The Tennessee Volunteers returned to action Wednesday night for the first time since Saturday’s heartbreaking loss to Texas A&M, looking to earn their first home SEC win against the Auburn Tigers.
Jordan McRae was able to help the Vols pull out the win in what was truly a game of runs, as he led Tennessee with 21 points including 14 second-half points. Jarnell Stokes contributed with another double-double scoring 14 points and grabbing 14 boards and Josh Richardson also continued his good play, going 7-11 from the field and finishing with 15 points.
Tennessee jumped out to a lead thanks to Richardson’s early 13 points. Stokes did a great job inside even though he was up against 7 foot senior Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, he was able to find his opportunities to score and also played great defense, holding Dixon-Tatum to only 6 total points. Auburn never gave up throughout the first half though, and began to find their offense as the game progressed. Their 1st half run climaxed as Malcolm Canada hit a last second 3 to cut deficit to 5 points heading into the locker room.
Auburn continued to fight as soon as they took the court for the 2nd half, hitting a 3-pointer on their first possession to cut the lead to 2 points, but as close as they got, Auburn was never able to take the lead. For the rest of the game, it was Tennessee’s turn to find their offensive groove. McRae was finally able to find his game after only scoring 7 points in the first half as Tennessee extended their lead to 61-49 with 8 minutes left in the game and were able to hold on to earn their second SEC win to advance to 2-1 in the conference.
When asked why the Vols could not run away with the game, Coach Cuonzo Martin replied, “I think it was a combination of Auburn’s play and our turnovers, they hurt, that is something we need to fix.” The Vols did commit an uncharacteristic 15 turnovers, which kept the game in reach for the Auburn Tigers.
Coach Martin also said that, “This game will help us get on our grind. We just needed to come out and play after Saturday’s loss and that’s exactly what we did and will also do on Saturday.”
The Volunteers travel to Lexington on Saturday to face Kentucky in, what most people would consider, a must-win game because of the rivalry and also because the Vols cannot afford to fall back to .500 in the SEC after Saturday’s ugly loss to A&M. If Tennessee can pull out the upset Saturday, they will restore hope in their fans and be on the right track to placing well in the SEC and making the “big dance.”
Edited by Zach Dennis