Tennessee (13-16, 6-10 SEC) dropped its second-to-last home game of the season on Saturday evening to Arkansas (15-14, 8-8 SEC). Here are five quick takeaways from the 75-65 loss:
1. Lack of firepower hurts: Tennessee was able to withstand the loss of Kevin Punter in last week’s home victory over LSU. But his absence continues to wear on the Vols, and Saturday night Tennessee had to play without junior Robert Hubbs III as well (more on his absence later) against the Razorbacks. Those two account for over 40% of UT’s offensive production on the season. The Vols needed some shooters to step up in their absence and simply didn’t have that happen as they shot 38% from the field and just 19% from 3-point territory as a team.
2. Moore doing all he can: Especially with Punter and Hubbs out, so much of Tennessee’s plan on both ends of the floor fall on senior forward Armani Moore. He, again, responded with an impressive stat line of 17 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and just two turnovers in 39 minutes of play. The reigning SEC Player of the Week continues to be a bright spot for the Vols. “Armani…what can you say?” Barnes said after the game. “He was unbelievable with what he had to do, he just needed more help.”
3. Hubbs injured/in the doghouse? Barnes was a bit cryptic when discussing Hubbs’ absence on Saturday evening. He didn’t play in the second half of the loss at South Carolina earlier in the week, but it was unclear how of that was because of his knee hurting and how much of that was because Barnes was upset with him “making excuses” early in that game.
Regardless, Barnes said he wouldn’t have put Hubbs back in during the second half of that loss. And Hubbs, who was in uniform on Saturday, never appeared in the game against the Gamecocks either. Barnes was less than clear and complimentary in his postgame remarks on the subject.
“He said something was wrong with his knee,” Barnes said after the game Saturday. “I didn’t expect him to play by looking at the way he walks around. I’ve learned not to have any great expectations from him.”
4. Vols, Razorbacks buck home/away trends: On paper, this one looked like a very winnable game for Tennessee, a team that came into Saturday with only two losses at home on the season. The Vols were also facing an Arkansas team that had only one win away from home all year. But even the one thing that has been such a constant for UT – success inside Thompson-Boling Arena – faded away on Saturday. It won’t get any easier next week either with an Ole Miss team fighting for its NCAA tournament life coming to Knoxville on what will be Senior Day for Punter, Moore, Devon Baulkman and Derek Reese next Saturday.
5. What now?: It’s fair to ask how much the Vols have to play for at this point after falling to 6-10 in conference play and getting blown out to SC and losing at home to Arkansas in the past week. The trip to Vanderbilt next week looks to be extremely difficult as well. Everybody knows this team, barring a miracle in the SEC Tournament, isn’t going to the postseason at this point, but one silver lining has been the number of minutes that freshmen such as Admiral Schofield, Kyle Alexander and Shembari Phillips are playing right now. Those might not lead to Ws this year, but should pay dividends in the future.
In terms of Punter’s future, Barnes was non-committal. He said that he would’ve played Saturday if he could’ve, but also noted that they’re not going to put him in a bad situation for his future. Tennessee fans should at least brace for the possibility that his UT career could be over, though there’s a chance he could make an appearance in one of UT’s few remaining games.
Final stats: Arkansas 75, UT 65 pic.twitter.com/doXzU5NZVW
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) February 28, 2016