Tennessee isn't good enough right now to place extra emphasis on specific wins. Right now, anything is a plus. That being said: this one felt good at the end, as Tennessee improves to 13-7 overall, 5-3 in the SEC, and if you're going to talk postseason, this game was a must-win. Also, if you're going to talk avoiding awkward narrative situations, this game was also a must-win. Fortunately, crisis averted.
This game was a stop-and-start affair, literally in the first half due to a faulty clock operator who was so happy to see Bruce Pearl back in TBA that time stood still for about 6 minutes, then in the second half thanks to what felt like fouls every 35 seconds. There were three techs in this game, 43 fouls in total, and 31 turnovers between both teams. This was anything but pretty, which at this point is less of a blip and more of a trend. It's left as an exercise to the reader if this is intentional from Donnie Tyndall or a product of a young team still struggling to find its legs.
I'm also reasonably certain Tennessee doesn't know how to win games at a canter. They do, however, know how to come back, trailing by five early in the second half before breaking the game open at 52. This time around, they hit their free throws, Auburn didn't hit threes, and Pearl packed it in down 8 with 25 seconds to go, sparing the Tennessee crowd another 15 minutes of a game that nearly took two and a half hours in the first place. Thanks, Bruce!
Oh, and we saw the Bruce Pearl timeline again for old times' sake. We now have a Donnie Tyndall Timeline, just in case you were missing the halcyon days of timelines.
Armani Moore was the POG, clocking in 19 points, 13 boards, a six-point sequence, and one particularly vicious throwdown on basically the entire Auburn team. Josh Richardson came in with 14 points and 6 assists, and Tennessee's bench clocked in 35 minutes, 4 points, 4 boards, an assist, a block, 3 turnovers, and eight fouls. This team isn't that deep, so there's no margin for error. Again: we know that. This team wasn't built for blowouts, but they're still on the narrow path to success. Temper hopes accordingly.