KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—JaJuan Smith is not only feeling better physically, he’s feeling better about his game.
Smith, who has battled flu-like symptoms for a week, scored 32 points, including going 6-for-6 from 3-point range, to lead No. 4 Tennessee in a 93-71 rout of Arkansas on Wednesday night.
“I knew I was feeling it, but if I had been the old JaJuan I would have been rushing things. I just tried to stay patient and let the game come to me,” he said.
Smith set a school record for 3-point percentage and tied a career high for points. Four other Vols, including current senior Chris Lofton, had gone 5-of-5.
Smith had a 101-degree temperature before Tennessee’s 47-45 win over LSU on Saturday, but still managed to score the winning basket.
Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism both added 15 points, while Duke Crews had 11 points and 11 rebounds to help the Volunteers (22-2, 9-1 Southeastern Conference) continue their best start in school history.
Sonny Weems had 20 points for Arkansas (17-6, 6-3).
The Vols took an 11-4 lead in the opening 3 1/2 minutes, driving inside several times against one of the SEC’s stingiest defenses.
“We got just enough inside offense tonight to keep things honest,” Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said.
Tennessee built its lead to 11 points twice during the first half with the help of free throws.
Consecutive 3-pointers by Vincent Hunter and Weems whittled the margin to 35-30 with 4:50 left in the first half. A free throw by Darian Townes cut the Vols’ lead to 41-38 with 1:45 left.
But Tennessee came out strong in the second half as JaJuan Smith hit a 3 within 30 seconds. Tyler Smith stole the ball from Michael Washington, who had grabbed a rebound, and was fouled as he made a layup.
Tyler Smith nailed the free throw as part of the 11-1 run that put the Vols up 54-39 with 17:30 left.
“It was kind of all downhill from there for us,” Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said. “We never could get our defense in the game.”
Townes finished with 12 points and Washington grabbed 10 rebounds.
The Razorbacks did manage to limit Lofton, who leads Tennessee at 15.7 points per game, to only six points. But that wasn’t enough.
“You cant just stop Chris Lofton,” Weems said. “Once you shut down Chris Lofton, you’ve got to worry about the other players and we didn’t do that. You’ve got to stop the whole team.”
The loss was the most lopsided for Arkansas since an 84-60 defeat at Mississippi State exactly a year ago.
The Vols shut down Patrick Beverley, one of only three SEC players averaging a double-double in league play. Beverley finished with five points and one rebound.
Tennessee showed that its focus on free throw shooting during practice this week paid off, taking advantage of 14 first-half Razorback fouls by going 14-of-17 from the line.
Pearl concentrated on free throw shooting during practice after the Vols went 4-for-15 from the line against LSU on Saturday in their lowest offensive production of the season.
“I hit free throws, man,” said Chism, who went 6-for-7 from the line. “I’m pretty happy for myself. We worked on free throws all day.”