This game was getting ugly in the first for the Volunteer faithful as Arkansas opened with 13 straight points, and never let their foot off the accelerator until halftime blissfully occurred. Tennessee opened the game playing zone, which is an understandable tactic when faced with Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls, but it won't amount for much if Arkansas is making jumpers and finding the open man. Arkansas shot nearly 60 percent from the field with near double-digit assists. Arkansas played like a Top 10 team during that stretch. Then a funny thing happened on the way to a blow-out, as has happened to Arkansas several times this season.
In the second half, Tennessee slowly whittled Arkansas' lead from 20 points to four. The Vols did so by knocking down open shots, but especially scoring in the paint. The yeomen effort by senior Josh Richardson was the major reason UT had a glimpse at an upset. He eventually fouled out of the game with 22 points and 10 rebounds, but the senior goes out on his shield. Tennessee as a whole has been a second-half team all season, and it's no surprise that it happened again tonight. Who knows if Donnie Tyndall will return to UT next year, but his teams definitely play hard for him and take advantage of superior teams slacking off to tighten games.
Arkansas, on the other hand, was led by SEC Player of the Year Bobby Portis and his 26 points and 11 rebounds. He knocked down open jump shots in UT's zone, drop-stepped a dunk or two, and ran the floor for easy buckets. He's ready for the next level. Portis was the catalyst for Arkansas going on at least two big first-half runs that provided the crucial cushion required for the close second half. Arkansas' defense was very impressive in the first half too, but the team started slacking in the second half, which has been a habit for the Hogs this year -- and may suggest a lack of a killer instinct. Not every team that rallies will have the talent level or team shooting abilities of UT.
Arkansas now moves on to face the winner of South Carolina-Georgia. Those are two teams Arkansas has a combined 3-0 record against this season. If Arkansas plays the way they did the first half, they shouldn't have an issue against either squad. The question is, can Arkansas put together a complete game in March? We find out tomorrow.