OPINION — Like It Is

OPINION | WALLY HALL: All those reviews killed Razorbacks’ rhythm

There may be a team somewhere in the country who might want to play the Arkansas Razorbacks, but no one in the SEC wants to see the Hogs on their side of the SEC bracket this week.

Arkansas wins games that seem like mission impossible, and then came the trip to Knoxville, Tenn., for Saturday's showdown for second place in the conference. The magic that allowed the Hogs to go from 21 down at the half to trailing 76-74 with 15 seconds to play ran out for the first time in a long time.

Arkansas missed its final three shots and Tennessee added two free throws to survive the Razorbacks 78-74.

Yes, Arkansas started slow and Tennessee didn't.

The Vols hit 9 of 12 three-pointers in the first half and looked like they might blow the doors off the Hogs only to find themselves trying to deal with a stepped-up pressure defense that wore the home team down.

They may have become fatigued enough to fail, like LSU last Wednesday, but they caught what might seemed like a little home cooking.

The last three minutes took more than 20 minutes to play, partly because of fouls and free throws, but mostly because of official reviews.

On one, late in the game it clearly looked like the ball went out of bounds off a Tennessee defender, but the officials decided to review it.

They must have reviewed it from every angle from Knoxville to New York twice.

It took more than six minutes to decide to award the ball to Arkansas.

All that time, Tennessee was on its bench catching its breath.

Take nothing away from the Volunteers.

They are a well-coached, disciplined and dedicated team that came out with fire in their eyes.

No way did they want to finish this regular season being swept by Arkansas, plus on the line was the winner got the No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament this week.

Arkansas and Tennessee were tied with Kentucky for second place behind Auburn, which won the SEC regular-season championship and the No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament with its 82-71 win over South Carolina.

Tennessee's's win over Arkansas gave the Vols the No. 2 seed since, like the Razorbacks, they beat conference champion Auburn and Kentucky did not.

Had Kentucky fallen to Florida, Arkansas would have moved into the three seed.

However, Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee all earned double byes and don't play until Friday, guaranteeing they will face an opponent who played the day before and maybe two days before.

There is a tiny silver lining about being the No. 4 seed vs. Nos. 2 or 3. The No. 4 seed gets an afternoon game and the other two play at night, meaning less rest for the next day.

However, if Arkansas wins its opener, it most likely would turn around Saturday and face Auburn, and as much as the Tigers might have payback on their mind, these Razorbacks are fearless and have been in the past 16 games.

They won 14 of those and the losses were by one at Alabama and four at Tennessee.

On Saturday, the Razorbacks showed their might and fight again, only it was in the second half. But even after cutting the score to 52-43 and Tennessee ripped out to another 17-point lead, there was no quit in the Razorbacks.

Stanley Umude hit a three with 3:05 to play to make it 73-68, but all the long breaks for reviews seemed to take the momentum out of the Hogs' offense and they didn't get another field goal the rest of the way.

Tennessee allowed the Razorbacks only three shots during those final three minutes. But the Hogs fought their way to the free-throw line and made it a one-possession game until the Vols hit a free throw with seven seconds remaining.

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