FAYETTEVILLE — After playing with the same starting roster for 14 straight games, the University of Arkansas basketball team had to make a switch with senior guard Au’Diese Toney unable to play at Tennessee on Saturday due to an ankle injury.
Second-year guard Davonte Davis, who had settled into a sixth-man role for the Razorbacks, joined the usual starting lineup of senior guards JD Notae and Stanley Umude, second-year forward Jaylin Williams and forward senior Trey Wade.
After the No. 14 Vols held on to beat the No. 13 Razorbacks 78-74 at Thompson-Boling Arena, Arkansas coach Eric Musselman says there will be another roster change. starting if Toney was unable to return when Arkansas plays its SEC Tournament Opener on Friday in Tampa, Fla.
Arkansas (24-7, 13-5) is the No. 4 seed and will play around 1:30 p.m. central time in the quarterfinals against LSU (21-10, 9-9), Missouri (11 -20, 5 -13) or Ole Miss (13-18, 4-14).
Missouri takes on Ole Miss on Wednesday night, with the winner advancing to face LSU on Thursday. The surviving team among LSU, Missouri and Ole Miss next plays in Arkansas.
Musselman doesn’t want to start the same lineup as Tennessee because the Vols took a 31-13 lead and led by 24 points, 44-20, in the first half.
Davis came out at 16:27 of the half and was replaced by Chris Lykes after Santiago Vescovi hit three straight runs in 39 seconds to give the Vols a 13-5 lead.
“We have to predict that Au’Diese will not play [in the SEC Tournament]which means we have to figure out what we want to do with the starting lineup,” Musselman said on Arkansas’ postgame radio show. “We know we’re not doing what we’re doing. Have done [at Tennessee]I can guarantee you that to start the game.
“So we’ll have to come back as a staff and regroup and try to work out who will be in that starting unit for us.”
Two possibilities to start if Toney can’t be Lykes, a senior guard, and junior forward Kamani Johnson.
Lykes played 25 minutes at Tennessee, his most in an SEC game, and had 15 points, 3 assists and 3 steals before committing a foul. It was his highest scoring SEC game.
“I thought it was maybe Chris’ best game of the year for us,” Musselman said.
Lykes, a graduate transfer from Miami, scored his most points since scoring 21 against Elon on Dec. 21. His highest scoring game this season is 26 points against Northern Iowa.
The Razorbacks edged the Vols by 10 points when Lykes was on the court. He made 4 of 7 shots, including 3 of 5 three-pointers and 4 of 4 free throws.
“He was hitting huge shots, playing good defense,” Notae said. “He just came off the bench and gave us a spark.”
The 6-7 transfer from the University of Arkansas to Little Rock, played a season-high 24 minutes and had 6 points, 8 rebounds and 2 steals. The eight rebounds tied his season high at Texas A&M.
Johnson had five of Arkansas’ 16 offensive rebounds. He made eight fouls and made 4 of 8 free throws.
“Kamani came in and had a huge impact, honestly,” Notae said. “He gave us extra possessions, got fouls shot and played good defense. Kamani stepped up.”
If Toney can’t play on Friday, it’s also possible Musselman decides to leave Davis in the starting lineup and make a switch to another location.
Davis played 20 minutes at Tennessee and had four points. He is averaging 27.7 minutes and started 14 games before switching roles to come off the bench.
Toney, a transfer graduate from Pittsburgh, has a 10.3 average. 5.4 rebounds and 31.4 minutes. He is Arkansas’ best perimeter defender.
Musselman said he didn’t know until shortly before the tip against Tennessee that Toney wouldn’t be available.
“I thought he was going to be able to play five to seven minutes each half, and he wasn’t,” Musselman said. “[The ankle] bothered him too much.”
Musselman said not having Toney “dramatically changes who we are from a rebounding perspective and from a defense perspective.”
Toney missed his first game of the season.
“If he can play [Friday]that’s great news,” Musselman said. “It obviously starts at the starting point for us.”
If Toney can’t play, the Razorbacks will have a different starting lineup for a second straight game.
Arkansas Men in SEC Tournament Quarterfinals
WHEN Approximately 1:30 p.m. (central time) on Friday
WHERE Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida.
RECORD Arkansas 24-7, 13-5 SEC
WHO Arkansas will play Friday against LSU, Missouri or Ole Miss
Razorback Sports Network Radio