ATLANTA - Once upon a time, an embattled University of Arkansas coach led his team to four wins in four days at the SEC Tournament while keeping his job and the wolves at bay for almost two more years.
That was before all 40 minutes of Hell broke loose.
Since then the Razorbacks are now 0-for-4 at the event, losing first under interim head coach Mike Anderson after he took over for Nolan Richardson and now three times n the opening round under current head coach Stan Heath.
Scooter McFagdon showed he was completely healthy by scoring 15 of his game-high 22 points in the opening half and Tennessee whipped Arkansas 65-46 Thursday night at the Georgia Dome.
It left the Razorbacks (18-12) as the only team without a victory in the tournament since the aforementioned title run back in 2000.
"I hurt for our team, I really do," Heath said. "I thought they came into this tournament with the right attitude. They were going to play, they were going to play together, they were going to give effort. I know that's where their hearts were."
But for all a team meeting Sunday supposedly accomplished, it was Tennessee dominating the boards to the tune of 42-23 - the most it had outrebounded an opponent this season and the most Arkansas had been outrebounded.
"It's very exciting," Tennessee head coachh Buzz Peterson said. "I think it's been since January 19th, since that big win in Gainesville that everybody's been healthy and together."
The Razorbacks also shot just 7.7 percent (1-of-13) from the 3-point line while missing their first nine and had two long scoring droughts.
The 46 points was the fewest in an SEC tournament game for the Razorbacks with the previous low coming in a 85-56 loss to LSU in the 2002 tourney.
It also was the fewest points scored by a Razorback team since a 55-45 loss to Ole Miss last season.
"I thought we started off the game pretty strong," Heath said. "We were aggressive, getting turnovers. We really played out there pretty hard. Then they switched to a zone. We missed a couple of shots here and there and our confidence got a little shaky. It's been something that's happened."
Tennessee had 22 offensive rebounds and Arkansas 15, meaning the Razorbacks had just 8 defensive rebounds.
"We really hurt ourselves and didn't give ourselves much of a chance," Heath said. "Twenty two offensive rebounds is way too many I thought that differential really seperated the two teams."
Brandon Crump added 16 points and he and McFagdon each had 7 rebounds each while the Vols were knocking down 8 of their 14 3-pointers.
Arkansas played aggressive and looked strong early while first jumping to an 8-3 lead that included two steals and dunks and then going up 13-8 with 14:21 on five consecutive points by Ronnie Brewer.
But just as the Razorbacks did in their regular season finale at Auburn and on several occasions during the season, Arkansas went stone cold and through a big scoring drought that all but sealed its fate.
Tennessee launched a 21-2 haymaker during that time, including a stretch of eight straight that was capped by McFagdon's 3-pointer with 6:42 left that put the Vols up 29-15.
"I think we attacked the zone like we wanted to," Brewer said. "We got some screens. We were trying to penetrate and kick. We weren't knocking down shots and throughout the game we kind of hesitated taking shots. We tried to force the ball inside and it created turnovers, so we got out of our gameplan."
Brewer finally ended the drought with a bucket at the 4:36 mark, meaning Arkansas had just one field goal and two free throws in almost 10 minutes.
The Razorbacks crept to within 34-24 at halftime and 36-28 when Darian Townes got loose for a dunk with 18:11 left in the game.
But McFagdon buried another 3-pointer and the rout was on with Tennessee ripping off a 13-0 spree that put them up 49-28 on Major Wingate's lay up with 12:03 left in the contest.
Brewer's old-fashioned 3-point play ended a 6 1/2 minute drought at that point, but Tennessee was soon up 61-38 and cruising to the win.
Brewer and Townes led the Razorbacks with 10 points while Olu Famutimi and Eric Ferguson added 8 each.
Arkansas, which has now lost three straight, will likely receive an NIT bid on Sunday night while Tennessee (14-16) moves on to play Kentucky in the second round of the tournament on Friday.
Tennessee 65, Arkansas 46
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