At first, Arkansas tried to see if they could push Tennessee a little, make them play a little faster. It could, but it was costly. Then, Arkansas took away some of the things the Vols did best and edged ahead with solid defense. Gradually, Arkansas went from the team that was taking jumpers and giving up too many shots at the rim, to the team getting to the rim and forcing jumpers. It was the difference.
At the same time, Arkansas pushed to the basket against a tough matchup zone. Not always was it successful. Michael Qualls was not rewarded for some of his strong, powerful drive. He was splattered time after time with no call, but he was not frustrated. He kept rebounding, playing defense and leaving every ounce on the floor.
Bobby Portis battled tooth and nail to the end. Often, he did not get the call, either. In fact, oddly for a home team, Arkansas was not rewarded for its penetration and work to get into the middle of the Tennessee zone where they were battered with hips, arms and hands. No calls, especially from the lead official who swallowed his whistle.
Still, it was a wonderful game to watch. I enjoyed every second of it, despite not feeling well. In fact, the game lifted me to feeling better because I enjoy good basketball.
I did not expect Arkansas to score a lot against the Tennessee zone. I thought the Hogs would win a little more comfortably, but I didn't figure they would get so few calls on their homecourt. I picked a score of 67-56 earlier in the afternoon on Bo's radio show. I almost go the Arkansas score right.
Why did I pick a low Arkansas score? I did not think Arkansas would have as much energy, especially from key players like Portis and Qualls after playing three games since Thursday. I did think the team responded to the urging of a good crowd. When I say good crowd, I mean they were a factor and brought energy to the team at key points. That was fun to watch, Arkansas fans doing their job.
It's no wonder that several players -- Jacorey Williams and Beard -- are battling the flu. Tough to stay well with all that's in the air around Fayetteville -- flu and colds are everywhere -- when you are stretched to the limit as far as the schedule with the three games, one of them a road trip.
Some here don't want to admit the obvious, that this is a good team. It is not what I thought it would be as far as perimeter defense, but it still is a good team and the good players are the ones we expected, Ky Madden along with Portis and Qualls. There is no string of fanatical perimeter defenders like Fred Gulley, Kikko Haydar and Mardracus Wade that Mike Anderson had last year. Anton Beard, Manny Watkins and Jabril Durham give just hints of defense. Madden is not quick enough or strong enough to provide that.
So they win other ways. Yet, they win. And, I for one, enjoy the winning. I've seen losing so much that I understand the fun of getting to the end and have a chance to win and achieve just that, another great victory. There are not a lot of thrashings. But I'll take 16-4 and look to see what else this team can do to excite me and I bet there is plenty left. Come along for the ride.