-10 shooting, while Jordan Bowden led the Vols with 10 points of his own.
It didn’t take a doctorate’s degree to figure out what Tennessee needed to do in the second half. Eliminate the turnovers and make your shots. If the Vols could do that, then a comeback wasn’t out of the realm of possibility.
All of a sudden, Tennessee closed Arkansas’ lead to 42-35 thanks to an 8-0 run over the first 2:40 of the second half. The run grew to 11-0 before Isaiah Joe ended it with a layup. Arkansas now led, 44-38, with 15:48 left in the game.
The Vols were creeping closer and closer, with Bowden leading the way. The 8-0 run from earlier had now grown to 16-3 and it was a one-possession game at 45-43. Tennessee had hit six of its last seven shots while Arkansas was just 1-of-10 in its last 11.
But Jones continued to terrorize the Vols and was able to convert an and-1 opportunity to give Arkansas a 48-43 lead and Sills buried a triple to help his team ignite an 11-2 run to go right back up by double digits. Joe and Sills were making plays up and down the court en route to building a 56-45 lead with 11:41 to go.
Arkansas’ lead eventually grew to as much as 18 points. Jones was simply rolling and knocking down shots everywhere on the court. Down 72-56 with 6:12 left, it was clear that the Vols were not only going to have to play with zero margin for error the rest of the game, but they were also going to need a small miracle to pull this out.
That miracle never came as the Vols would go on to lose, 86-69 in Fayetteville.
Tennessee will host the Florida Gators in Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday, February 29. Tipoff is currently scheduled for 1PM EST.