Tennessee lost 94-84 to Auburn on Tuesday, dropping the Vols to 9-4 and 0-2 in SEC play. Auburn simply outworked Tennessee in the final minutes of the game, which led to its first victory in Knoxville since 1998.
Tennessee got off to a great start in the game, using a 12-0 run to take a 23-9 lead midway through the first half. Tennessee’s guards provided a spark in the opening stages of the game with Jordan Bone and Lamonte Turner combining for four three-pointers in the first few minutes.
However, Auburn made a 17-3 run to take a 33-31 lead with just over four minutes remaining in the first half. The Tigers continued to dominate the Vols in the latter part of the first half, taking a 42-36 lead into halftime - Tennessee’s first halftime deficit this season.
Tennessee made a concerted effort to feed the ball to Grant Williams early in the second half and Williams delivered, scoring seven points in the first three minutes. The Volunteers used Williams’s effort to go on an 11-4 run to open the second half and re-take the lead.
The teams traded the lead for much of the second half, but every time Tennessee made a run, Auburn had an answer.
The backbreaker for Tennessee came late in the second half when the Tigers made three-pointers on three straight possessions to take a 75-68 lead which they did not relinquish.
Auburn shot 30-74 (40.5%) from the field, while Tennessee made 24 of just 58 shots (41.4%). The Tigers also out-rebounded the Vols 46-38, including 22-14 on the offensive glass. The most telling stat of the game was Auburn’s 28 second-chance points, something which will surely be a point of emphasis from Rick Barnes in practice.
The loss is terribly frustrating for Tennessee, which showed such promise in the non-conference part of its schedule but finds itself at a mediocre 9-4 and winless through its first two conference games.
Tennessee hosts Kentucky on Saturday in what has now become an almost must-win game. Everything the Vols want is still in front of them, but falling to 0-3 in the SEC would be a pretty devastating blow given how this season started.