Two teams with very troubling tendencies got together on Wednesday.
And after 10 ties and 15 lead changes, Tennessee – a team that has been incapable of turning in a complete game since it opened conference play at LSU on Jan. 7 – outlasted Arkansas – a squad that added yet another chapter to its book of on-the-road horror stories — to win an ugly yet crucial conference game.
It took a near career-best from UT senior guard Jordan McRae to turn the tide. He scored 34 points, one off his best, and UT (12-6, 3-2 SEC) beat Arkansas (12-6, 1-4) 81-74 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Things turned for good when Arkansas reserve guard Kikko Haydar was called for an intentional foul after swatting Jeronne Maymon’s arms during a shot. With the Vols trailing 68-66 with four minutes remaining, the senior forward stepped to the line and made both free throws. And when the Vols got the ball back underneath their own basket, McRae hit a corner 3-pointer that gave UT that last lead it would need. UT sealed the game at the free-throw line, where it made 30 of its 38 attempts.
Maymon added 17 points and nine rebounds, and provided an inside presence on a night when junior forward Jarnell Stokes struggled. Stokes finished with seven points and six rebounds. Josh Richardson (10 points) was the only other double-digit scorer for the Vols.
Ben Frederickson covers UT men’s basketball. Follow him at twitter.com/Ben_Fred