Auburn enters with a record of 4-9 in the SEC and 13-11 overall, out of contention for an NCAA Tournament berth unless they win the conference tournament in Atlanta. Tennessee is 13-11, 5-8 in SEC play and still has an outside shot to get in if it finishes at 8-8 in the league.
That makes this game an important one for the Vols, who have been a different team at home than on the road. Tennessee has lost just twice in Thompson-Boling Arena, to Kentucky by one in overtime and a three-point loss to Louisville. Auburn Coach Cliff Ellis said the fact that it's on the road makes this a tough game for his team even though his Tigers have been playing better lately.
"Tennessee really plays well at home," Ellis said. "You look in the conference they have got a very good home record and play well at home. They have got balance. They have got a solid point guard, Scooter McFadgon on the perimeter--third in the SEC in scoring, Brandon Crump inside--high field goal percentage and good depth a very good Tennessee team that seems to play extremely well at home."
Auburn hopes to get back on track following Tuesday night's disappointing loss to Alabama at home that shattered any hopes of sneaking into the Big Dance as an at-large team with a late season run. The Tigers must now try to build some momentum for a push in the SEC Tournament and junior guard Ian Young says his club is down, but can't afford to sit back and feel sorry for itself.
"It hurts, but we don't have time to sulk on," Young says. "We have got three games left and we have got to do something to build our confidence back up for this SEC Tournament. We can't worry about something that we can't control right now."
Young has been the shining star coming off the bench in a dismal conference season for the Tigers. After slumping in the middle of the schedule he has been on fire recently. In his last five games he is averaging over 17 points per contest and is coming off a career-high and Auburn season-high of 28 points against Alabama. Young says that he's getting more comfortable on offense, but would trade it all for a few more wins.
"I would rather get the win than to have a big game like that," Young says. "So, I get no satisfaction out of that. I want to win. That is all I want to do is win, get to the tournament and experience that. It has been really like my last six or seven games I have got my confidence back after going in a little slump. So I just have to continue working hard and building form there, staying humble."
For the Vols the game revolves around McFadgon and Crump. A transfer from Memphis, McFagdon is averaging 18.1 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. The 6-5 junior guard is third in the SEC in scoring.
Crump, a 6-10 center, is averaging 15.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. He has averaged 17 points per game in the last four. Rounding out the starting lineup for the Vols is point guard C.J. Watson (6-2, 175, So.), guard Stanley Asumnu (6-5, 215) and forward Major Wingate (6-10, 258, Fr.).
Watson is averaging 11.4 points and 5.4 assists per game. His assist total leads the SEC. Asumnu is averaging 5.9 points per game while Wingate just three points and a little over two rebounds.
' The tip-off for Saturday's game is scheduled for 6 p.m. CST and the game can be seen live on Fox Sports Net South.