Analyzing Arkansas' 75-57 loss at Tennessee

By: Scottie Bordelon Scottie Bordelon's Twitter account
Published: Tuesday, February 28, 2023
Tennessee forward Uros Plavsic (33) shoots past Arkansas guard Jordan Walsh (13) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
Tennessee forward Uros Plavsic (33) shoots past Arkansas guard Jordan Walsh (13) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

No. 12 Tennessee imposed its will against Arkansas on Tuesday night in Thompson-Boling Arena.

It led to the Volunteers cruising to a 75-57 win that dropped the Razorbacks to 19-11 overall and 8-9 in SEC play with one conference game remaining.

Tennessee’s most eye-opening edge in the game came in the lane. It outscored Arkansas 42-18 in the paint, including 24-8 in the first half.

The Razorbacks have given up a combined 94 paint points in the last two games. Alabama and the Volunteers finished 49 of 80 (61.3%) on two-point attempts.

“They completely out-physicaled us, there’s no doubt about it,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said. “The loose-ball game, the rebounding game, the screen-setting was much more forceful than ours.”

Tennessee was led by forward Olivier Nkamhoua, who finished with 16 points on 7 of 12 from the field and 7 rebounds, including 2 offensive. The Vols also got 19 points and 11 rebounds from forwards Jonas Aidoo, Tobe Awaka and Uros Plavsic.

Five of Awaka’s eight rebounds came on the offensive end and helped Tennessee tally 13 second-chance points.

More from WholeHogSports: Musselman, Council discuss loss at Tennessee

As a whole, it was not a banner night for the Razorbacks’ frontcourt.

Starting forward Makhi Mitchell finished with 2 points and 3 rebounds in 17 minutes. Twin brother Makhel Mitchell fouled out in 11 minutes and did not score or record a rebound.

Reserve forward Jalen Graham played three minutes and did not have any statistics. He was subbed out with 6:30 left in the first half after the Vols hounded him on the offensive glass and got second- and third-chance opportunities.

Kamani Johnson, who had played 5 minutes in the last 8 games, grabbed 3 rebounds in 12 minutes and missed 2 free throws.

“I mean, our bigs, you look at the rebounding numbers and their paint points,” Musselman said. “We didn't protect the rim nearly like we need to. Tennessee completely outplayed us.”

As troubling as the Razorbacks’ lack of interior physicality was on both ends of the floor, ball handling and decision-making compounded their problems. Arkansas committed 16 turnovers — its most in a game since the Jan. 31 win over Texas A&M in Fayetteville (17).

KenPom data shows the Razorbacks committed a turnover on 24.2% of their possessions. That is their fourth-highest figure in a game this season behind the win over South Dakota State on Nov. 16 and both games with Missouri.

Freshman guard Anthony Black had a team-high six turnovers, which matched a season high. He has 3 assists against 9 turnovers in the last 2 games.

Nick Smith, Davonte Davis and Jordan Walsh each had two turnovers, and Ricky Council had three — all in the second half. On at least two occasions Council left his feet to make a pass and threw it out of bounds.

Other head-scratching mistakes included Davis carelessly running into Makhi Mitchell on the perimeter in semi-transition and losing the ball, and Black throwing a lackadaisical pass intended to initiate a set. It was picked off and resulted in a three-pointer for Tennessee.

“There was a lot of passes tonight that were just thrown out of bounds,” Musselman said. “Certainly have to credit Coach (Rick) Barnes and credit Tennessee. And then there was, out of those 16 turnovers, at least five to seven that were self-inflicted.”

Tennessee looked the part of the No. 1 defense in the country. It entered the night with the nation’s best efficiency rating, according to KenPom data, and wound up holding Arkansas to its second-fewest point total in a game.

The Razorbacks made a season-low 10 two-point field goals. Their previous low was 15 against North Carolina-Greensboro on Dec. 6.

Arkansas would have been in more trouble offensively if not for an 8-for-22 night from three-point range. The Vols cut off dribble-drives and forced the Razorbacks into a few too many jumpers for Musselman’s liking.

“You need to go and attack the rim against a physical team,” Musselman said. “You need to get in the body, and we did not do that from a physical standpoint.”

According to StatBroadcast, the Razorbacks were held to 6 of 12 on layups and dunks in the loss.

“We didn't bounce back like we had hoped after playing Alabama,” Musselman said. “We'll continue to do what we've done with all of our teams and go back and prepare. We've got to do a better job, obviously. But the only thing I know is to go back to work and continue to try to improve.

“We took a step backward tonight, there's no question. Both as a team and individually, we took several steps backward.”


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