KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Josh Richardson scored 20 points and Tennessee withstood a furious Arkansas comeback to hang on for a 74-69 victory over the 19th-ranked Razorbacks on Tuesday nigh before 13,386 fans.
After trailing by 13 points with under four minutes left, Arkansas (13-3, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) cut the margin to three and had a chance to tie the game when true freshman Anton Beard was fouled by Kevin Punter while attempting a 3-pointer with 5.1 seconds remaining.
But Beard - who had a career-high 12 points missed all three of his ensuing free throws. Armani Moore clinched the victory by sinking two free throws with 3.7 seconds remaining.
"That (the comeback) was probably the only thing we did positive - we didn't go away," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said. "We had an opportunity to just fold our tents and go away.
"Thank goodness for Anton Beard," Anderson added. "He came in and just kind of ignited us with just his hustle play, taking charges, loose balls and we finally started attacking when we got down.
"It is amazing how you play with a sense of urgency when you get down and you start attacking that zone," Anderson continued. "We just didn't do a good job of taking care of the basketball tonight."
Arkansas (13-3, 2-1) came into the game riding a seven-game winning streak and had jumped up four spots to No. 19 in this week's Associated Press poll.
"Arkansas is a really talented team — maybe the most talented we’ve played all year — and they never quit," Vols head coach Donnie Tyndall said. "So proud of our guys.
"...There is a distinct difference in playing not to lose and playing to win," Tyndall added. "I thought for about 35 minutes we played to win, and the last five minutes we played not to lose. You could just tell. We tightened up a little bit and missed some free throws. We turned it over. We became a little apprehensive."
Tennessee (10-5, 2-1) was coming in off a 56-38 home loss to Alabama in a tough loss for the embattled Tyndall, who is under fire for allegations of NCAA rules violations at his last stop at Southern Miss.
It was their second take-down of a ranked team this season as the Vols downed No. 15 Butler earlier this season.
"I just thought the energy level was not where it needed to be on the road," Anderson said. "Coming into this game I thought Donnie was going to have his team prepared because they lost a game to Alabama where they didn't play well at all in the second half.
"They are a scrappy team so they came out and fought, fought, fought until they got that lead and they had just enough of one that they could finish it up down the stretch," Anderson said. ""I just thought our focus and the energy coming into this game wasn't where it should be."
Tennessee snapped Arkansas' winning streak despite shooting just 14 of 26 from the line, including 12 of 22 in the second half.
"We were flat out just flat," Anderson said. "So I had to insert some guys just to get some energy going. Our guys have got to understand that everybody in our league is good and anybody can beat anybody on any given night. It showed tonight."
"This one is one me - I'll take the blame - but I will also go back to work and get these guys ready for more SEC teams that are coming in," Anderson added.
Robert Hubbs scored a career-high 16 points and Moore added 14 for Tennessee. Bobby Portis scored 17, Michael Qualls had 15 and Beard added 12 for Arkansas.
Richardson, Hubbs and Moore shot a combined 20 of 26 from the floor.
"We’re not gonna win pretty," Tyndall said. "That’s not our deal. We win ugly. That’s our thing right now. And that’s fine.
The Vols were held without a basket for a stretch of over 14 minutes in the second half in their loss against Alabama, but their defense helped their offense bounce back from that dreadful performance.
The Vols shot 51 percent (27 of 46) and outscored Arkansas 27-15 in points off turnovers.
"I was worried our fans wouldn’t come back so well after Saturday’s game, but they did," Tyndall said. "And we don’t win this game without them."
Veteran ref Ted Valentine called the foul that allowed Beard to go to the line for three shots with a chance to tie it.
"I love Ted Valentine," Tyndall said. "He’s one of the best in the game. I’m not gonna criticize him. But I find it hard to believe he was shooting."
That being said, Tyndall was ready to take the blame if Beard would have tied it up in a game where Arkansas was 9-of-11 shooting free throws to that point.
That wild play at the end, that’s on me," Tyndall said. "I should have told the guys to foul before half court and eliminate any confusion."
Tennessee led 33-31 at halftime and started the second half on a 10-2 run to build a 10-point advantage.
Arkansas answered with five straight points to cut the deficit in half, but Tennessee responded with an 11-0 run to grab a 54-38 advantage. The spurt included a pair of 3-pointers from Detrick Mostella.
After reducing Tennessee's lead to 43-38, Arkansas scored just one point over the next seven minutes. As much as the Razorbacks heated up down the stretch, they couldn't quite come all the way back.
Arkansas ended the game with 18 turnovers, including a team-high four from Portis.
"The thing that really got us was turnovers and they were unforced turnovers," Anderson said. "They defended their home court and we really didn't play one of our better games."
The Razorbacks will return to action Saturday night when they host Ole Miss in an 8:30 p.m. game at Bud Walton Arena.
"Obviously we are disappointed in the performance, but you have got to have a short-term memory," Anderson said. "That game is over with and there is nothing you can do about it.
"Let it hurt until midnight - just as you only enjoy the wins until midnight - and let's see if we can come back and get prepared to play against an Ole Miss team that is a really good basketball team," Anderson added.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks had been seeking to match their best start in SEC competition. Arkansas won its first three SEC games in 1992-93 and 1997-98.
Tennessee: The Vols used their eighth different starting lineup of the season. Junior forward Derek Reese and Hubbs moved into starting roles Tuesday, with Punter and freshman forward Willie Carmichael coming off the bench.
Josh Richardson drives on Jabril Durham.
Tennessee 74, Arkansas 69
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