Tigers Looking for First SEC Hoops Victory

After two close losses the Auburn basketball team travels to Knoxville to take on the Tennessee Vols.

Auburn, Ala.--After failing to make enough good plays at crunch time with games on the line the Auburn Tigers head to Knoxville on Wednesday looking for their first SEC basketball win of the season.

Tipoff time at Thompson-Boling Arena is set for 6 p.m. CST as Auburn (8-5 overall, 0-2 SEC) takes on the Tennessee Vols (10-5 overall, 1-1 SEC) in a game that will be televised on CSS.

Junior guard K.T. Harrell said the Tigers have been working on end of game situations at recent practices after narrow losses on the road at Ole Miss on Thursday at home to Missouri two days later.

"I think we have been playing extremely hard these last couple of games," said Harrell, who is leading the SEC in scoring at 19.3 points per game. "We just have to work on finishing--executing late in games. I think if we do that we will win most of our games.

K.T. Harrell has scored in double figures in each Auburn game this season.

"Especially the last practice we worked on situational type things," Harrell added. "I think we will be prepared if we get in a situation like that again."

Commenting on end-of-game situations, Auburn coach Tony Barbee said, "Your focus, your execution and your concentration has got to be at its peak. There's not a point in the game that it shouldn't be, but it has to be at an ultimate, high level.

"Your awareness, your focus in whatever we are doing, offensively or defensively in that moment, you have got to be in your ultimate best because all the games in this conference, when you look over and over again every single night in this league, there are going to be games that go down to the wire. The team that is able to execute offensively and defensively in that moment is the team that's going to win the game."

Tennessee will be trying to bounce back from a 57-56 homecourt loss to Texas A&M to end a four-game winning streak. The Aggies rallied from a 32-18 deficit to win in Knoxville.

The Vols rely on a defense that is giving up just 61.6 points per game and strong work on the backboards with an 8.7 per game rebound margin.

Jordan McRae, a 6-6, 185 senior guard, leads Tennessee in scoring at 18.3 points and 4.5 assists per game.

Jarnell Stokes, a junior power forward, is averaging 13.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per contest. Senior Jeronne Maymon has also been strong inside, averaging 10.8 points and 8.4 rebounds. Like Stokes he is six-foot-eight, 260 pounds.

Josh Richardson, a 6-6 junior guard, and Antonio Barton, a 6-2 senior guard, are each averaging 8.7 points per outing.

"They are talented team," Harrell said. "They have got a great player in Jordan McRae. They have got a pretty good front court, a pretty good overall team, I think."

How much Allen Payne will be able to play for the Tigers is still to be determined, Barbee said. The senior forward, who injured his leg vs. Ole Miss, tried to play vs. Missouri, but was pulled after two minutes due to lack of mobility.

Allen Payne is averaging 6.4 points and 6.0 rebounds per game this season.

Payne's backup, Chris Griffin, is suspended from the team and another inside player, freshman Benas Griciunas, is questionable due to an injury. That opened the door for 6-8 freshman forward Alex Thompson to play 22 minutes off the bench and he scored eight points on 3-4 shooting vs. Missouri.

"Alex stepped up, a lot of the freshmen stepped up last game," said Harrell, who noted that is going to be important again on Wednesday night in what he predicts will be a hostile environment in Knoxville.

Barbee said in dealing with Tennessee's inside strength the Tigers need to do a good job of rebounding as a team "and being physical" vs. the Vols.

The Auburn coach said he believes his team has matched up well vs. its first two SEC opponents. "We went on the road and lost by a couple at Ole Miss and we played a Top 20 team (Missouri) in a game I felt like we should have won. We have just got to do a couple of little things a little bit better.

"We have to execute at a more efficient rate and we have to shoot free throws at a higher rate," Barbee added.

The Vols won 82-75 last March at Auburn Arena as McRae led UT with 21 points, including 15 in the second half of a game that featured numerous lead changes.

Tennessee, which leads the series vs. Auburn 72-37, has won the last five matchups vs. the Tigers and the last seven times the teams played in Knoxville. Auburn's last win at Thompson-Boling Arena was in January 1998.

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