Coach Mike Anderson’s high-pressure defense put on a clinic in Arkansas’ last game.
The Razorbacks appear to have a good chance to replicate that performance against a Tennessee team sputtering offensively.
The 19th-ranked Razorbacks look to open 3-0 in the SEC for the first time in 17 years when they visit the Volunteers on Tuesday night.
Despite allowing Vanderbilt to shoot 52.0 percent Saturday, Arkansas (13-2, 2-0) overwhelmed the Commodores, forcing 22 turnovers that led to 31 points in a 82-70 victory. The Razorbacks created 14 giveaways in the opening 20 minutes to set the tone and then wore down Vanderbilt with a late 13-3 run to put the game away.
"Everybody can’t play against that pressure for 40 minutes," Arkansas junior guard Michael Qualls said. "… They can’t play all those minutes the way we play. It’s just impossible."
Under Anderson’s frantic style, the Razorbacks force a conference-best 16.7 turnovers per game while ranking sixth in the country in scoring at 83.9 points a contest. The flow of the game could cause problems for the Vols, 13th in the 14-team SEC with 63.9 points.
Tennessee (9-5, 1-1) shot 35.4 percent in a 61-47 win at Mississippi State on Wednesday before making 31.1 percent in Saturday’s 56-38 loss to Alabama. The Vols went without a basket for 14 minutes, 7 seconds in their worst offensive showing since a 46-38 loss at Virginia on Dec. 5, 2012.
Josh Richardson, who scores 25.3 percent of his team’s points for the highest percentage in the SEC, had 17, but starters Kevin Punter (10.2 points per game), Devon Baulkman (5.5) and Willie Carmichael (4.1) combined for two points and shot 0 for 9.
"If you feel sorry for yourself or hang your head in this business people will bury you. They will put you out of business," Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall said. "With such an inexperienced, youthful team all I can do is continue to tell them, show them in the film room and we have to go to the practice floor to get better. … No knock on Alabama because I think they are a safe tournament team, but Arkansas is even more talented. So we better be ready."
If Arkansas’ defense wasn’t enough of a concern, the Razorbacks also boast the SEC’s top scoring tandem in Bobby Portis and Qualls.
Portis, averaging a conference-best 18.1 points, had a season-high 32 against Vanderbilt. He also grabbed 11 rebounds – nine offensive – for his third double-double in five games.
Qualls has averaged 19.0 points and 7.3 rebounds in the last four contests for Arkansas, which is seeking its first 3-0 start in conference since 1997-98.
"Just play Arkansas basketball," Qualls said. "Everybody bring their hard hats and we’ll run it up."
Neither Portis nor Qualls had any impact in the last meeting with the Vols, an 81-74 loss at Tennessee on Jan. 22. Then a freshman playing in his fifth SEC game, Portis had yet to establish himself as one of the conference’s premier big men. He finished with four points on 2-of-7 shooting, while Qualls scored one in 10 minutes off the bench.
Arkansas has lost four straight at Tennessee since a 73-69 win over the 10th-ranked Vols on Feb. 25, 2006.