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Road Blocked: Tennessee falls to Auburn, 83-80

Well, losing is officially no longer fun. The basketball Vols lost their third straight game last night against Auburn, 83-80. The box score says that Auburn's Korvotney Barber had three blocks and that Josh Dollard and Rasheem Barrett each had one. That sounds like five or ten too few.

The Vols had led 66-52 at about half-way through the second half despite Chris Lofton having a sub-par game. All was right with the world again. The game-sealing Vandy tip in as time expired? An anomaly. The last second loss to Ohio State on a missed free throw by Lofton? A fluke.

But then the Vols went a seven-minute stretch without scoring. The outside shots weren't falling, even when Lofton was doing to the lofting, and what seemed like every other attempt inside the paint was getting blocked. Auburn was having no such trouble on offense, as they scored 18 straight.

And then came the defining play of the game. With 21.7 seconds to play and the Vols down by three, Dane Bradshaw and Auburn's Frank Tolbert were scrumming on the floor under the Auburn basket for a rebound. Both players had two hands on the ball, but the officials gave a timeout to Auburn. Bradshaw, screaming in a fit of rage on this way back to the bench, met coach Pearl coming the other way. Pearl had actually turned into the Incredible Hulk (WARNING: link to YouTube very loud!) Update [2007-1-23 14:27:40 by Joel]: (and yes, I realize that this is a Hulk Hogan impersonation) this time, as he had ripped his coat off and stormed toward mid-court. He was hit with a technical by official Tom Lopes. If the bad call didn't ice the game, Pearl's technical did. Auburn's Quan Prowell hit both free throws, increasing the lead to 80-75, which proved to be too much of a deficit to overcome.

Pearl's take on the technical. (audio link)

What a difference a year makes. Just one year ago, Pearl and Bradshaw were having fun in a loss to LSU, with Bradshaw razzing the LSU student section and Pearl playing up to them by making a spectacle of sending Bradshaw back into the game at the urging of the LSU fans.

No more. Now we have expectations. Now we have pressure. Now we've lost three games in a row, and this time both Bradshaw and Pearl were most definitely not enjoying themselves. No more do we find a way to win even in defeat.

Still, Bradshaw appears to have the right attitude:

We knew coming into the year that there was going to be some inconsistency this season. That doesn't mean we accept it, but we have to improve on it. If anything, we were reaching our peak around this time last year and went downhill toward the end of the season. Hopefully, it will be reversed this season.

Let's hope. Because it's apparently no longer fun to just play the game.