Vols finish perfect 16-0 at home as Barnes logs 750th win
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (UT Athletics) – Using a furious first-half offense, the No. 13 Tennessee men’s basketball team defeated No. 14 Arkansas, 78-74, in front of the third-straight capacity crowd of 21,678 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
With the victory, head coach Rick Barnes earned the 750th win of his head coaching career. With that total, Barnes ranks seventh among active Division I head coaches.
Tennessee (23-7, 14-4 SEC) wrapped up a perfect 16-0 regular season at home with a terrific 3-point shooting performance. The Big Orange connected on 12-of-18 (.667) from deep and made 23-of-50 (.460) from the floor.
All-SEC candidate Kennedy Chandler was a big part of UT’s 3-point shooting success, sinking 5-of-6 (.833) from beyond the arc. Those five baskets from downtown were a new career-high for the true freshman from Memphis.
Josiah-Jordan James put together yet another strong overall performance for Tennessee. The 6-6 guard tallied 12 points on 2-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc and 4-of-8 shooting from the floor. He was powerful around the rim, pulling down seven rebounds and blocking a shot, but he also made a meaningful impact on the defensive end, where he swiped a team-high three steals.
All-SEC candidate Santiago Vescovi was a dependable presence as well for the Vols, playing 37 minutes in the regular-season finale. Vescovi was 3-of-4 on 3-pointers and finished conference play shooting .445 from beyond the arc. He made both of his free throws Saturday and logged two steals.
SEC Sixth Man of the Year candidate Zakai Zeigler yet again was a spark off the bench for the Big Orange. He tallied 13 points, dished out a career-high six assists and collected five rebounds.
Arkansas (24-7, 13-5 SEC) made a furious comeback in the second half and was propelled by 16 offensive rebounds. JD Notae led the Razorback offense with 20 points, five rebounds and four assists.
The Vols owned the first half, recording 50 points, their most in a first half this season. Tennessee finished the period 9-of-12 on 3-pointers, led by Chandler, who made all four of his tries from deep. The first-half defensive prowess was on full display as the Vols grabbed five steals.
Tennessee shot out of the gates, taking the lead 13 seconds into the game and never surrendering it. UT scored 13 points before the first media timeout. The Vols shot 6-of-7 from 3-point range in the first 15 minutes of the half. Overall, the Big Orange connected on 50 percent of their field goals in the half, going into the locker room with a 50-29 lead.
Arkansas found its mojo in the second period, wrestling down 24 rebounds, 12 on both the offensive and defensive ends. Tennessee’s defense did not make it easy on the Razorbacks, holding them to 6-of-19 on 3-pointers. Arkansas was lights out from the charity stripe, however, making 11-of-12.
Tennessee did what it needed to do to finish the victory, making late free throws in high-pressure spots. While the Vols last field goal came on a Brandon Huntley-Hatfield dunk with six minutes left in the game, UT only turned it over once in the final four minutes while constantly putting offensive pressure on the Arkansas defense.
Saturday marked the first time in Thompson-Boling Arena history that Tennessee hosted three consecutive sellouts.
UP NEXT: The Volunteers secured the No. 2 seed in nect week’s SEC Tournament in Tampa, Florida. Tennessee earned a double-bye and will wait to find out its Friday quarterfinal-round opponent.
VOLS FINISH SEASON UNDEFEATED AT TBA: Saturday’s win capped a perfect 16-0 season for Tennessee at Thompson-Boling Arena. It marks the fourth time since Thompson-Boling Arena opened in 1987 that Tennessee has gone unbeaten at home, and the first time since 2018-19.
ANOTHER RANKED WIN: Saturday’s win over No. 14 Arkansas marked Tennessee’s sixth win over a ranked opponent this season—the most by a Tennessee team in a single season since 2006-07, when the Vols also notched six ranked wins.