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Feb 13, 2024 1:43 am

No. 8 Tennessee aims to shake off loss; faces Arkansas next

Dalton Knecht

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes sees no lasting impact on his team after a rare double-digit loss going into Wednesday night’s matchup against Southeastern Conference foe Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark.

Barnes’ eighth-ranked Volunteers (17-6, 7-3 SEC) lost 85-69 at Texas A&M on Saturday, but that’s just college basketball, he said.

“I tell everybody, you go back to a year ago the team that won the national championship (Connecticut) went through a five-game skid this time of year and got it going at the right time,” Barnes said. “It only hurts you if you don’t learn from it and you don’t respond from it.”

It was the worst loss for the Volunteers since a 107-79 beating at Kentucky more than two years ago, and the first by double digits since a 66-54 loss at Kentucky on Feb. 18, 2023. The defeat also dropped them into fourth place behind South Carolina (9-2), Alabama (9-2) and Auburn (8-3) in the SEC.

The Volunteers shot just 37.1 percent from the field and went only 15 of 25 on free throws. They were 8 of 29 (27.6 percent) from 3-point range. The Aggies, meanwhile, were 46.7 percent from the field, 11 of 28 from behind the arc (39.3 percent) and 18 of 25 on free throws.

SEC Player of the Year candidate Dalton Knecht scored 22 points and Zakai Zeigler had 15, the only Tennessee players to reach double figures.

“I think we missed three or four two-shot fouls, and those are turnovers,” Barnes said. “And when you’re behind like that and you’re trying to get back in the game, you’ve got to capitalize when you’re not having a particularly great night.

“We had some great looks. We had some looks that we’ve been shooting all year and got to continue to shoot.”

The Razorbacks (12-11, 3-7) are in 12th place in the SEC but seem to be getting things together with two wins in their last three games. They are coming off a 78-75 victory over Georgia on Saturday.

Coach Eric Musselman continues to tinker with his lineup. He has had 13 different starting combinations and started El Ellis against Georgia after not playing the Louisville transfer at all in the previous two games. Ellis scored 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting as the Razorbacks went 14 of 19 (73.7 percent) from the field in the second half.

“I thought his practice habits were really good,” Musselman said. “With no midweek game, we had a lot of time to adjust some things. I thought he was extremely focused, so he got the start.”

Musselman played a four-guard lineup against Georgia much of the game, something that could continue down the stretch.

“We’re still trying to search and based on matchups, we might have different lineups,” he said. “That just might be who we are. It’s not what we’ve always done.”

Guard Davonte Davis rejoined the team after a voluntary three-game absence and played 35 minutes. He had four points, three assists and two steals against one turnover.

“We’re able to play him at the four in our offensive sets, and we could still get into them,” Musselman said.

–Field Level Media

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