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Tennessee loses to Arkansas, 58-48

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Another rough trip to Arkansas

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

I typically like the Vols to win in defensive struggles. But unforced errors, foul trouble, numerous missed, open shots and a second half run from the Razorbacks sank the Vols, 58-48. Those 48 Tennessee points set a new season low (Texas, 51).

UT made two of its first three 3-point shots — both Kennedy Chandler attempts that came in the game’s first five minutes — but went on to make just two more 3s in the next 35 minutes.

Lead guards JD Notae and Kennedy Chandler went back and forth during the first half, with Chandler getting a couple layups to go with his two 3s while Notae notched two 3s of his own and scored eight points in the period despite hampered by early foul trouble. The Vols had foul trouble of their own, as Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James both picked up two fouls in the first half, while Chandler picked up his third foul with just three seconds left in the period.

Tennessee went into the half trailing by one but left at least eight points on the floor by going just 2-6 on layups. Most of those were contested shots, but that inability to convert tough chances near the bucket has been a theme that’s persisted most of this season.

Part of the problem for the Vols at the rim was Arkansas’s Jaylin Williams. The skilled big man is a threat to block shots, but he’s also a nuisance turning opposing offensive drives into charges by being a good faller. I jest here, but Williams took at least four charges in the game, with a few being, well, questionable. Offensively, he was a menace in the high post, punishing the Vols’ occasional zone defense with free-throw line jump shots. He finished the game with 13 points, 16 rebounds and played all 40 minutes.

Tennessee came out in the second half and battled to a 37-36 lead around the 15-minute mark after Jonas Aidoo scored on a put-back layup and a smooth mid-range jumper with a James bucket sandwiched in between. Unfortunately, that was the last bit of life the Vols had.

Arkansas finished the game on a 20-11 run, despite Notae fouling out, powered by two Davonte Davis 3s and four points off Tennessee turnovers.

For the game, Tennessee shot just 27 percent from the field and 17 percent from deep. The Vols had at least five stretches of scoreless ball that lasted more than two minutes, per 247’s Grant Ramey (4:15. 4:23, 2:55, 4:38 and 3:52). It’s hard to win games like that.

Chandler, Vescovi and James combined for an 11-41 shooting effort and 26 points. Chandler scored 11 of those 26, but nine of his points came in the first half. Zakai Zeigler led the Vols with 12 points.

Outside of Aidoo’s four points and six rebounds in 17 minutes, UT got nearly nothing from its post players. John Fulkerson attempted just two shots, made none of them and finished with two points in 19 minutes. Brandon Huntley-Hatfield and Uros Plavsic scored just three points combined.

The Vols still haven’t beat Arkansas in Fayetteville since 2009, and while this isn’t a horrible loss, it’s a bad look because Tennessee played so poorly. It also allowed the Razorbacks to leap the Vols in the SEC standings. UT’s fourth now, just a full game ahead of LSU and in position to fall out of the top-4 grouping that comes with a bye in the conference tournament.

Tennessee travels to Missouri to play the 10-16 Tigers Tuesday, and then Auburn comes to Knoxville for a 4 PM game next Saturday.