Talk about a comedown.
But when you play the Auburn Tigers, you know what you’re going to get from the team that broke the SEC record for the most amount of 3s made a season.
That certainly didn’t change for the Vols. The Tigers started off 2 of 12 from beyond the arc but would finish 15 of 40 as they beat the Vols in the championship game of the SEC Tournament.
Bryce Brown got the scoring started, sinking his first 3 of the game to give Auburn the early 3-0 lead.
How else would you expect a game against the Tigers to start?
Jordan Bone came through, slicing through defenders, immediately responding to Brown’s basket, but the Vols still trailed 3-2.
Lamonte Turner started where he left off in the Kentucky game, drilling a trey to give Tennessee its first lead of the game, 5-3, but Brown came through a la Bone on the next possession to cut Tennessee’s lead to a single point.
A big-time moment came when Jared Harper received his second foul with 17:39 left in the first period. It allowed Tennessee to jump out to a 10-5 lead, but the Tigers continued to fight back.
They continued to shoot the 3 as well. 10 of their first 15 shots were from outside the arc. Fortunately for the Vols, only two were made.
But good interior defense kept the Vols from taking advantage of Auburn’s cold shooting. The Vols maintained a four point lead for a few minutes, until they went cold themselves.
Auburn just kept pushing and eventually retook the lead thanks to a Daniel Purifoy reverse layup off a Tennessee turnover. Tennessee had missed six of the last seven shots during the Tiger run.
Turnovers were becoming an issue for the Vols as well. With 7:15 left in the period, they already had five compared to Auburn’s none. The Tigers also began to finally hit from the perimeter, as McCormick and Brown drained back-to-back 3s, pushing their lead to 25-18 with 6:30 to play.
Things began to get ugly, as the Tigers hit another bucket, officially marking a 12-0 run and exposing a 4:38 UT scoring drought.
This was all without Harper, too. UT had 8 turnovers in the last 10 possessions and were getting absolutely dominated.
The lead grew to 30-18, the run grew to 15-0, and Tennessee’s scoring drought grew to 5:46 with 4:05 to go in the first half.
The Vols were able to close the half on some positive momentum after a Jordan Bowden reverse layup cut the Tigers’ lead to 32-23. Auburn missed the last seven shots as well, so maybe Tennessee could turn things around in the second half.
But Auburn’s 3 caught fire early on and before the Vols could blink, they were down 43-28 with 14:52 left in the game. Chuma Okeke was the catalyst, draining back-to-back 3s that sent Auburn fans into a frenzy.
The Tigers would then go another crazy run while raining 3s from all over and building a 57-34 lead with 11:30 remaining.
Tennessee was able to cut the lead to 17, but Auburn soon vanquished any hopes of a comeback with a couple of buckets of their own - one coming off a Volunteer turnover. They were back up 62-42 and with just 8:30 left, it was all but over.
To the Vols’ credit, they continued to fight, evening getting to a 15-point deficit, but Auburn was just too much and was able to keep them at arms’ length.
And that would be it, as the Vols couldn’t do any more to get any closer. The Tigers would go on to win 84-64, and take the SEC crown.
The Vols will now wait and see how they are seeded in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. The thought is that they will obtain a number one seed, but the blowout loss could possibly affect that scenario.
Regardless, it was a fun season and now the real fun begins as March Madness officially kicks off tonight.