Video highlights of Tennessee-Arkansas, Feb. 15, 2012
Tennessee played like a team that wanted to make a statement Wednesday night.
Arkansas got the Vols' message, loud and clear.
"We feel like we can beat any team," UT freshman Jarnell Stokes said. "We feel like we should win out. There's no way we should lose any more games."
The Vols displayed that sort of swagger from the onset, winning their fourth straight with a 77-58 men's basketball victory over the Razorbacks before a crowd of 16,048 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The triumph moves UT (14-12, 6-5 SEC) into a tie for fourth place in the SEC with Mississippi State (19-7, 6-5).
Tennessee hit nine of its first 10 shots, fueling a 19-0 run that led to a 47-30 lead at the half. Arkansas (17-9, 5-6) didn't get closer than 10 points for the rest of the game, falling to 0-9 away from Fayetteville.
UT sophomore Jordan McRae came off the bench to score 14 points, as the Vols went to a four-guard lineup at times to effectively combat the Razorbacks' pressure defense.
Arkansas abandoned its press, and UT finished with 14 turnovers while the Razorbacks had 18.
Tennessee played without junior center Kenny Hall, who Martin said has been suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team.
"You've got to do the right things on and off the court — that's the bottom line," said Martin, adding that Hall would neither practice nor travel with the team during his suspension.
Stokes started in Hall's place, as the Vols used their fifth different lineup since the beginning of the SEC season, improving to 5-0 in those games.
Trae Golden scored 13 points and had seven assists, Skylar McBee and Jeronne Maymon each had 12 points, Cam Tatum had 11 points and nine rebounds, and Stokes finished with 10 points.
"Our success starts with Trae Golden," Vols coach Cuonzo Martin said. "He has done a really good job taking that leadership as the point guard and running the offense. He's directing traffic, running the offense.
"Once he took that step and we became a better defensive team, I thought we had a chance to be pretty good."
Golden left the game for a few minutes in the second half after twisting his ankle, but he returned to play and Martin said it won't affect his status.
Arkansas, led by BJ Young's 18 points, used a 6-1 run to close to 60-50 with 8:29 left on a Brandon Mitchell basket.
McBee, who was 4-of-7 shooting the three, answered with a 3-pointer as UT came back with a 14-3 run of its own to put the game out of reach.
The Vols hit 11 3-pointers — their most since connecting on 12 on Jan. 31, 2009, in a 61-60 win over Florida — and led by as many as 24 points in the first half when Stokes scored on a put-back to make it 47-23 at the 3:57 mark.
The Razorbacks closed the half on a 7-0 run to narrow the margin.
UT's pivotal 19-0 run was triggered by a Tatum jumper at the 17:33 mark. Tatum closed the outburst, too, scoring on a drive at the 13:29 mark that made it 23-6.
"We're getting a vibe for each other, a good chemistry for each other, how and where each person likes the ball," said Tatum, who was 5-of-12 shooting. "We just have to keep playing for each other and playing collective defense.
"We're in that groove right now."
Tennessee returns to action at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday at Alabama (16-9, 5-6) in Coleman Coliseum.
The Crimson Tide has dropped two straight but is 10-3 at home this season and owns a 41-17 advantage over the Vols in Tuscaloosa.
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32