We've All Seen This Mess Before

ATLANTA - Mentioned to Arkansas sports information director Robby Edwards that he should not be surprised if I tugged my clothes off and ran onto the Georgia Dome floor Thursday night because I've had to remain constantly loaded up on pain pills since the recent surgery.

Bet you wish you had some if you watched this mess.

Turned out there was indeed an ugly streak during the Arkansas-Tennessee first-round Southeastern Conference Tournament matchup here, but I had nothing to do with it.

The Razorbacks came out calm, confident and almost wildly aggressive, building leads of 8-3, 11-7 and 13-8 before their bottoms fell out.

Soon as Tennessee switched to the dreaded zone that so hypnotizes this team, the Hogs became stuck in the mud.

After a Rashard Sullivan inside move made it 13-8 with 14:21 left until intermission, Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson called timeout.

"I believe (the Volunteers) were a little bit tight," Peterson said. "I told 'em, 'Settle down, do what we do best, get back on defense and don't give up transition buckets. We have got to be the aggressor. We've got the most experience."

Tennessee responded with an 11-0 run, much of it bolstered because Arkansas seldom scorers Steven Hill, Dontell Jefferson and Sullivan were on the floor.

Two Darian Townes free throws cut the Volunteers' lead to 19-15, but Arkansas would not score again for just over 5 1/2 minutes while Scooter McFadgon (game-high 22 points, 15 in the first half) and company soared to a 29-15 lead.

"It was just pretty much over after that," said Tennessee center Brandon Crump.

The Volunteers didn't crash in the second half as they ran away with a 65-46 win in front of an apathetic, quiet crowd in the half-full Georgia Dome.

Three SEC Tournament appearances under Arkansas coach Stan Heath have produced three listless blowouts.

"I was sitting where Stan's sitting this time last year, when Alabama took it to us (84-49)," said Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson. "You know, a lot of it sometimes is you've got to hit open shots and come to play and just got to get your guys to be aggressive."

Arkansas could do nothing against Tennessee's zone, even when the Hogs had wide-open chances. Grandmothers could've taken them at H-O-R-S-E. They managed just 38 percent from the field, including only 1 of 13 3-pointers.

"When they switched to a zone and we missed a couple of shots here or there, our confidence was shaken," Heath said.

That's just too darned fragile for this time of year.

Because of the difficulties of shooting in a dome, Peterson had his players shoot during most of Wednesday's hour-long practice. He changed up his usual routine of having the Vols shoot before and after their first SEC tourney workout, opting instead to take them out to dinner before going over the gameplan and having a quick shoot-around at Georgia Tech.

Heath, who downplayed domed shooting problems on Wednesday, intimated it might've been a problem Thursday night.

But there were plenty more.

The Volunteers outrebounded (42-23), outhustled (umph-oh, well), outran (fast-slow) and outshot (41-38 percent, and UT hit 8 of 14 treys) the sluggish, lost Hogs.

"Oh, wow!" said Peterson while scanning the stats sheet. "The difference tonight I thought than the game in Fayetteville was box-outs. And when we got the offensive rebound, we kicked it back outside and ate some clock."

Said Heath: "We didn't give ourselves much of a chance."

A defected Heath was joined on the postgame interview stand by guard Ronnie Brewer and forward Michael   Jones. Brewer was asked one question, about Tennessee's zone ("We got out of our gameplan of being aggressive and got a little bit passive"). No one asked Jones anything.

After last weekend's ridiculous 77-64 loss at lowly Auburn and this, there's just not much left to say.

"I hurt for the guys," Heath said. "I know they're good players and capable of getting it done."

Could be.

But they sure as shootin' have not shown us - or the National Invitation Tournament selection committee - anything close to that in almost a month.

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