Updated at 11:01 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019, with more information.
KNOXVILLE — There were a lot of things that one could glean to be positive about the Tennessee women's basketball performance Monday against Arkansas.
The outcome would not be one of them.
The Lady Vols — who fell out of the Top 25 on Monday — led for over 12 minutes of the game and held a lead late, but they were unable to contain Malica Monk on the Razorbacks' last possession. The Arkansas guard hit a 15-foot jump shot with 3.3 seconds to play for an 80-79 Southeastern Conference win in front of 7,259 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The loss was the fifth straight for Tennessee (12-6, 1-5), and things don't get easier as top-ranked Notre Dame comes to town for a 7 p.m. game Thursday.
Tennessee was led by Evina Westbrook's 24 points and five assists. She was 10-for-17 from the field. Zaay Green was 8-for-14 for 17 points while adding six rebounds and three assists, while Cheridene Green had 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting and had 12 rebounds.
Rennia Davis didn't start but played 30 minutes and had nine points (on 3-for-12 shooting), while Rae Burrell played 22 minutes off the bench and had three points and five rebounds.
The Lady Vols lost senior Meme Jackson — their most experienced player — to an ankle injury in the third quarter, but coach Holly Warlick said it's possible Jackson could play against the Fighting Irish.
"We've lost so many games in tight situations," Warlick said. "We've lost by one, by two, by four, and it's tough on these kids. We had two great practices, but we had some freshman mental mistakes, but we've got to go with it. We're young, but we've got to continue to get smart. I didn't have to coach effort tonight, and for me that's huge.
"Obviously I want to win the basketball game, but at least get us in an opportunity to win a game."
Monk led the Razorbacks (14-5, 3-2) with 23 points. Chelsea Dungee had 19 and Alexis Tolefree had 16.
Coming off a poor performance aat Alabama, the Lady Vols jumped out to an 11-4 lead early in the game only to see Arkansas outscore them 16-4 the rest of the quarter for a 20-15 lead. The Razorbacks then built a 13-point second-quarter lead before settling on a 40-31 halftime advantage.
Tennessee's inability to guard the 3 on Monday was a problem. The Razorbacks, who average 8.0 3s per game for the season and 9.3 in SEC play, knocked down 12 Monday — including five in the first half and five again in the third quarter.
"It was just a lack of communication," Davis said. "A lot of the 3s they got off were open; I'd hope they would hit them. We've got to guard the arc; teams realize we haven't done that consistently, and we've got to get in the gym and work on it."
The Lady Vols stayed in the game in the third quarter behind Westbrook, who scored 16 of the team's 28 points in the period. She was 7-of-8 from the field and 2-for-3 from 3-point range and had 10 straight, which gave Tennessee a spark at the time.
Her final 3 of the quarter cut the Arkansas lead to 61-56, then Burrell followed with a 3 from the corner to get the Lady Vols to within 63-59.
Tennessee slid in front in the fourth, taking a five-point lead after a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws by Rennia Davis. Cheridene Green scored on a putback to make it 74-70, but the Lady Vols gave up back-to-back 3s by Monk and Jailyn Mason to put Arkansas back in front. Tennessee took its final advantage on a pair of Westbrook free throws with 11 seconds to play, but the Lady Vols didn't get back in transition and Monk hit an open jump shot.
Tennessee set up a final possession, but Westbrook slipped after receiving the pass, and her final 3-point attempt fell short.
"I'm proud of the team for fighting back," Westbrook said. "It came down to little possessions at the end and we've got to emphasize that; we've got to nail down the defense. There were a couple of possessions we could have had stops on, but I thought we played good team ball today."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3 or at Facebook.com/VolsUpdate.