Last season, it took Tennessee just 13 wins to take home a share of the SEC Regular Season Title.
This season, the Vols will be gunning for their 16th conference win of the season with a trip to Auburn on Saturday, a win they will likely need to take home a share of the title. Tennessee and LSU are currently tied atop the standings with 15-2 records.
A 66-61 victory over Georgia in front of a sold-out Thompson-Boling Arena crowd clinched Tennessee’s share of the hardware last season. Returning all five starters from last year’s squad, the Vols remember that game.
“I just remember it being a battle the whole game,” Alexander said. “I remember us being down for a lot of it and really having to fight … That moment was an experience for us. We learned from it and I think we can definitely use that.”
The Vols boast three more wins than last year’s team at this time of the season, yet the position is eerily similar.
“We’re pretty much in the same position we were in last year…,” Schofield said. “We gotta go out with the same intensity and the same focus. At the same time, we can’t forget that Auburn came in here and beat us last year. We gotta go in and play good basketball. They are definitely going to really try to make a statement against us.”
Auburn, a team that was picked third in the SEC Preseason Media Poll, sits fourth in the conference standings with a 10-7 record in SEC play. However, the Tigers are 14-2 at home this season.
With 330 3-pointers made this season at a 37.5 percent clip, Auburn has nearly 80 more makes from downtown than Florida, who sits second in 3-pointers made in the SEC.
“When you look at their team, they (Auburn) shoot a lot of threes just about any way you can do it,” Barnes said. “They can shoot it early in transition, (they) run a lot of sets where they are looking to shoot the three and they are shooting it at a really high clip.”
While Tennessee is looking to clinch a share of the SEC Regular Season Title, the Tigers are trying to improve their seeding in the NCAA Tournament.
“I think this time of year, all games are big for everybody,” Barnes said. “Because you are trying to get your momentum and you are trying to get where you are consistent and playing at a high level.”
Senior guard Bryce Brown (15.7 ppg) and junior guard Jared Harper (15.2 ppg) highlight the outside threat that Auburn presents.
Sophomore forward Chuma Okeke and junior forward Anfernee McLemore will be tasked with slowing down reigning SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams.
“Between he (Okeke) and McLemore … those guys, they go get it,” Barnes said. “They play much bigger than they are. They are quick to the ball as a team.”
Tennessee and Auburn are set to tipoff at 12:00 p.m. ET on Saturday. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN.
“We gotta go out and do what we do and play Tennessee tough,” Schofield said. “Hopefully we come out on top, but if not, we really gotta give it our all for our state.”