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3 Observations: Arkansas 86, Tennessee 69

(Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

When you fall behind 14-1 to open up the game, it’s hard to recover and win. Tennessee found that out the hard way on Wednesday night.

The Vols (15-13, 7-8 SEC) fell on the road to Arkansas (18-10, 6-9) by a score of 86-69. Two weeks ago, Tennessee throttled the Razorbacks 82-61 in Knoxville. On Wednesday, the Hogs returned the favor.

At halftime, Tennessee trailed by 13, as Arkansas led 40-27. The deficit could’ve — and likely should’ve — been more considering how sloppily the Vols had played on offense, but UT found themselves down just over a dozen points. And they came out ready to go in the second half after Rick Barnes called a timeout in the opening minute to settle his team down.

The Vols went on an 11-0 run to cut the Arkansas lead to just 42-38 at the 16:28 mark. Fast forward to the 14:10 mark, and Jordan Bowden slashed that deficit to just two points. Tennessee trailed 45-43 and looked to be right back in the game.

Then, Arkansas busted it back open, and it was thanks mostly to Mason Jones, the second-leading scorer in the SEC.

Jones scored a whopping 22 points in the second half, and he didn’t miss a single three in the second half en route to a 30-point performance.

After Tennessee got the Razorbacks’ lead down to just two, Arkansas woke back up and outscored the Vols 41-26 to close out the game.

Jordan Bowden and John Fulkerson were the only Vols who could get anything going consistently on offense. Bowden scored 19 points and was 4-of-10 from three, while Fulkerson totaled 15 points and five rebounds on 5-of-12 shooting overall.

Other than some contributions by Yves Pons (12 points, nine rebounds), the rest of Tennessee’s offense was non-existent for most of the night.

Here are our three biggest takeaways from the Vols’ blowout loss on the road to Arkansas, their second-straight road loss.

Jones Bounces Back

When Tennessee last played Arkansas in Knoxville, the Vols contained Mason Jones, the Razorbacks’ leading scorer, to just nine points on 1-of-10 shooting. On Wednesday, he got his revenge.

The SEC’s second-leading scorer put up 37 points on 11-of-19 shooting, including going 12-of-15 from the free throw line. Wednesday’s game marks the seventh time this season that Jones has eclipsed the 30-point mark in a game, and it’s the most points the Vols have allowed to an opposing player all season.

Even including that nine-point clunker against the Vols two weeks ago, Jones has averaged 26.4 points over his last nine games after Wednesday’s contest.

Santi Shut Down

Freshman point guard Santiago Vescovi has been a game changer for the Vols this season ever since he joined the team as a mid-year enrollee. But on Wednesday night against Arkansas, he struggled mightily.

Vescovi was guarded by Jimmy Whitt Jr. for most of the night, and the veteran guard made Vescovi’s night miserable. The freshman point guard turned the ball over five times and didn’t get an assist, shooting just 3-of-8 from the floor in the process. Vescovi’s passes were batted out of bounds multiple times as well, and it was obvious that Whitt was getting in his head. Wednesday also marked the first time this season that Vescovi failed to make at least one three-pointer in a game, going 0-of-4 from distance.

That poor play from Vescovi at the point guard position affected Tennessee’s entire offense.

The Vols turned the ball over nine times in the first half and 12 times total, totaling just eight assists on 24 made field goals as a team. For a team that has one of the highest assisted field goal percentages in the NCAA, Wednesday night’s performance was not only atypical, but it was also downright awful.

Hogs Own Vols in Fayetteville

Tennessee’s inability to beat Arkansas in Bud Walton Arena continued on Wednesday.

The Vols have now lost six consecutive games against the Razorbacks in Fayetteville. Tennessee’s last win on the road against Arkansas came back in 2009, a 74-72 victory. Since then, the Razorbacks have handled UT on their home court.

With Wednesday’s loss, Tennessee falls to 4-11 all-time in Fayetteville. The Vols are now just 3-7 in true road games this season.

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