Tennessee’s two game winning streak came to an end Saturday afternoon as Auburn won its fifth straight over the Vols, 85-63.
Tennessee had no answers for the Tiger’s high ball screen offense as the Vols struggled to shoot within the arc.
Here are three takeaways.
Auburn dominates the glass
Auburn’s Austin Wiley is one of the SEC's best rebounders, grabbing over nine rebounds a game while anchoring the Tiger’s offense.
He kept his pace Saturday grabbing nine rebounds, three of which were on the offensive end.
“Austin Wiley is a man in there,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “He got some big man rebounds. … We really focused on trying to not give them any second shots and put a body on them.”
That set the tone for Auburn on the glass, where the Tigers abused Tennessee, 42-26. Auburn grabbed 30 defensive rebounds and 12 offense boards to help hold off Tennessee.
“Very disappointing,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said. “Defense, rebounding, taking care of the ball. You got to do those things consistently if you want to play at a high level. That’s why we haven’t won at the highest level we can win at because we’re too inconsistent in understanding the importance in that.”
With a nine-point halftime deficit, Tennessee was playing from behind the whole second half and Auburn’s consistency on the glass gave Tennessee problems.
With Tennessee switching high ball screens, Auburn consistently got big men matched up with guards in the paint, leading to prime offensive rebounding opportunities. The Tigers took advantage with 13 second chance points.
No answers for Auburn’s guards
Similar to last season’s SEC Championship game, Auburn’s guards gave the Vols problems all afternoon.
Samir Doughty was brilliant for Auburn scoring 32 points on 8 of 13 shooting from 3-point range.
“He’s been around, he’s been through it,” Barnes said of Doughty. “He plays with a poise about him, a confidence, a swagger. He’s a terrific player. He’s probably given us as hard a time this year as any player in the league. We broke down a few times on some ball screens.”
Tennessee struggled to guard Auburn’s high ball screen action as the Vols attempted to switch all screens. The Tiger's guards dominated Tennessee’s big men off the dribble and Auburn was able to throw the ball inside and get the Vols’ defense moving, leading to open looks.
Tennessee had cut Auburn’s lead to seven with just over nine minutes left thanks to a pair of John Fulkerson free throws. On back-to-back possessions Auburn point guard J’Von McCormick got Fulkerson switched on him.
McCormick drove down hill on Fulkerson the first time finishing a layup before drilling a triple over Fulkerson the following possession, extending the Tiger’s lead to 12. Tennessee would never trail by single digits again.
Auburn’s three starting guards combined for 56 of Auburn’s 85 points.
Tennessee shoots well from deep, struggles inside arc
Tennessee’s final numbers of 8 of 22 from 3-point range don’t pop out as being great, but the Vols missed four triples in the final 90 seconds.
Tennessee’s 3-point shooting was better than it’s been most of the season with different Vols getting in on the shooting. Five different Tennessee players hit triples and Santiago Vescovi led the bunch with three triples.
With Tennessee trailing by 14 points with just under 10 minutes left, the Vols hit three 3-pointers in as many possessions, cutting the deficit to six in just a minute. Tennessee was aided by an Auburn technical during the stretch.
It was a day of reversals where Tennessee shot well from deep but struggled from within the arc. The Vols shot just 31% from two including a woeful 4 of 19 in the second half.
Half of Tennessee’s 10 two pointers came from John Fulkerson’s 5 of 10 performance.
Yves Pons, usually a reliable option around the rim, was just one of six from inside the arc.
Tennessee will travel to Nashville to compete in the SEC Championship next week. The Vols are locked into the 8 seed and will play at 1 p.m. ET Thursday. Their opponent is yet to be decided.
“Anything is possible man,” senior Jordan Bowden said. “We just have to be focused. We can’t be complacent and we have to continue to execute our game plan, no matter who we’re playing.