FAYETTEVILLE - One final stretch remains for the Arkansas basketball team to carry some positive feelings into the Southeastern Conference Tournament next month.

FAYETTEVILLE - One final stretch remains for the Arkansas basketball team to carry some positive feelings into the Southeastern Conference Tournament next month.


Arkansas has won just one time in 12 games away from Bud Walton Arena this year. The league’s tournament is in Nashville, Tennessee, where the Razorbacks will have to let loose if they want any chance at the National Invitational Tournament or the bigger NCAA one. First, though, comes another trip to Tennessee, farther east.


Accordingly, a win in Knoxville perhaps coupled with another in Tuscaloosa, Alabama against the Crimson Tide next week would provide a glimmer of hope for victories come March 9-13.


Arkansas won the first time it played Tennessee, back on February 6. It was a near-perfection as Arkansas has come this season. Kevin Punter, the second-leading scorer in the SEC, got his, scoring 24 points, but almost nothing else Tennessee accomplished was special, or even all that competent. The Razorbacks won by 18 points, their third win in four games at the time.


They’ve won twice since, albeit in their last two games.


"That game has no bearings on this game coming up," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. "It’s winding down and teams are kind of jockeying for position and seeds in the tournament. … Our record on the road has not been what we want it to be but we have got the opportunity to do something about that."


Tennessee is in the midst of its own undoing. The Volunteers are currently on a similar streak Arkansas just came off - losers of three of their last four, including a defeat at the hands of a cellar-dwelling Tigers team (Tennessee lost to Missouri whereas Arkansas lost to Auburn) and a separate loss by 30ish points (Vols to South Carolina, Arkansas to Mississippi State).


Arkansas won’t have to deal with Punter on Saturday, either, barring a miracle or deception. Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said his 22.2-points-per-game senior will miss a third straight game because of a stress fracture in his foot. The Razorbacks already had an edge on the interior - Moses Kingsley scored 17 points off the bench and undersized Arkansas outrebounded even more undersized Tennessee by seven - and now the perimeter may belong to them, too. Dusty Hannahs has scored 17 points or more in his last three games after scoring a combined five in the previous two, including one scoreless.


Anderson isn’t sold Tennessee is cooked without Punter, though.


"Well you know of course they played without him against LSU so that shows you what they’re capable of doing and with him they’re even more dangerous," Anderson said. "Rick will have them prepared to play. They didn’t play particularly well against South Carolina so I expect an emotional charged up team."


There is no erasing the previous 14 losses. But there is no erasing the previous 14 wins, either, Anderson said. A final push into the last of the regular-season starts in Knoxville.


"This team hadn’t really just played bad basketball," Anderson said. "They had maybe a couple of games where they didn’t play well, so we’ve been so close. And so I don’t believe these guys have lost faith in themselves. I certainly haven’t. I said the other night and I’ll say it again. I just think our teams tend to start playing some of their better basketball this time of year."


Series Ticket


Arkansas (14-14, 7-8) at Tennessee (13-15, 6-9)


When: 6:30 p.m.


Where: Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee


TV: SEC Network


Radio: Razorback Sports Network


Line: Tennessee is favored by 2 1/2 points


Coaches: Arkansas - Mike Anderson (100-62 in fifth season); Tennessee - Rick Barnes (13-15 in first season)


Projected lineups: G Jabril Durham (6-1, Sr., 6.6 ppg), G Anthlon Bell (6-3, Sr., 15.9 ppg), G Dusty Hannahs (6-3, Jr. 16.2 ppg), F Keaton Miles (6-7, Sr., 3 ppg), C Moses Kingsley (6-10, Jr., 16.3 ppg); G Robert Hubbs III (6-4, Jr., 10.8 ppg ), G Detrick Mostella (6-1, So. 7.8 ppg), G Shembari Phillips (6-2, Fr., 4.9 ppg), K. Alexander (6-9, Fr., 1.8 ppg), F Armani Moore (6-4, Sr., 11.8 ppg)