Tennessee men’s basketball finished its regular season against Auburn in Thompson-Boling Arena. The Vols fell to the Tigers by a score of 85-63.
The first five for the Big Orange was Josiah-Jordan James, Jordan Bowden, Santiago Vescovi, Yves Pons and John Fulkerson, with Bowden, Vescovi, Pons and Fulkerson all playing over 35 minutes. Fulkerson led Tennessee in both scoring and rebounding with 19 points and seven boards. The Vols’ next highest scorer was senior Bowden with 17 points while Pons was the team’s second-best rebounder with six boards.
The first five for the visitors was Daniel Purify, J’Von McCormick, Samir Doughty, Isaac Okoro and Austin Wiley, with nine players registering at least 11 minutes on the court. Doughty led Auburn with 32 points while McCormick and Okoro finished with 13 and 11 points, respectively. Wiley pulled down nine rebounds to lead the Tigers while Jaylin Williams, Allen Flanigan and Anfernee McLemore each pulled down five boards.
“I thought it was the best I’ve seen (Auburn) play all year” Rick Barnes said “Give them credit for that. They played like a team today that was fighting for second place in the league and the seed. They did. All I can do is tip my hat off to them because I thought they played well …”
Samir Doughty opened the scoring with a three-pointer for the Tigers. On the other end, Fulkerson got Tennessee’s scoring started with a jumper. The two teams traded baskets in the opening minutes of the game but Auburn were more efficient and led 16-15 after roughly eight minutes played. However, the Tigers controlled the rest of the half, as Auburn went on a 26-16 run to end the first frame. The Vols only managed three buckets from the open court, the rest of Tennessee’s points coming from the free throw line.
The Tigers continued the momentum in the opening minutes of the second half, ratting off a 12-6 run to extend their lead. The Vols would answer with 14-3 run, which was helped by a questionable technical foul on Auburn’s McLemore to bring the margin down to six points with 12 minutes to play. For the next two minutes, the two sides once again traded baskets and the Tigers improved their lead by only a single point. Auburn broke the stalemate with a 9-1 run before Tennessee scored four-straight to retain some hope. However back-to-back Doughty three-pointers with four and three minutes remaining, respectively, were the dagger for the Vols, who then faced an insurmountable lead.
“I want Tennessee to win three or four more” Tigers’ coach Bruce pearl said “and get into the tournament. … I admire Rick Barnes so much. He’s one of the best coaches in the country and the job he’s done with these kids … they just don’t have that true point guard and J’Von McCormick, his quickness and his speed for us, was a problem for Tennessee today.”
The Vols will be next in action on Thursday, March 12 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee for the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament. Tennessee will tip at 1:00 p.m. ET (12:00 p.m. CT). At the time of publication, the Vols’ opponent is not known but they will face the Alabama Crimson Tide or the Arkansas Razorbacks depending on the results of the rest of today’s games. The game will be available via the SEC Network and Vol Radio Network.
Update: Tennessee will face Alabama in the first round of the 2020 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 12 at 12:00 p.m. CT.