The No. 4 team in the country – and the best one in the SEC - put the hammer down once the second half rolled around in Knoxville on Wednesday night.
JaJuan Smith tied a career high with 32 points – including 6-of-6 3-pointers - as Tennessee routed the University of Arkansas 93-71 before 20,008 fans at Thompson-Boling Arena in a matchup of teams who had combined to win nine straight.
Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism added 15 each for Tennessee (22-2, 9-1), who won its sixth straight game and notched its 29th consecutive home victory since Arkansas and Kentucky took the Vols down in back-to-back games in 2006.
"We didn't play well enough," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "We didn't do the things we needed to do from the defensive side of it. Both halves were borderline 50 percent from the field and one man gets 32 points in the basketball game and that was not what we were looking to get down.
"From our side of it, we just did not play smart on offense," Pelphrey added. "You start adding all of that stuff together...you can't play like that and get a win."
Sonny Weems tossed in 20 points, Darian Townes 12 and Michael Washington 7 points and 10 rebounds for Arkansas (17-6, 6-3), who had won four straight before losing on Wednesday night.
Foul-plagued Patrick Beverley, who played less than three minutes in the first half, was limited to 5 points and 1 rebound on Wednesday.
The Razorbacks fell a game back of SEC Western Division-leading Mississippi State – who was off on Wednesday night – with the two teams squaring off Saturday afternoon in Starkville with the winner getting the advantage for the No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament.
Tennessee led just 43-38 at halftime, but scored the first six points of the second half and 12 of the first 13, the last couple on Tyler Smith's free throws that put the Vols up 54-39.
"Tennessee is a good basketball team and we fought off some adversity there in the first half," Pelphrey said. "Coming out of that and it just being a five-point game, we were hopeful we could come out in the second half with all the guys and hang in there and keep battling. But it was a total opposite. We had a nice play here at the basket where we lose it and then we come down here...then before you know it in about 30 seconds they are up 11."
By the time JaJuan Smith dropped in two straight long-range 3-pointers, Tennessee had surged to a 76-51 lead with 8:47 remaining.
Smith tied his career with a rebound basket that made it 90-64 with Tennessee starters still playing with just under four minutes left.
Duke Crews added 11 points and 10 rebounds for Tennessee won despite getting only 6 points from leading scorer Chris Lofton.
"He (JaJuan Smith) is a good player and shot the ball extremely well," Pelphrey said. "We knew coming in that he and Lofton were deadly, deadly guys from the 3-point line."
Arkansas shot 39 percent from the field, 38.9 from 3-point range and 62.1 percent (18-of-29) from the free throw line.
Tennessee was 48.3 percent from the field, shot 44 percent from 3-point range and 75 percent from the line.
The Arkansas-Mississippi State game will be televised live by ESPN at 3:05 p.m. on Saturday.
The Bulldogs will be looking for revenge for the 78-58 pasting that the Razorbacks put on them last month in Fayetteville.
"We don't have too much time to rest or feel sorry for yourself," Pelphrey said. "We try to get home safely tonight, get our rest and get back to practice. We are going to roll into Starkville and Mississippi State is not going to be in a very good mood because we were able to beat them at our place. It is going to be a very good basketball game."
UT 93, Arkansas 71
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