BASKETBALL: Smith's Outburst Dooms Razorbacks

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Three minutes remained in Arkansas' 93-71 loss Wednesday night at No. 4 Tennessee when Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith jogged off the Thompson-Boling Arena court.

The loyal, orange-clad followers who decided not to head for the exits early showered the pair of Volunteer guards with a standing ovation. But here's the shocking part of the salute near the end of Tennessee's 29th straight home victory: Those fans weren't hailing Lofton, the Vols' all-everything sharp-shooter.

They were clapping and screaming for Smith, the often overlooked senior guard who torched the Razorbacks for a career-high tying 32 points in just 24 minutes.

"When a guy gets on a roll like that, it's all about confidence," Arkansas point guard Gary Ervin said. "The basket gets big, you feel like you can make any shot and that's what he did."

For the first 28 minutes of Wednesday night's defeat, Arkansas (17-6, 6-3) weathered Smith's outburst. The Razorbacks, one game behind Mississippi State now in the SEC Western Division, didn't start like they would.

Tennessee (22-2, 9-1) jumped out 11-4, scoring its first four baskets on uncontested layups and dunks, and got several Hogs into foul trouble. Patrick Beverley, one of four Razorbacks to pick up two first-half fouls, played just four minutes before halftime, and the Vols eventually built a 35-24 lead.

Consecutive 3-pointers by Vincent Hunter and Sonny Weems closed the gap to five points. And Arkansas managed to go the last seven minutes of the first half without a turnover.

Even first-year coach John Pelphrey was pleasantly shocked by a 43-38 deficit at the half.

"I was surprised to be only five points down at halftime," Pelphrey said. "And I got optimistic."

That feeling didn't last long. The Volunteers flashed their collective explosiveness during two second-half spurts that widened the margin quickly. The first, an 11-1 run to start the second half, took just 150 seconds and consisted of six points each from Tyler Smith and JaJuan Smith.

The second was a 14-0 spurt that turned a 10-point lead into an insurmountable 76-52 advantage. That run started moments before Pelphrey smacked the scorer's table with his right hand, protesting one of Arkansas' 27 fouls and drawing his fifth technical foul this season.

Through it all, JaJuan Smith was devastatingly effective. Afterward, Smith said he knew he "was feeling it" right when his first shot splashed through the net. He went on to drain all six of his 3-pointers. He drove into the lane and converted difficult layups. He downed eight of his 11 free throws.

He proved the Hogs were astute when they insisted earlier this week that stopping Lofton didn't guarantee victory.

"It's not just a one-man game," said Razorback senior Sonny Weems, who scored a team-high 20 points. "You have to worry about the whole team."

And Arkansas couldn't deal with the Volunteers' seemingly endless stream of scorers. The Razorbacks' inability to stop Tennessee from tallying 50 points in the second half wasn't necessarily a matter of them slacking.

Pelphrey didn't fault the effort of his Hogs, who must forget about this loss quickly with the Western Division showdown at Mississippi State awaiting on Saturday.

Too little offense in the second half — they shot 34.4 percent after halftime — simply resulted in too many open-floor situations for the Vols.

"When you don't score the ball, then you have to play transition defense more," Pelphrey said. "And if you start doing that too much with those guys, with the speed and the shooting, there's a reason why they're 22-2."

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