ATLANTA - After Arkansas' practice on Wednesday, interim head coach Mike Anderson likened his Razorbacks to a wounded boar, saying his squad would be tougher because of the recent controversy surrounding the firing of Nolan Richardson.
For the first half of Arkansas' SEC Tournament opener against Tennessee, the Hogs (14-15) did just that before taking its last gasp over the final 10 minutes, leaving the Vols (15-15) with a 68-61 win in front of 12,412 at the Georgia Dome on Thursday aft
ernoon.
"I knew they'd come in fired up. I played for Nolan Richardson before and you really want to play your best when you're playing for the guy," Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson said. "That's why I challenged our guys to be very aggressive. I felt that if we co
uld just stay in, stay in, limit some turnovers and get some easy buckets and some defensive stops and we'd maybe be able to pull this out. We were able to do that."
Not until the last 8:40 of the ballgame.
With forward Marcus Haislip on the bench with four fouls, Peterson called a 30-second timeout, with his squad trailing by eight. The next time the clock stopped, this time with 3:44 remaining, the Vols were tied at 53-53 after a Brandon Crump layup.
From there, Tennessee took over. Haislip scored on a dish from Yarbrough. Yarbrough drilled a 3-pointer to give the Vols a 58-53 lead with 2:51 left, but the contest wasn't decided until the senior cleared a defensive board with 36 seconds left and the Vo
ls up seven.
Yarbrough finished the day with a game-high 20 points and 14 rebounds, just his third double-double of the year.
"Coach (Kerry) Keating challenged us to come out and have somebody set a career high in rebounds," Yarbrough said. "We didn't quite get that, but we made a great effort to get those offensive rebounds."
But, as has been the story for much of the season, the Vols' effort didn't last 40 minutes. Yarbrough said he and his teammates decided at the break they were going to fight through Arkansas' physical post play.
"I think at halftime is when we made the adjustment," he said. "We realized this could be the end of the season and we'd have to deal with all the fouling, the pushing and the shoving to get to the next game."
Tennessee had better get used to the physical play inside. With the win, the Vols advance to face Western Division No. 1 seed Alabama and SEC Player of the Year Erwin Dudley this afternoon at 3:15 (WVLT-TV). But even though Peterson's troops didn't give a
complete effort against the Razorbacks, he hopes to build off the Vols' strong finish.
"One thing we talked about was being aggressive - today and for the whole tournament," Peterson said. "We did not come out like that. The last 10 minutes, we did. If we can get some momentum going into the game against Alabama, that's what we need."