Tennessee 74, Arkansas 68

Arkansas rallies late with 16 unanswered points to tie the game, but Tennessee puts in the final six points of the game to edge the Razorbacks 74-68 Thursday night in the opening round of the SEC Tournament.

ATLANTA - For the seventh time in the last 10 years and the third straight season, Arkansas is heading home from the SEC Tournament after just one game.

But the Razorbacks didn't go down quietly – at least not in the final seven minutes.

Tobias Harris had 16 of his 20 points in the first half and Tennessee survived a late 16-0 Arkansas run to down the Razorbacks 74-68 Thursday night inside the Georgia Dome.

"I was very, very proud of those guys for the run they put together," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "We actually had a chance there on a couple of possessions to take the lead, but we weren't able to do that. Tennessee had some good defense and was able to outplay us there in the last minute or so to get the victory."

Melvin Goins added 12 for the Volunteers (19-13), who advance to play Florida in a Friday night quarterfinal round game.

"I thought that first of all, they (the Razorbacks) made some great shots, they made some great plays and they got elevated," Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl said. "We missed about three or four shots inside and got stripped a couple of times. And it happened so fast, but it wasn't like we weren't getting the ball where we needed it.

"But we were able to withstand that and get a few stops," Pearl added.

Rotnei Clarke had 18 points and 5 assists and Delvon Johnson 15 points and 8 rebounds to lead John Pelphrey's Razorbacks (18-13), who lost their last three games of the season.

Arkansas was down 68-52 with just under 7 minutes left, but the 16-0 run capped by Johnson's free throws with 2:08 left tied the game up 68-68.

"You could see that Arkansas is a very dangerous team," Pearl said. "They've just got a lot of toughness and grit with Rotnei Clarke and (Marcus) Britt knocking down some big shots there. They had a barrage of three balls there late, didn't panic, they didn't feel like the game was over and I would give them great, great credit for coming back on us."

The Razorbacks had a chance for the lead, but Johnson was called for walking with 1:10 left. Brian Williams hit a basket to break the tie and the Vols hit four free throws to ice the game.

"It's very disappointing," Clarke said. "We felt like we shouldn't been in that position in the first place, but that's how it was. But we didn't quit. We fought and the coaches believed in us. We kept saying we are going to get back into the game. And it's frustrating because we got all the way back into it and we had a chance to do some things and take the lead on a couple of possessions and just didn't do it. So it's frustrating."

Michael Sanchez and Julysess Nobles added 8 points each for Arkansas while Mardracus Wade chipped in 7.

"It was very exciting that we made runs and got stops and we competed out there," Wade said. "I think we showed great composure there toward the end. It was really sad that it ended like it did. We just needed a couple more stops. A little more effort on both ends of the floor."

Tennessee used a 12-2 run at the end of the first half to turn a 25-23 lead into a 37-25 advantage at the break.

Harris, a 6-8, 226-pound freshman, was phenomenal in the first half.

"Tobias Harris played like an All-American," Pearl said. "He's got great confidence because no one in the country works harder than he does to prepare. It was obvious that he was the dominant player on the floor tonight."

Pelphrey noted that 28 of the 37 points were either in transition or on offensive rebounds.

Arkansas shot just 7 of 25 in the first half, but was 14 of 21 from the field in the second half.

"I thought our first half defense was tremendous," Pearl said. "The defense down at the other end away from our bench (in the second half), we couldn't help them and it wasn't as good."

Arkansas confirmed that it has put in a bid to host NIT games should the Hogs be selected for that tournament, but that is far from a certainty after finishing fourth in the SEC's Western Division.

"We haven't really talked about that much," Clarke said. "We were focused on this and focused on the games we had to play here and we didn't expect to lose."

Johnson would like another chance to play. "I haven't heard nothing about that, but obviously if we do, I'll be happy because I get to suit up one more time at least so that would be good," Johnson said.


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