Arkansas Suffers Heartbreaking Loss

FAYETTEVILLE — Five ties occurred in the final four minutes before Stefan Welsh floated toward the basket Wednesday night, hoping to send Arkansas' game with Tennessee into overtime.

As he finished his full-court sprint with a layup try, one second showing on the Bud Walton Arena scoreboard, Welsh fully believed a sixth deadlock would transpire.

"I had a full head of steam and beat my man to the middle of paint," the Arkansas guard said. "I should've hit it."

Welsh's shot bounced off the rim straight to a charging Michael Washington. His tip attempt barely beat the buzzer, but it also clanked off iron, finalizing a demoralizing 74-72 defeat that left both juniors sprawled out on the court.

Washington, who posted his ninth double-double this season, slowly rose up and made his way to shake the Volunteers' hands. Welsh, who scored a game-high 22 points, stayed on the ground longer and was eventually helped to his feet by Tennessee's Wayne Chism.

From that moment on, Welsh's crushed demeanor didn't change until he left the floor. The pain of Arkansas' sixth loss in seven Southeastern Conference games seemed to numb him.

"I just feel blank," Welsh told reporters afterward.

Arkansas coach John Pelphrey, as well as Welsh's teammates, surely shared that dreaded feeling of having let a victory escape them.

In a game similar to the teams' SEC Tournament battle in March, won 92-91 by Arkansas, the lead constantly changed Wednesday in front of an announced crowd of 15,055. There were 10 ties and six lead changes in the second half alone before Tennessee guard Bobby Maze drilled the game-winning 15-footer with 5.4 seconds left.

Up until that shot, Chism, Tyler Smith and J.P. Prince had combined to score all of the Volunteers' second-half points. But it was Maze who floated the shot over the fingertips of Arkansas' Jason Henry that devastated the Razorbacks.

"It was huge for Bobby, and also for his teammates," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "He just drove it, got to the spot and ... I wouldn't mistake him for (South Carolina's) Devan Downey, but it was Devan Downey-like."

The combined efforts of Smith, Chism and Prince hurt the Razorbacks more than Maze's one shot, Pelphrey said. Arkansas outrebounded Tennessee 32-30, but the Vols nabbed timely offensive boards in the final minutes.

Chism's tip-in put UT up 68-66, and Prince's tip-in gave the Vols a 72-70 lead.

"I keep clinging to this. I keep hammering away at this," Pelphrey said. "If we block out and rebound, I think we have a great chance to win this ballgame."

The Razorbacks battled the SEC's preseason favorites down to the final shot despite being outscored 8-1 in the game's first 4:50 and 9-0 in the first 3:43 after halftime.

With a short bench — Pelphrey played only seven players, including surprise starter Henry — Arkansas answered every Tennessee spurt. The Hogs (13-7, 1-6) responded to the Vols' torrid start with a 16-0 run, finding quality shots on offense and stifling Tennessee (14-7, 5-2) on defense.

They showed similar resolve down the stretch, getting big shot after big shot from players such as freshman point guard Courtney Fortson and Washington. Fortson's tough driving layups in traffic tied the game at 70 with 1:05 remaining and at 72 with 11 seconds left.

Fortson didn't get the ball after Maze's game-clincher, as Henry inbounded to Welsh instead. Pelphrey didn't sound disappointed with the way Arkansas' final possession materialized.

But the maddening result only furthered his and his team's frustration.

"I don't think you can get any closer to the rim as we were," Pelphrey said.

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