KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Freshman Santiago Vescovi had 20 points and eight assists before fouling out to set career highs in both categories as the Volunteers trounced Arkansas 82-61 on Tuesday.
Arkansas (16-8, 4-7 Southeastern Conference) lost its third consecutive game, shot a season-low 30.6% and fell by double figures for the first time all season. The Razorbacks had been one of only nine Division I teams to avoid any double-digit defeats.
Both teams were at far less than full strength for this one.
Arkansas played a third straight game without second-leading scorer Isaiah Joe, who underwent arthroscopic debridement surgery on his right knee in February 4 because of recurring inflammation. The Razorbacks also held Southeastern Conference scoring leader Mason Jones out of the starting lineup, though he sat for less than three minutes before taking the floor.
Tennessee (14-10, 6-5) played a fourth consecutive game without starting guard Josiah-Jordan James, who has a groin injury. Tennessee starting forward John Fulkerson played through an illness.
The Vols did a much better job of adapting to their circumstances.
Tennessee had five players score in double figures while Arkansas went through prolonged stretches without making a basket. Jordan Bowden had 16 for Tennessee. Fulkerson had 14, Yves Pons scored 12 and Olivier Nkamhoua had 10.
Jimmy Whitt Jr. scored 19, Desi Sills had 11 and Reggie Chaney added 10 for Arkansas.
Arkansas went 7 minutes, 44 seconds without a basket during one stretch in the first half. The Razorbacks followed that up by going 8:40 without a basket in the second half.
Jones scored just nine points – less than half his season average of 20.5 – and shot 1 of 10 from the field.
Midway through the first half, Arkansas had an equal number of turnovers (nine) and field-goal attempts. The Razorbacks trailed 40-23 at halftime and never cut the margin below 15 the rest of the way.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks dearly miss Joe. In its first two games without him, Arkansas lost in overtime to No. 11 Auburn and Missouri. This defeat wasn’t nearly that close as the Razorbacks fell three games below .500 in SEC competition, a steep fall for a team that raced to a 14-2 start this season. Arkansas entered the night a respectable 38th in the NET rankings, which are used as an evaluation tool in the NCAA Tournament selection process. But it’s tough to imagine the Razorbacks earning an NCAA bid if they don’t finish .500 or better in SEC play.
Tennessee: The Vols entered the night having lost four of their last five games, but they ended that slide by playing much stronger defense. In its last two losses, Tennessee allowed Mississippi State to shoot 57.1% and allowed Kentucky to shoot 54.3%. The Vols simply refused to give up any easy baskets Tuesday.
Arkansas host Mississippi State on Saturday.
Tennessee visits South Carolina on Saturday.