Vols hold on to beat Arkansas in SEC first round, 74-68

Tennessee guard Scotty Hopson shoots a three pointer as Arkansas forward Delvon Johnson defends during the first round of the SEC Tournament at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga., Thursday, March 10, 2011.

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee guard Scotty Hopson shoots a three pointer as Arkansas forward Delvon Johnson defends during the first round of the SEC Tournament at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga., Thursday, March 10, 2011.

ATLANTA — Tennessee improved its chances of making a school-record sixth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance with a win in the first round of the SEC tournament on Thursday night.

The Vols (19-13) held on for a 74-68 victory over Arkansas (18-13) after the Razorbacks erased a 16-point Tennessee lead in the Georgia Dome.

“There are some games you have to win to get in (to the NCAA tournament), and that loss could have hurt us,’’ UT coach Bruce Pearl said. “I just know the more we win, the better chance we have to be seeded.’’

UT, the No. 5 seed from the SEC Eastern Division, had an RPI ranking of No. 35 entering the game. Various prognosticators had the Vols penciled in as an NCAA at-large team with anywhere from a No. 6 to a No. 10 seed prior to the win over West No. 4 seed Arkansas.

Tennessee can solidify its resume with a win over No. 12 Florida (24-6) in its second-round game tonight (TV: WVLT, 7:30p.m.).

The Vols played as though they were looking ahead to the Gators in the final minutes after a Steven Pearl basket gave UT a 68-52 lead with 7:02 remaining.

Arkansas caught fire down the stretch, going on a 16-0 tear to tie the game at 68-68 with 2:08 remaining on a pair of Rotnei Clarke (18 points) free throws.

“In the second half we got a big lead and relaxed, and that’s been the story for us this season,’’ said UT freshman Tobias Harris, who led the Vols with 20 points. “We know to advance we have to close out games.’’

Harris took matters into his own hands in the final minutes, dishing to Brian Williams for a basket inside that put UT back on top, 70-68, with 54.9 seconds left.

Harris stepped up again on the defensive end, hedging out on Arkansas’ Julysses Nobles enough to distract the Razorbacks’ ball-handler while Melvin Goins swooped in for a pivotal steal.

Goins dished to Harris on the fast break, and Harris drew a foul and hit the ensuing two free throws with 33.8 seconds remaining to make it a two-possession game at 72-68.

Goins sank two free throws with two seconds left for the final margin.

High-scorer Tobias Harris on Vols' win over Arkansas

“The way Tobias prepares is what gives him the confidence to show that kind of poise and make those kind of plays,’’ Pearl said. “He’s the hardest working player in the country, and tonight he played like an All-American.”

The Vols will need more stepped-up play if they are to beat Florida.

The Gators, the No. 1 seed from the SEC Eastern Division and SEC regular-season champions, swept Tennessee in both regular-season meetings.

Florida beat UT in overtime on Jan. 11 in Knoxville 81-75 with Vols associate head coach Tony Jones filling in Pearl, who was serving an SEC-imposed eight-game suspension.

The Gators completed the sweep with a 61-60 victory in Gainesville on Feb. 12 with Pearl back on the side court.

But as UT proved Thursday, past meetings might not serve as an accurate predictor.

Arkansas beat the Vols 68-65 in both teams’ SEC season-opener in Fayetteville on Jan. 8.

Tennessee served notice in the first half Thursday that things might be different this time around.

The Vols held a 37-25 lead at the half on a strength of a 12-2 run over the final 4:20.

Harris scored 16 of his 20 points in the first half, and UT held a commanding 23-14 advantage on the boards, led by Williams’ six rebounds in his first eight minutes.

Arkansas opened the second half on a 7-2 run, cutting the Vols’ lead to 39-32, but UT answered with an 8-1 run to increase its lead to 47-33 on a pair of Josh Bone free throws at the 15:54 mark.

The Vols’ lead stayed in double figures until Clarke drained a 3-pointer with 4:15 left that brought the Razorbacks within 68-61.

“At least we showed we can win a close game when it gets to that point,’’ said Williams, who had nine points and eight rebounds in 19 minutes after missing the previous two games with a back injury. “But it never should have got to that point.’’

