KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — In a tightly contested game at Thomspon-Boling Arena, the Vols emerged victorious over the Arkansas Razorbacks, 79-74.
Tennessee had trouble keeping up with Arkansas's offense in the first half. Although the Vols shot over 41 percent, the Razorbacks made 57 percent of their field goals. That includes a layup at the halftime buzzer. Arkansas led 40-33 at the break.
"They're a difficult team to guard. They do some good stuff offensively and shoot the ball well," head coach Rick Barnes said.
Tennessee started the second half with a 9-2 run to tie the game. Both teams began to trade the lead in a back-and-forth affair. Midway through the half, the Vols started to gain offensive momentum. They went on a 12-4 run to take a seven-point lead into the final media timeout.
Arkansas made it a two-point game with 1:30 to go. The Razorbacks grabbed a steal with 1:01 to go, but could not score. After free throws from Keon Johnson gave the Vols a four-point lead, Jalen Tate knocked down a three. However, Tennessee put the game away with late free throws from Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James.
"We said with 8-9 minutes to go in the game, 'Hey, get ready. Strap it up here, because we're going to be in these games all year. We're going to have to make plays and help each other.' That's what we expect," said Barnes.
James and Victor Bailey Jr. led Tennessee with 17 points each. John Fulkerson scored 16 points, while Keon Johnson scored 14 in his first career start.
Senior Yves Pons made history, becoming the first Vol to block at least four shots in three consecutive games since C.J. Black in 1999.
As a team, Tennessee forced 20 turnovers and only committed five.
The Vols hit the road to play Texas A&M on Saturday.