Auburn Headed to Nashville for SEC Men's Basketball Tournament

Auburn will take on the Tennessee Vols on Wednesday night in Nashville to open the SEC Tournament.

Bryce Brown (above) is averaging 10.2 points per game as a freshman guard.

Auburn, Ala.--A year after making a strong run in the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament, Coach Bruce Pearl's Auburn Tigers will try to do it again.

Facing a win or end the season game on Wednesday night in Nashville, the Tigers will take on the Tennessee Volunteers at 7 p.m. CST inside Bridgestone Arena. Auburn defeated the Volunteers 83-77 on Jan. 2nd at Auburn Arena while the Vols won the rematch 71-45 in Knoxville on Feb. 9th.

The winner of the game will have a quick turn-around with a 2:30 p.m. matchup vs. No. 5 seed Vanderbilt on Thursday. The Tigers could have avoided playing the lone game on Wednesday night if they had won their regular season finale at Mississippi State, but dropped a 79-66 contest at Starkville on Saturday.

“We are disappointed that we weren’t able to win at Mississippi State and be the 11-seed,” Pearl said. “It was nice being able to play for something on Saturday. I knew it was going to be a tough game to win because Mississippi State is really playing well, and I say they’re playing as well as teams that are in the upper division and wouldn’t be surprised to see them make a run in the tournament. Those five seniors and a couple of talented freshmen, they’re a good team.”

Auburn and Tennessee have both been through changes during the season. The Vols are expected to play without their top scorer, Kevin Punter, who finished with 31 points in the first game vs. the Tigers. Punter is injured and Auburn’s co-leading scorer in the first Tennessee game, Kareem Canty, is gone from the Tigers’ roster after being suspended and later quitting.

Bryce Brown scored 20 in the first Tennessee game to share high point honors with Canty while Tyler Harris added 19 points and 13 rebounds.

Photo by Jason Caldwell

Tyler Harris is Auburn's leading scorer at 13.9 points per game.

In the rematch Canty was gone and Punter scored just four points. Brown was Auburn’s only double figures scorer that night with 18 points while Robert Hubbs led the Vols with 20 points.

“In some ways they’re a team that has had some things happen to them that mirror us a little bit, particularly now with Kevin Punter out and Armani Moore playing a lot of point guard for them,” Pearl said of the Vols. “It’s very similar to us having had Cinmeon Bowers play point guard. The only difference is their power forward went to play point guard instead of their center, and the last time we played Tennessee they beat us by 26. They drilled us.

“We didn’t have T.J. Dunans, and we’re clearly a more competitive team with T.J.,” Pearl said of the junior who was out with a knee injury for both of the previous games vs. Tennessee.

“It hasn’t translated into many wins, but it’s certainly translated into us being a more competitive team,” Pearl said of his team with Dunans filling in at point guard. “The formula late in the year is to play great defense and be engaged and offensively see if we can build on what we did in the second half against Mississippi State playing well together, sharing the ball and see if we can get that first one Wednesday night. Take it one at a time.”

News and Notes: Missouri is not participating in this year’s tournament due to a self-imposed probation. Auburn is the lowest seed at No. 13 while the Vols are the No. 12 seed...Last year as the No. 13 seed the Tigers defeated No. 12 seed Mississippi State 74-68, No. 5 seed Texas A&M 66-59 and No. 4 seed LSU 73-70 before losing in the semi-finals 91-67 to No. 1 ranked and then undefeated Kentucky...Wednesday’s game will be Auburn’s third this season in Nashville. The Tigers lost 88-81 to Middle Tennessee in overtime at Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 12th. The Tigers lost 75-57 on Jan. 12th vs. Vanderbilt at Memorial Gym...Pearl has an all-time record of 12-4 in games at Bridgestone Arena...Jack Stewart, a six-foot-six center from Anniston who played for the Tigers in the early 1930s, will be recognized as an Auburn basketball legend. He was a three-year starter and a second team All-America selection. His family will  be recognized on Wednesday night. Stewart was a college roommate of Ralph “Shug” Jordan, who would later become head basketball coach at Auburn as well as head football coach.

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