It was Senior Night for the No. 13 Volunteers (22-7, 10-5) on Wednesday night in Thompson Boling Arena and also their last home game of the season. They were not going to have a forgetful senior night as they came out strong in this game and beat the Arkansas Razorbacks (14-16, 7-8) 80-73.
Tennessee came into this game still fresh off of their huge upset of the second ranked Kentucky Wildcats last Saturday, which made them the first team in NCAAB to have beaten the No. 1 and No. 2 team in the country in the same season for the first time since 2001.
So Bruce Pearl got the team together and reminded them that they can't stop working their hardest because they could easily overlook the Razorbacks and suffer a huge blow with a final home game loss. They took that to heart it seems as they played tremendous in the 80-73 win over the Razorbacks Wednesday night in Knoxville.
It was truly a great night for the Vols seniors as every one got into the game and 3 out of the 4 seniors scored in double figures. Those players being Wayne Chism with 14, J.P. Prince with 12, and Bobby Maze finished with 12.
You could tell they had great "Senior Leadership" with the way they got their teammates involved, pumped up the crowd, and also by the way they played the game. It was a memorable night as well for Senior Quinn Cannington who was put in for the final minute of the game and recieved a standing ovation. This is the type of moment that will stick to a kid like Quinn for the rest of his life.
So it was an overall great night for the Vols Seniors, not to mention the win put the Vols record at 15-1 in home games this season (second best behind Kentucky).
This was as well a memorable night for Bruce Pearl, as this was his first senior class that he has been through all four seasons with at the University of Tennessee. Not to mention, Wayne Chism just happens to be one of Pearl's biggest recruiting splashes when he first became head coach.
Only two of the four Vols seniors however had been with Pearl since the very beginning. Those two seniors are Chism and Cannington. So it was a great night for Pearl to see those two having fun out on the court and most importantly get a victory.
In the first half the Vols came out strong as they opened up with a 17-8 lead at the 10:46 mark, but Arkansas would battle back with several big three-point jumpers before halftime and had cut the Vols lead to 39-36. The halftime scoring leader for the Razorbacks was Michael Washington with 10 and for the Vols it was Scotty Hopson with 10 as well.
Even though at this point it was only a three-point lead for the Vols, the Razorbacks had only held the lead once in the game, which occured in the first opening minutes of the game when the Razorbacks made a free throwto put them up 1-0.
The Vols looked like they were starting to pull away in the second half when Bobby Maze hit a three-point jumper to put the Vols up 49-38, just three minutes into the second half. That wasn't the case though, as the Razorbacks pulled back to within four points, 51-47, when Rotnei Clarke hit a long three-point jumper.
Just 10 seconds later it looked as if things were going to get worse for the Vols when Bruce Pearl was hit with a Technical, as the refs thought he was going over the edge about arguing some of their calls. Pearl was livid as he had to be held back by an assistant coach and then went to the Tennessee bench and yelled at Skylar McBee, who wasn't even in the game and wasn't to blame for anything.
Pearl was just letting his steam out. Instead of this incident hurting the Vols, it propelled them as it got the crowd back into the game and pumped up all of the Vols out on the court as well as on the bench.
They would not look back from that point on as they outscored the Razorbacks 29-26 the rest of the way ending the game at 80-73.
The Vols looked like they had found their highly energized offense in this game as they shot an incredible 55 percent from the floor and hit many big three pointers when they needed to. They also finished 14-18 from the charity stripe, which was well above their season average.
The Vols still have one more regular season game this year against the Mississippi State Rebels (21-9, 9-6) who are still searching for that big win to help them into the NCAA tournament. So the Vols right now are once again coming off a big win and need to look out for the Bulldogs, as they will be playing their hearts out against the Vols on March 6 on their home court.
Just like the Vols, the Bulldogs play extremely well at home as they have won 13 out of their 15 home games this year.
As for now, the Vols should be very pleased with the way their season is rounding out, even though they will finish third in the SEC East behind Kentucky and Vanderbilt. That's not as not as bad as it sounds, since both of them are most likely a lock for a first seed in the NCAA tournament and the other a fourth or fifth seed.
As for now, the Vols have finished out strong in their final home game and the seniors had a very memorable night.