UT junior Scotty Hopson finished with an SEC-low eight points on 4-of-9 shooting and pulled down four rebounds.

“I think the toughest game to win is the first game of the tournament, and we’re past this one,” Hopson said. “We’re definitely looking forward to playing Florida.”

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Comments » 162

TopTenn writes:

We will beat the gators! GBO!

schymtz writes:

UNBELIEVABLE Collapse. What is with this team in the last 5:00 minutes? No endgame last 2/3rds of the season.

zigvol writes:

These guys about give me a heart attack every game. Glad to get the win though.

Vol43 writes:

slow down game doesn't work

VolNationPride writes:

Overall a pretty solid game from a few players. Tobias had an excellent first half, support guys stepped up tonight. Gave up a nice lead but give Arkansas some credit for hitting some shots, Clark hit some tough 3's. Our guys showed some toughness there to not implode after they came back, that says a lot in the postseason. W's are W's now, no matter if it is 1 point or 20 points!

Vol43 writes:

in response to Volnupstate:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Huge. I'm still lauhing!

schymtz writes:

in response to KCHS_alum:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Much better comment than mine. No foul on that gouge either!

brokendownoldvol writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Catchone writes:

CBP crazy subbing when we had them down 16 almost cost the game! I just don't get it, should have kept the pedal down and put them away. Hope coach gave BW a big kiss in the locker room!

TNORANGEDOGDAD writes:

Why do they get a lead and almost fold at the end? At least we found a way to win a close one at the end of game.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Bone and Brian both came up big! don't know why we quit an offense that was working...attacking the basket...welp good win we held on somehow.

copia69296 writes:

Why isnt the great Hopson's 4 turnovers in a row mentioned?? I wish they would just keep him on the bench.

huntined#565710 writes:

KY fans were pulling for ARK. wonder who they pull for tomorrow..I bet they don't want to play FLA. NOT A GREAT WIN TONIGHT AS THEY MUST PLAY SLOT MACHINES AT HALF BECAUSE WHEN THEY ARE UP SOON THEY ARE TIED UP.Got to COACH them up!!!!

brokendownoldvol writes:

in response to PrideOfTheSouthlandBanned:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

When he went in Tn got out scored 16-0.

VolNationPride writes:

in response to brokendownoldvol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Probably been reading your dumb posts. They are enough to make any Vol not want to try.

tree_em_smokey writes:

We have a good shot at beating FL tom. We have played them down to the wire twice this season. If we can shoot better than 35% on 3-pointer's we win. That simple. We have been horrible this year from the arc. I would trade bone and goins for a lofton anyday....no offense. Maybe this is the year we actually win the tournament..???!!!!..? GBO!!!!

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

Would be nice if Scotty decides to show up tomorrow.

One_in_West_Knox writes:

in response to KCHS_alum:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

A three-pointer by whom?? Brian Williams, THAT'S who!! A bobbled catch and layup to put us in the lead for good by whom?? Brian Williams, THAT'S who!! And key free throws keeps the Vols alive for a little while.
By the way, that BIIIIIIIIG meltdown late in the second half was IN...EX...CUS...A...BLE!!!

GreeneVol writes:

in response to Vol43:

slow down game doesn't work

I kinda agree although it seemed like the thing to do at the time. Keep the pedal to the metal Bruce. Valiant effort by Big Bryan tonight - hope the back is ok tomorrow...

Good to see Bone with a strong game on both sides, even took the ball to the hole from the right wing off the dribble. Kenny Hall did well with rebounding & a couple of put-backs. We really need Tatum to shred through that fog-bubble of his.

Looking forward to 7:30 tomorrow evening against the Gators.

VOL1972 writes:

Ark could have used brass knuckles if they wore gloves(so it wasn't too obvious) and the refs wouldn't have called a foul on them.

Williams is on the ground in obvious pain at the other end of the court and the refs don't stop play?

