It wasn't largest margin of defeat in the Tony Barbee Era, but it was close, five off of last season's 33-point loss to Ole Miss.
Junior guard K.T. Harrell said it was a disappointing way for the Tigers' three seniors to end their home careers. "We just didn't execute," he said. "We didn't really move the ball well. We didn't have really good pace offensively and so they were able to capitalize on that defensively.
"We really wanted to get this for these guys (Allen Payne, Chris Denson, Asahun Dixon-Tatum) since it was their last time playing in this arena," Harrell added. "It was extremely disappointing for them and for us."
Asked about why his team struggled, Barbee said, "I saw a team whose offense again bogged down in the first half, just like it did in the last game, and we dug ourselves too big a hole, but I was proud of the way the guys kept on fighting.
"I thought we fought in the first half," he added. "We just couldn't get any shots to go down. We missed a lot of layups, but I saw a team that kept fighting. I am just disappointed for the seniors today who couldn't go out on a winning note."
Asked if this would be his final game coaching at Auburn Arena, Barbee didn't directly answer the question with the possibility of a fourth consecutive losing season. He responded by saying, "I am proud of the guys the way they are fighting and I am looking forward to coaching against Texas A&M." After making that statement he left the postgame press conference.
Tennessee controlled every phase of the game. The Vols outshot Auburn 48.3 percent to 37.7 from the field. The Tigers were out-rebounded 43-25.
The Vols made 8-24 threes and 18-20 free throws while Auburn hit 6-16 threes and 8-14 free throws.
Tajh Shamsid-Deen led the Tigers in scoring with 17 points as he hit 5-8 threes. K.T. Harrell scored 15 points and senior center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum added 12 points as he made 5-6 field goals.
Auburn's record dropped to 13-15 overall and 5-12 in the SEC while Tennessee kept its NCAA Tournament bid hopes alive by improving to 19-11 overall and 10-7 in the league.
The Tigers dug themselves into an early hole and never climbed out of it as the Vols jumped to a 27-5 lead on a three-pointer by Jordan McRae at the 8:23 mark of the opening half. He finished with 13 points.
Tennessee's defense keeps Chris Denson from scoring at the basket. Tony Barbee said the senior guard is feeling the pressure of trying to win the SEC scoring title.
By halftime the lead was 24 points with UT on top 44-20 as the Vols hit 5-14 threes plus 11-13 free throws while out-rebounding the Tigers 23-13.
While the Vols were hot with their shooting, including 5-14 first half threes, the Tigers hit just 8-25 first half field goals. They were 2-4 on threes and 2-6 at the foul line.
Tennessee outscored Auburn 38-34 in the second period, but the game was all but over at halftime.
"It was all on defense," Tennessee's Stokes said of his team's good play. "We basically drew a line and told them to cross it. It was a great defensive effort from top to bottom."
Stokes added, "It's definitely our best basketball. Auburn felt that they could pull this game out, especially on senior night when emotions are high. We came in and took the life out of the arena."
Stat of the Game: The Tigers were outscored 40-18 in the points in the paint category with an 18-5 edge in second chance points.
Worth Noting, Part 1:Denson and Payne struggled on their Senior Night. Payne was 2-7 from the field and finished with four points, two rebounds, four assists and three turnovers. Denson was 1-10 from the field and scored three points and added three rebounds, two assists and one turnover.
The Tigers will close the regular season with a 3 p.m. CST Saturday game at Texas A&M.