The Auburn Tigers lost 46-43 on the road in a defensive struggle against the No. 2 Tennessee Volunteers Saturday afternoon. The Tigers are now 7-3 in SEC play, falling in the rankings to fourth in the conference.
Despite starting the game with an 8-0 run, the Tigers shot 24% from the field and 11% from three, attempting 27 3-pointers while only making three of them.
“We missed some open shots,” said head coach Bruce Pearl. “(We’re) playing the number two team in the country, and (we’ve) got to make open shots because it’s hard to get them.”
In the last seconds of the game, Wendell Green Jr. missed a contested three that would have sent the game to overtime. Green Jr. had nine points and two of Auburn’s three 3-pointers.
Auburn, however, did not let its offensive struggle affect its defensive play. The Tigers became the only team this season to hold Tennessee under 50 points.
“We held Tennessee to 27% shooting and 9% from three,” Pearl said. “The effort, the energy, the tough, the fight. I’m very proud of my team."
The Tigers ended the game with 34 defensive rebounds and nine steals, and their defensive battle kept them in the game until the final seconds.
Auburn trailed 23-19 at the half but was able to tie the game at 28 with 14 minutes left to play. Allen Flanigan’s game-tying three was Auburn’s second 3-pointer of the game and Flanigan’s only one. Flanigan finished the game with nine points and eight rebounds.
Tennessee did not let Flanigan’s three go unanswered. It followed up with an 8-0 run, bringing the score to 36-28 with nine minutes left to play. Tennessee’s Josiah-Jordan James was the team’s difference maker not only during the 8-0 stretch but during the whole game. James, Tennessee’s starting guard, had the only double-double of the game, with 15 points and 14 rebounds.
Even with virtually none of its shots falling, Auburn was able to stay within eight points of the lead after Tennessee’s 8-0 run, and a made 3-pointer by Green Jr. brought the Tigers within three of the lead with 32 seconds left of play. The Tigers held on, and a made layup by Johni Broome brought the Tigers within one of the lead with 16 seconds left to play, but after an intentional foul on the Vols and two made free throws, the Tigers were not able to make the game-tying three-point shot.
Broome finished the game with 11 points, having a big night in the paint early in the first half and late in the second.
The Tigers have a tough month of SEC play ahead of them. They play Texas A&M next, who snapped the Tigers’ 28 game home-winning streak, and then play the No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide. The game against the Aggies is on the road while the matchup against Alabama will be played at home in Neville Arena.
Auburn will travel to College Station, Texas to face Texas A&M on Feb. 7. Tip-off is at 6:00 p.m. CST and will be televised on ESPN2.
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Grace Heim is a sophomore from Enterprise, Alabama majoring in English Literature. She started with The Plainsman in January 2023.