SEC commissioner should really look into that. Oh, I forgot. It's just Tenn.

voloffaith writes:

Yippee!! Tennessee!! BTW notice the Steven Pearl basher announcers? Correct they weren't! Noticed his hustle and bball smarts that helped when rbacks clamping down on Hopson and Tobias. Tough,nail-biting win ,but as we all say...we'll take it. Gators are better than us,but let's play the game and see what happens. GO VOLS!!!

TNORANGEDOGDAD writes:

in response to One_in_West_Knox:

A three-pointer by whom?? Brian Williams, THAT'S who!! A bobbled catch and layup to put us in the lead for good by whom?? Brian Williams, THAT'S who!! And key free throws keeps the Vols alive for a little while.
By the way, that BIIIIIIIIG meltdown late in the second half was IN...EX...CUS...A...BLE!!!

AGREED!

taylorsvolfan writes:

We score only 6 pts in the last 7 minutes Friday night and we are done for sure.

One_in_West_Knox writes:

in response to jhayes0926#638474:

Would be nice if Scotty decides to show up tomorrow.

I heard he may have had flu-like symptoms, like I heard Melvin Goins may have had.

VolNationPride writes:

in response to One_in_West_Knox:

A three-pointer by whom?? Brian Williams, THAT'S who!! A bobbled catch and layup to put us in the lead for good by whom?? Brian Williams, THAT'S who!! And key free throws keeps the Vols alive for a little while.
By the way, that BIIIIIIIIG meltdown late in the second half was IN...EX...CUS...A...BLE!!!

That is what 4 turnovers on a drive, some layups, a tough 3, an eye rake, and a 5 on 4 three will get you. Atleast they were up 16 in the first place, either way we win.

tree_em_smokey writes:

You suck brokebackmountainoldvol! Nothing but negative comments from you. Hate to hear from you if we lose. Cheer for another team or go to counseling. Great win tonight Vols, a W is a W!

schymtz writes:

Steven Pearl & Brian Williams both played well. Steven, with one awkward exception on a poor shot selection, and Brian? Without him, this game goes the other way and Pelphrey stays at Arkansas another season

voloffaith writes:

in response to brokendownoldvol:

When he went in Tn got out scored 16-0.

I think you're BROKE on this one since he scored how many points on 2 layups at a crtical time?

TNORANGEDOGDAD writes:

I believe it is the haze of the smoke Tatum can't see through. Started out with a walk, fouls 3 point shooter and has shot blocked all within first few minutes of the start
game.

cdamna1 writes:

I'd rather have S. Pearl out there than Tatum. Dude contributes nothing, as far as I can tell.

huntined#565710 writes:

We were up 68-52 and let them tie it at 68!!
that is just not good bb We should have won this game by 25 at least...Got to have some half time coaching!!!!

One_in_West_Knox writes:

Please...please...PLEASE Vols!! Do NOT pull something like Virginia did earlier today EVER again!!

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

Had some thoughts that the Vols were just breezin through that 7 min gap, but the Hogs did shoot about 70% during that run. Could we have done some type of adjustment to slow their run down? I don't know.

cdamna1 writes:

And why are we throwing up 3's with 30 seconds on the shot clock when we are up by double digits? This team's basketball IQ is in the NEGATIVE range.

TennVol01 writes:

Another "heart attack" game, but this time the Vols were revived before it was too late .... thanks to Brian Williams. Scotty Hopson .... you stunk up the floor. You stood around and watched everyone else play in the first half, and in the second half ... you only gave 50%. You are too inconsistent. Not sure how you won so many end of season awards.

Ironcity writes:

Glad we won. Its nice to see at least one senior (Williams) acting like a senior. I could feel the panic in Hopson and Tatum from my living room. Without Tatum, I think we win by 15. I don't know how much longer CBP can keep putting him or Fields on the court.

Not feeling it for tomorrow but I wasn't feeling it against Pitt or Vandy either so maybe thats a good sign.

Go Vols!

VolNationPride writes:

in response to huntined#565710:

We were up 68-52 and let them tie it at 68!!
that is just not good bb We should have won this game by 25 at least...Got to have some half time coaching!!!!

Considering that score was with 5 minutes to go, your point is not really valid. There are two teams playing, not just one. We actually stretched our lead coming out of the half.

