Cold-Shooting Tigers Have Rocky Night at UT

Second-ranked Tennessee took control early for an SEC hoops victory over the Tigers.

Knoxville, Tenn.--Auburn had no answers for the SEC's hottest basketball team as Tennessee pulled away in the first half and coasted home with an 89-70 victory over Auburn on Wednesday night.

Compounding the problems for Auburn is that the Tigers struggled with their shooting in the first half and dug themselves in far too deep of a hole to get out of as they trailed 46-20 at halftime.

In the first 20 minutes the visitors hit just 21.9 percent of their field goals, they were 2-14 from behind the three-point line and made just 4-9 free throws.

In the second half the Tigers shot better and actually outscored the Vols 50-43, but it was a case of much too little, too late.

The Tigers fell to 13-11 overall and 3-8 in the SEC.

Tennessee, ranked number two in the nation, will go into Saturday's road trip vs. No. 1 Memphis with a 24-2 overall mark. The Vols improved their SEC mark to 11-1 with the win vs. the Tigers, a team that knocked off Coach Bruce Pearl's team last season.

In the second half Auburn didn't exactly sizzle with its shooting, but shot a more respectable 41.9 percent from the field and made 8-21 threes and 16-19 foul shots.

For the game the Vols outshot Auburn 51.5 percent to 31.7 percent from the field and held a 44-40 rebounding edge.

The turnovers were almost a push as the Vols had 19, one less than Auburn.

"Tennessee is too good," said Auburn Jeff Lebo, who noted the Tigers got into an early jam when Quan Prowell got into early foul trouble and spent most of the first half on the bench. "They are a terrific team. We were fine until we got fouls."

Senior Frank Tolbert was the game's leading scorer with 24 points. The Auburn senior made 4-10 threes, led the Tigers in rebounds with 10 and came through with three steals and two assists. Quan Prowell finished with 21 points and six rebounds for the Tigers.

"I thought Frank was terrific battling," Lebo said. "Quan in the second half was much better. They hurt us inside when Quan got into foul trouble. They threw it in and he really couldn't battle against their size. We had to go man to man at that point we were down so much.

"I thought our kids battled hard and made it interesting at the end," Lebo added. "They had to put the starters back in, which was nice. We did some things in the second half as far as competing.

"We got dominated at the point guard position tonight," said Lebo, who watched DeWayne Reed struggle. He sophomore, who scored 23 in his last game, didn't score vs. the Vols and had two assists, two turnovers and no rebounds in 33 minutes. "That was the difference in the game," Lebo said. "Romar Smith 19, we got zero out of the point guard position. You can't have that if you expect to win on the road."

The Vols got 13 points and 13 rebounds from Tyler Smith and JaJuan Smith and Chris Lofton each scored 12.

Rasheem Barrett scored 14 points for the Tigers and added eight rebounds.

"You saw Tennessee take its opponent very seriously, and take care of business," UT's Pearl said. "To hold Auburn to 32 percent, as good a shooting team as the Tigers are, is good testimony to our performance. They have six really good players, but the way we play makes it difficult.

"Ramar Smith is a physical point guard. I was happy to see him make his three-pointer. He was practicing that the other day, and I said, 'why waste your time working on a shot that you are not going to use in a game?' When he made that shot tonight, he looked over at the bench and sort of winked at me. Ramar Smith is a competitor. With the game on the line, he would take that shot, and likely make it. He is unselfish.

"I was disappointed with the way we were playing with the reserves in the game late in the second half; that is why I put the starters back in," Pearl added. "I am not worried about hurt feelings. I am worried about winning the game. The Tigers return to action with a Sunday afternoon home game vs. Alabama.

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