Nine team blocks and an all-around outing from senior Wooden Award candidate John Fulkerson propelled the ninth-ranked Tennessee basketball team past Arkansas, 79-74, on Wednesday at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Over the course of the night, Tennessee (8-1, 2-1 SEC) committed just five turnovers, while forcing Arkansas (9-2, 1-2 SEC) to turn it over 20 times.
Fulkerson stuffed the stat sheet Wednesday, scoring 16 points, reeling in eight rebounds, blocking three shots and dishing off three assists.
National Defensive Player of the Year candidate Yves Pons blocked another four shot attempts, upping his career total to 110 and moving him into 15th on the program’s career blocks list. After turning down an invite to last year’s NBA Draft Combine and returning to Rocky Top, Pons has opened SEC play with 13 total blocks through the first three league games.
Pons also scored six points and pulled in three rebounds in Wednesday’s win.
Tennessee guards Victor Bailey Jr. and Josiah-Jordan James led UT in scoring, pouring in 17 points each.
James added nine rebounds, three blocks and a steal, while Bailey added a block and a steal to his own stat line.
Freshman wing Keon Johnson made his first career start and scored a season-high 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting. The Shelbyville, Tennessee, native knocked down all six of his attempts from the foul line—all of which came in the contest’s final two minutes.
Arkansas controlled a large majority of the opening half, knocking down 57 percent of its shot attempts to take a 40-33 lead into halftime.
Out of the break, the Vols reeled off a 9-2 run, with Fulkerson scoring seven of those points to knot things up at 42 apiece with just more than 15 minutes remaining.
The next eight minutes were a back-and-forth affair, with the programs trading the lead twice as the Vols took a slim, 61-59 advantage into the night’s final 7:48.
Tennessee used a number of timely defensive stops and 10 consecutive makes from the foul line in the final minutes to seal the five-point victory.