KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Olivier Nkamhoua scored 16 points to lead No. 12 Tennessee to a 75-57 victory over Arkansas on Tuesday night.
Despite the win, the Volunteers (22-8, 11-6 Southeastern Conference) may have sustained a significant loss. Three minutes into the game, sophomore point guard Zakai Zeigler, who brings energy on offense and defense, went down with an injury to his left knee.
“We all hurt for Zakai,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “For him to stay down (on the floor), he’s hurt. (The players) knew it was serious.”
The extent of the injury wasn’t immediately known, but he did not return.
“(Tennessee) played much bigger with the injury to Zeigler,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said.
Santiago Vescovi, who took over the role of point guard for Zeigler, added 14 points and Josiah-Jordan James scored 11.
“(Arkansas defenders) were working (Vescovi) all night,” Barnes said. “They were trying to take away his left hand.”
Anthony Black and Davonte Davis each scored 13 for the Razorbacks (19-11, 8-9). Nick Smith Jr. scored 14 and Ricky Council 11.
“(Tennessee) was much more physical than us,” Musselman said. “It’s bothering our guys, the physicality.”
Tennessee connected on just four 3-pointers, but outscored the Razorbacks 42-18 in the paint.
“We didn’t finish at the rim,” said Musselman. “We didn’t attack the rim.”
Barnes said he is a believer in his squad’s defense and rebounding.
“(Arkansas) puts a lot of pressure on the rim,” Barnes said. “We needed to stay aggressive.”
Arkansas, which came into the game with an SEC-leading 48% shooting average from the field, managed just 37% against the Vols.
Nkamhoua stepped up early in the game and had 10 points to lead Tennessee to a 34-25 halftime advantage. The Vols led 22-14 in rebouding, including eight offensive boards. Tennessee had a 12-0 edge in second-chance points.
Tennessee made it through the entire regular season without dropping out of the poll. … After their loss to Texas A&M, the Vols slipped one spot to No. 12. … Coach Rick Barnes has had the Vols in the Top 25 for 90 weeks.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks have had their frustrations on the road. Coming off a three-point loss to Alabama, they came into Knoxville 2-7 on the road. Besides the Crimson Tide, they had close setbacks with Baylor and Texas A&M. … Arkansas held Alabama to 3 of 22 3-point shooting and still came away a loser. … Hogs’ freshman Nick Smith played his sixth game since missing 13 because of a right knee injury. He scored 24 points against the Crimson Tide and was selected SEC Freshman of the Week.
Tennessee: The Vols finished their home campaign 14-2, losing to Kentucky and Missouri. … Freshman Julian Phillips missed four games with a hip flexor injury, but returned Tuesday night. … Tyreke Key missed his second game with an ankle injury, but is expected to be ready for Auburn Saturday. … Tennessee is one of four teams battling for fourth place in the SEC standings and a double-bye in the league tourney. … Zeigler, who was injured early in the game (left knee), was selected as a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Award. … Seniors Josiah-Jordan James, Olivier Nkamhoua, Uros Plavsic, Santiago Vescovi and graduate transfer Tyreke Key were honored in the last home game this season. … There’s no indication which, if any, would take advantage of the NCAA’s COVID-19 year allowance.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks close out their regular season Saturday at home against Kentucky.
Tennessee: Saturday, the Vols will put an end to their regular season at Auburn.