There was a 4 minute stretch there that Hopson went all butterfingers and Arkansas capitalized with some great 3's.

No time to dwell on the couldashouldawoulda's, we have a game tomorrow! So much for that one and done all the haters were predicting.

MothershipChip writes:

Brian really is Kobe after all.

Go big orange, lets take it to the Gators and make up for those two L's that should've been W's!!!!!

One_in_West_Knox writes:

in response to cdamna1:

And why are we throwing up 3's with 30 seconds on the shot clock when we are up by double digits? This team's basketball IQ is in the NEGATIVE range.

Sometimes I wonder, is it THAT high??

VolNationPride writes:

in response to TennVol01:

Another "heart attack" game, but this time the Vols were revived before it was too late .... thanks to Brian Williams. Scotty Hopson .... you stunk up the floor. You stood around and watched everyone else play in the first half, and in the second half ... you only gave 50%. You are too inconsistent. Not sure how you won so many end of season awards.

Considering he is the 4th leading scorer in the league, I say he has done his share of helping this team. Don't hate, celebrate!

SEC1 writes:

3rd a** whipping tomorrow.... billy will hand "honest" pearl his a%% for the third time this year! write it down!

Vol43 writes:

in response to SEC1:

3rd a** whipping tomorrow.... billy will hand "honest" pearl his a%% for the third time this year! write it down!

Write what down?

yabadabadoo1026 writes:

in response to TNORANGEDOGDAD:

I believe it is the haze of the smoke Tatum can't see through. Started out with a walk, fouls 3 point shooter and has shot blocked all within first few minutes of the start
game.

I'm no hater but CT must have something on Pearl cause I don't know what deserves him playing time---------he has been useless all year will no contribution--------he should be on the bench with anyone else a better option

VOL1972 writes:

ARK 25 FTA's---TN 16 FTA's

lomas98 writes:

I really think Josh Bone should be starting instead of Tatum. We really need that 3rd scorer to step up. Bone isn't going to give us 15 points but he can hit the open 3 and contribute a little better than Cam. Cam was a big part of the 7-0 start but has done nothing since. I like the D Cam plays but Bone can do that too. We need someone to be the 3rd scorer. I hope Goins can get some assists tomorrow night. FL is a winnable game and would improve the seeding for NCAA. The bye will help the gators but a lot of other teams have lost after having a bye in this tournament. GO VOLS.

VolunteerLifer writes:

This team needs a shrink.

SEC1 writes:

in response to KCHS_alum:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Gators swept the vols in the regular season.... i guess tomorrow will be called swept+?

VOL1972 writes:

in response to yabadabadoo1026:

I'm no hater but CT must have something on Pearl cause I don't know what deserves him playing time---------he has been useless all year will no contribution--------he should be on the bench with anyone else a better option

1 of 8 FG's, 1 of 2 FT's, 3 TO's = Great game for CT. How many games like this does it take before you quit calling it a slump?

One_in_West_Knox writes:

in response to VolNationPride:

Considering that score was with 5 minutes to go, your point is not really valid. There are two teams playing, not just one. We actually stretched our lead coming out of the half.

There was a 4 minute stretch there that Hopson went all butterfingers and Arkansas capitalized with some great 3's.

No time to dwell on the couldashouldawoulda's, we have a game tomorrow! So much for that one and done all the haters were predicting.

Yes, FOCUS on Walker, Parsons, Tyus, etc.!! Let's hope the Vols don't blow a big lead again, if they get one. Does anyone else seem more geared toward the Vols playing, and hopefully winning, close, suspenseful, gut-wrenching, and see-saw "nail-biters" than to watching something like the second half of this game??

lomas98 writes:

in response to SEC1:

Gators swept the vols in the regular season.... i guess tomorrow will be called swept+?

Maybe, maybe not? FL is playing really well right now and much better than at the beginning of the year. A bye will help them but TN has at least played a game in the dome already. I think TN will have something for the GAtors. Of course you aren't here to chat about the game, just to stir everyone up. I'm sure you will get some bites but TN knows what it is like to sweep the Gators as well.

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