Hogs Take Landmark Road Win Over Vols

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Vincent Hunter's beatific expression best reflected Arkansas' high spirits after a 73-69 upset win over No. 10 Tennessee before 22,543 stunned fans in Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday.

"This is the best feeling," said Hunter, who had 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds off the bench. "I'm just so excited right now."

So were all the Razorbacks, who advanced to 19-8, 8-6 in the Southeastern Conference and near-certain NCAA Tournament status.

It was the first home loss of the season for the Volunteers (20-5, 11-3 SEC), whose lack of inside defensive power has been a theme in all five of their losses.

Darian Townes, whose 15 points led Arkansas for the second straight game, had a field day inside in the second half. He made 7-of-9 floor shots, running the table on his last seven.

"Darian is a big key to our team and our program," Hunter said. "He's got that baby hook down. Everyone is contributing now."

Just call the roll.

Jonathon  Modica scored 14 points, including two big free throws for a 72-69 Arkansas lead with 25.8 seconds left, and wore out UT ace Chris Lofton, who had to chase him all game.

Eric  Ferguson matched Lofton's 12 points while hounding him defensively for 34 minutes, mostly without help.

Charles Thomas had 11 points and six rebounds, helping the Hogs outrebound Tennessee by a staggering 45-24 -- UT's biggest board deficit of the season.

Ronnie Brewer, content to play more at point guard, settled for 9 points and a season-high nine assists.

Dontell Jefferson contributed four assists in 16 minutes, and Steven Hill had six rebounds plus a blocked shot in 13 minutes.

"It was an incredible victory," said Hogs coach Stan Heath. "I'm proud of how we never quit fighting. We got big stops at the end, and only had 10 turnovers. I think I should get a medal for coaching the most close games in the country, except for maybe Notre Dame."

Tennessee, which lost its 15-game home winning streak, led 63-49 after a ceiling-scraping C.J. Watson 3-pointer with 8:48 left.

"I just told our guys we were down by more than that against Alabama (42-24) and won," Heath said.

So the Razorbacks used a 15-0 run to go up 64-63 by the 4:14 mark on Ferguson's 3-pointer.

Lofton answered with one of his two 3s for a 66-64 Tennessee edge, but Thomas responded with an amazing left-handed bank shot to tie it 66-66 at 3:22.

Townes put Arkansas up 68-66 on a feed from Brewer inside at 2:57, then rebounded Dane Bradshaw's miss on the other end.

"Even when we had a double-digit lead, it felt like we were a little sloppy," Bradshaw said. "We weren't playing to the best of our ability and it came back to haunt us. But give Arkansas credit. It was a matter of Arkansas wanting it more."

Ferguson's six-footer at 1:20 after an effective mid-possession Heath timeout put the Hogs up 70-66, but a JaJuan Smith free throw and two Bradshaw free throws got UT within 70-69 with 32.9 ticks left.

That was Modica's cue to get fouled and make both free throws.

"I knew I was going to make them," Modica said. "That's why I held onto the ball, so I would get fouled. I had a lot of focus and concentration."

Ferguson made a clinching free throw with 10.6 seconds left for 73-69. Lofton missed a game-closing 3, though he wasn't charged with it officially, and Brewer rebounded to begin a Hogs celebration.

Smith, who scored 11 points for Tennessee and had a career-high seven rebounds, said the Vols failed to match Arkansas' focus.

"Out there on the floor we didn't get pumped up the way we usually do on a big play," Smith said. "We thought it was just going to come to us."

Watson scored 17 points and Andre Patterson 10 for UT, but Arkansas held Bradshaw and Major Wingate to 6 and 3 points respectively while also flummoxing Lofton.

"Our coach (Bruce Pearl) is notorious for not losing leads, but coaches can only do so much," Bradshaw said. "This one is on us. Arkansas did a much better job of getting rebounding position -- they're undefeated when they outrebound the other team."

Pearl, described as a "genius" by Vols assistant Scott Edgar before the game, saluted the Razorbacks.

"They're the kind of team that could make some noise in the NCAA Tournament," Pearl said. "We were playing for a (league) championship today, but they were playing for the (NCAA) tournament. They didn't play harder than we did -- nobody does -- but they played hard enough. I thought they wore us down with their offensive execution."

Although this furious game had 14 lead changes and seven ties, Bradshaw said, "We failed to ever get all 22,000 fans on their feet like we needed to."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories