Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl pitched a fit – and soon after his team ditched the University of Arkansas.
Sophomore Scotty Hopson had 15 points and the No. 16 Volunteers scored 10 unanswered points after a Pearl technical en route to downing the Razorbacks 80-73 on Senior Night before 20,000-plus fans at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Arkansas (14-16, 7-8) cut an 11-point deficit to 51-48 with 14:34 left before Tennessee responded to their coach's intensity.
"After the technical foul, I thought Tennessee really hardened up, came at us and the crowd got loud," UA head coach John Pelphrey said. "They made some plays. There were some calls. I think everything just went Tennessee's way and then our guys kind of planted their feet and withstood all of that and started fighting back and got through the storm."
Indeed the Razorbacks did get back to within 6 and had possession, but couldn't convert and the Volunteers (22-7, 10-5) added this win to their upset of Kentucky on Saturday.
"Obviously I was upset at that point and that is why I got a technical foul," Pearl said after the game. "We may have picked up our energy, but that is not what should have happened from the beginning. We are trying to play well together, so I should not have to jump-start them like that… We turned over the ball 17 times. I just do not know how many were forced. Turnovers stick out. Our willingness to compete and take it to contact, to be the physical aggressor, sticks out."
It was Arkansas' fourth straight loss, but a better effort per Pelphrey than in the last few games.
The Razorbacks rallied from 9 points down in the first half to take a lead and then battled after falling down 61-48 after the Tennessee spree.
"I thought the guys really competed," Pelphrey said. "We had not got off to great starts in the last two basketball games and we certainly talked about that. We wanted to get off to a good start and compete in this basketball game. I felt that we did that from start to finish."
Courtney Fortson had 21 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds and 7 turnovers while Michael Washington added 14 points and 9 rebounds, Jemal Farmer 11 points, Rotnei Clarke 9 and Marshawn Powell 8 points and 10 rebounds for Arkansas.
Fortson was just 6-of-17 from the field, Powell 4-of-16 and Clarke 3-of-11 and the visitors shot just 40.3 percent from the field against the SEC's leading defensive team.
"We just didn't score enough baskets tonight and that is a tribute to Tennessee's defense," Pelphrey said.
Senior Wayne Chism added 14 points and seniors J.P. Prince and Bobby Mays 12 each along with reserve Cameron Tatum tossing in a dozen for the Vols, who shot 54.5 percent from the floor.
"I was not too happy with the team after the game,' Pearl said. "I am really pleased with 10 wins, considering how competitive the SEC is - how many good teams there are in the league. I thought the guys did a pretty good job emotionally, getting ready to play.
"Arkansas has played people close on the road this year," Pearl added. "I was expecting more. I did not think we were particularly sharp. We were not aggressive. We were not taking it to contact. There was too much standing around. I did not think we were playing with energy and passion."
Washington played even thought he re-injured an ankle.
"Michael Washington, he hasn't moved real well and he hurt his ankle again Monday again in practice," Pelphrey said. "But I thought his effort was phenomenal tonight. I thought he led us. I thought he did a great job leading."
Arkansas, who led the SEC West by a game before its losing skid, falls into third place in the division with the loss.
The Razorbacks can still clinch a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament and the West's second seed with a home win over Ole Miss on Saturday at 3 p.m.
The Razorbacks beat the Rebels 80-73 earlier this season in Oxford.
It will be the last home game for seniors Washington, Stefan Welsh and Stephen Cox.
"There will be a lot of emotion in the game," Pelphrey said. "Seniors are always special. We have three and hopefully we can play this hard, play a little bit better, make more shots and be a little bit better with the basketball."
Tennessee 80, Arkansas 73
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