The Tennessee Vols continue to defy the odds, winning their fourth game in a row by defeating the Auburn Tigers 87-77.
The Big Orange moves to 13-9 on the season and 5-4 in the Southeastern Conference. Auburn falls to 14-8, 3-6. The victory puts the Volunteers in sixth place in the 14-team SEC standings.
Grant Williams hit a 3-pointer just 21 seconds into the contest and the Big Orange never looked back, dominating in so many ways. The win moves Rick Barnes & Co. into the upper 30s in the realtime RPI rankings and the chances of a trip dancing in March remains a significant possibility.
Offense: Tennessee saw four players reach double figures in Admiral Schofield (18), Williams (17), Jordan Bowden (18) and Robert Hubbs III (11).
Williams got the Vols off to a great start with 15 points in the first half but foul trouble plagued him in the second. Bowden scored all of his points after intermission, making two 3-point shots with one halting a mini-run by Bruce Pearl's Tigers. Bowden has now scored in double figures in four of the last five games.
Free-throw shooting had been an area of concern in the past few games but making 22 of 27 ended that trend. Auburn did force some turnovers late as it frantically pressed trying to get back into the game and the Vols ended with 13 turnovers and 15 assists. Hubbs led the way with five assists. Tennessee shot 44.4 percent from the floor and impressed shooting 56.3 percent from outside the arc making 9 of 16.
Defense: Tennessee played well on defense, forcing Auburn into a game where it played without a team concept. Auburn had just two assists at the half and finished with only seven. The home team shot just 37.9 percent from the floor and made 9 of 36 from long range. Auburn had 12 turnovers but was bothered all night as the Vols defense made Pearl's team show patience and they were not capable of doing that. This was a dominating performance by the Tennessee defense.
Rebounding: The Vols keep impressing in this area. Pearl told his team to give the Vols the first punch before the game started and the opposite happened. Tennessee jumped out to a big lead on the scoreboard led by a 12-2 start on the boards.
The Big Orange finished ahead 43-35 on the glass and 11-9 on the offensive boards. Hubbs continues to be a complete overall player and paced the Vols on the glass with nine and Schofield followed with seven. Kyle Alexander for the second straight game set the tone early with four quick boards. Bowden is having an excellent freshman campaign and added six.