Tennessee faring better away from home thus far in SEC play

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee is finding life on the road easier than the supposed comforts of home thus far in Southeastern Conference competition.

The Volunteers (12-6, 4-2 SEC) are undefeated in SEC road games so far but have won just one of their first three home conference matchups. They’ll put that perfect SEC road record to the test Tuesday at Arkansas (15-4, 4-2).

The last time Tennessee won its first four SEC road games in a season was 1982, when the Vols went on to finish tied for first in the conference.

”The last couple of games – two of the three at least – we’ve almost played a little bit more nervous in front of our home crowd than we have on the road,” Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall said. ”I don’t know if that’s purely coincidental or if guys do feel a little more pressure at home because all the fans are here and they want to do so well to keep them coming out.”

Tennessee’s recent home struggles are unusual for a Tyndall-coached team.

Tyndall headed into SEC competition having gone 34-1 in regular-season home games since the start of the 2012-13 season. That included a 27-1 record in two seasons at Southern Mississippi and a 7-0 mark in Tennessee’s nonconference schedule this season.

Although Tyndall was careful to say he doesn’t know whether his players are more nervous at home, he acknowledges that’s something he wonders.

”That’s a question I ask myself and ask our staff,” Tyndall said. ”I’m not one of those guys where we lose one and all of a sudden I’ve got 20 different excuses. That’s not what I’m about, and I don’t want to make it sound that way. I just think that maybe because we are at home and they want to play so well for our home fans, they play a little bit tight, if you will. I don’t know that that’s the case.”

In its three conference home games, Tennessee lost 56-38 to Alabama in, beat Arkansas 74-69 and lost 67-61 to Texas A&M. In three SEC road games, Tennessee beat Mississippi State 61-47, Missouri 59-51 and South Carolina 66-62.

Tennessee has shot 45.1 percent (23 of 51) from 3-point range in its three SEC road games.

”We just play together when are on the road,” sophomore guard Robert Hubbs said. ”We know it’s going to be tough each and every night when we go on the road, so we just have to play together.”

The level of competition probably has made a difference. Tennessee’s three SEC road foes – Mississippi State, Missouri and South Carolina – have a combined conference record of 4-14. The three SEC teams Tennessee has hosted – Arkansas, Texas A&M and Alabama – are a combined 11-7 in league play.

Tennessee faces its toughest conference road test Tuesday at Arkansas, which owns a 62-7 home record since Mike Anderson took over as coach in 2011. Tyndall remembers the raucous atmosphere of Arkansas’ Bud Walton Arena from his years as an LSU assistant.

”We played at Arizona a couple of years ago,” Tyndall said in a reference to his Southern Mississippi tenure. ”Those two places in my opinion were the loudest two places I’ve ever (coached) in. I’m sure it will be another very crazy atmosphere on Tuesday.”