Tennessee Basketball: Three takeaways from Vols’ 75-57 win vs Arkansas

Feb 28, 2023; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers guard Josiah-Jordan James (30), forward Tobe Awaka (11), guard Santiago Vescovi (25) and forward Olivier Nkamhoua (13) during the first half against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Thompson-Boling Arena. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 28, 2023; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers guard Josiah-Jordan James (30), forward Tobe Awaka (11), guard Santiago Vescovi (25) and forward Olivier Nkamhoua (13) during the first half against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Thompson-Boling Arena. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports /
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Tennessee basketball destroyed the Arkansas Razorbacks earlier this week by a score of 75-57.

The Vols’ offense was on fire, and it was a senior night to certainly remember. However, this game came at a cost, and the Volunteers lost their star point guard just a few minutes into the game.

If you want to learn more about Zakai Zeigler’s injury, check out the story here:

Related Story. Zakai Zeigler's injury update, more. light

Even though Zakai went down with a knee injury, the senior class put the team on their backs and truly showed just how deep this Tennessee basketball roster is.

Tennessee basketball’s senior class stepped up

Senior night on rocky top is always a night to remember for Tennessee basketball. The Vols have 6 seniors who will be graduating in the spring:

Tyreke Key, Olivier Nkamhoua, Santiago Vescovi, Josiah-Jordan James, Uros Plavsic, and Kent Gilbert.

These 6 seniors combined for 45 points, 16 rebounds, and 7 assists against the Razorbacks. These seniors showed up Tuesday night in a time of uncertainty, and it’s clear that they will continue to keep showing up and fighting until the last buzzer.

Tennessee basketball finally got back to the free-throw line

The Volunteers are one of the most physical teams in basketball. They play a hard-nosed, blue-collar brand of basketball, and strive on making other teams foul and shooting the lights out of the three-point ball. They had been struggling recently, and more specifically in their last 3 games to get to the free throw line.

Hence, they lost 2 of the 3 games because they deviated away from their brand of basketball. It’s not necessarily their free throw percentage, which can use some work, but it’s getting teams in foul trouble and inserting fear in the opposing team’s mind as the Vols drive the paint.

In the 3 games prior to Arkansas, here are the numbers from the free-throw line:

@ Kentucky: 14 total free throws

@ Texas A&M: 14 total free throws

vs. South Carolina: 6 total free throws

However, the Vols turned it around in Tuesday night’s game against Arkansas. They got to the free-throw line a bunch and had 25 total free throws. This led to Arkansas playing a conservative defense and letting the Vols’ offense work its magic.

Can the Vols make a run in the tournament without Zeigler?

The moment Zakai went down, it felt like you could hear a pin drop in the crowd. It’s a rare sighting to see 21,678 fans all suddenly drop quiet in one of the loudest arenas in CBB. However, the question now arises, Will the Vols be able to finish strong in the SEC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament with seeding on the line?

Here is what head coach Rick Barnes had to say:

"“Well, that’s the key. I don’t think all about the other stuff. I know it changes from game to game, from week to week. I think it’s about the next game. That’s where I really appreciate these guys. I think they’ve stayed focused throughout the process, in terms of coming out everyday and understanding what we need to do to prepare for the next game, going about it. I expect them to do that today and tomorrow and we’ll obviously finish up the regular season at Auburn and wherever we land, we’ll get ready for the next one.”"

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